Saratta Chuengsatiansup turns depressing headlines into surreal renders
From vaccine shortages to travel bans prematurely lifting: surrealism meets political commentary in the Thai illustrator’s thought-provoking artworks.
- Jyni Ong
- 7 September 2021
- Reading Time
- 3 minute read
Saratta Chuengsatiansup first had the idea to make animated films from the comfort of his own bedroom in Bangkok, Thailand. It led him to download Blender where he explored the possibilities of a 3D world but then, with time, he realised that “posting frequent still images was probably the best way for me to iterate my ideas and find an initial audience.” A graduate of Chulalongkorn, the Thai illustrator creates thought provoking illustrations which act as analogies for the current political situation in his birth country. With a clear line of commentary running through the beautifully crafted works, here, we talk to Saratta in detail, exploring his inner creative thoughts and how they’re translated into realities.
“I grew up mostly in the Bangkok suburbs, with protests on TV in the background,” he tells us, “as most Thais do.” Saratta looked on as countless Thais suffered at the hands of the junta, the pandemic and mismanagement galore. “It seems like there’s a new government scandal here everyday,” he says, and as matters worsened, he decided to do something about it. In turn, the illustrator turns depressing headlines into surreal renders. On first glance, Saratta’s illustrations seem mysterious in content, but if you’re Thai, you’ll recognise the works as a visual summary for the country’s most pressing issues.
These political commentaries have seen Saratta gain over 200,000 combined social media followers, admirers who appreciate the freedom of expression in the illustrator’s technically advanced works. While he works on these in his spare time, in his day job, Saratta is commissioned to work on 3D projects from motion design to projection mapping projects and explainer videos. For his personal works however, he makes “quick renders” in response to the news, crafting a story through a visual representation of ideas which the viewer can make sense of despite not knowing about Thai politics or otherwise. “So,” Saratta adds on his overarching style, “most of my pictures turn out to be brightly lit pre-made assets arranged in a surreal manner.”
His artworks act as a form of protest, and have been featured on several platforms already including Coconuts Bangkok, art3d and BKmagazine. He draws inspiration from the likes of Magritte, Bosch and Dixit cards – all decidedly surreal references – to inform his unique practice. But as Saratta admits, “it’s one thing to study the context of a certain painting, but it becomes much more immersive when you get to live in the context itself.” In this way, the illustrator takes his artworks one step further than those 20th century greats, merging surrealism with the issues of today, from vaccine politics to climate change and pharmaceuticals.
In one illustration depicting a perfectly trimmed maze of hedges leading to a syringe at the centre, the illustrator expresses the needlessly complicated systems which guard access to vaccines and stimulus checks. Elsewhere, another illustration which sees rural villages overcome with water, the artist critiques the travel ban policies which saw Thailand open its borders prematurely. Other artworks show how vaccine productions have faltered and gone missing, presumably given to well connected people as opposed to frontline health workers. Another illustration tells the story of a young singer who is now being sued after criticising the government causing widespread criticism across social media.
Though his work has a very specific context, Saratta is interested in seeing how international audiences interpret his work beyond the context he created them in. As for the future, he’s looking to expand his work into other mediums such as game development or short film, further hone a style, and hopefully find an international audience outside Thailand where he can expand his career for the long run.
GallerySaratta Chuengsatiansup (Copyright © Saratta Chuengsatiansup, 2021)
Saratta Chuengsatiansup: Tongue (Copyright © Saratta Chuengsatiansup, 2021)
About the Author
Jyni joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in August 2018 after graduating from The Glasgow School of Art’s Communication Design degree. In March 2019 she became a staff writer and in June 2021, she was made associate editor. Feel free to drop Jyni a note if you have an exciting story for the site.