6 June 2024

“When you look back at your past, how you felt at that moment is still the same, but it’s the way we look and feel about them now which has changed. This is because time has washed certain things away, or the way we think has changed.”

This is Chanida Aroonrungsi’s explanation of her abstract paintings, which were displayed at a joint art exhibition with two other artists, Chalit Nakpawan and Wutthichai Boontham, under the theme “What Was”.

As she expresses through her artwork, every stage of our life is a mixture of sweet and painful memories, but it’s the way we look back at them now that is different.

“Life is not easy, but it’s not too difficult for us to see the beauty in those memories.”

Image Credit: BeChanida’s Facebook

Refilling what’s missing

“Art is definitely a way of healing. I’ve travelled around the world and I’ve seen a lot of artwork from various countries. So I feel passionate about it.”

In fact, Chanida has never studied visual arts, but she worked as a flight attendant with Thai Airways for 12 years. Considered a dream job by many Thais, Chanida was among those women who decided to pursue that career when she was younger.

“I was happy with my job back then,” she said. “I mean, I was proud to have passed the cabin crew exam and I got to travel around the world. It was definitely a great experience.”

A few years into her smooth-as-silk life, however, she started to realise that there is still something missing deep within her soul.

“I asked myself if I was born only to become a flight attendant? I think we all have this voice within which keeps asking whether what I’m doing is really right for me. I didn’t feel 100% fulfilled, so I felt that there was something I had to do.”

Image Credit: BeChanida’s Facebook

Bearing in mind that Instagram didn’t even exist at the time and after much thought, Chanida noticed that she would often go to museums, art galleries, explore and snap pictures of old cities after every flight, unlike her colleagues, who would rather go shopping.

“Every time I travelled, I would look out for art galleries, because I knew that I love art. Back then I didn’t know that I would love to create art myself.”

Later, she was introduced to a famous abstract artist, Chalit Nakpawan. She took art classes with him, and started painting as a hobby. Chanida’s artwork were also displayed in a number of group exhibitions, as well as her solo exhibitions. This helped her to realise that art refilled what had been missing from her life.

She says “As time went by, I felt that I wanted to quit my job as a flight attendant,” as she grew into painting, which later became her passion.

“Sometimes, when I was asked to go on board, I would be like, can I not go? I wanted to stay at home and draw.”

“Expressionist”

After experimenting with different styles and techniques, Chanida felt that abstract painting suited her personality the most. She often describes her work as “expressionism”, as this format allows her to express her ideas and techniques freely, unlike portrait or still life painting.

“If I did portraits, mine would not be realistic paintings. They would still be abstract. That’s when I realise that experimenting with colour is what I really enjoy the most.”

As expressionism work mostly comes from the subconscious and emotions, Chanida explained that she would avoid painting when she was in a bad mood or exhausted.

“Everything around us affects our emotions and our concentration on our work,” she explains. “I want to be happy. So I want to spread my happiness and positive energy through my art.”

When asked about the uniqueness of “expressionism”, the female abstract artist says she believes that all types of art are unique and attractive in their own way. Therefore, one artistic style should not be compared with another. 

“Aside from visual arts, human beings are all different. We are all born different and we have different personalities. All artists are different and people have their own perspectives, preferences and tastes. There’s no right or wrong answer and one thing no better than another.”

Image Credit: BeChanida’s Facebook

Passion comes from within

Being passionate about what you do is the most important lesson we learnt from the 48-year-old abstract artist. As she explains, once you’re passionate about something, you will never get sick or tired of it and you will never be discouraged by other people’s opinion of what you’re doing.

“I believe that passion comes from within,” she said. “If you say that you’ve succeeded and you’re done, that’s not passion. It is how you keep doing it, as if it is part of your life which you can do every day, without feeling that it is work or your responsibility, but it is what you love to do.”

Although she didn’t take the direct path to becoming an artist, Chanida is still grateful for her experience as cabin crew and in becoming a mother, which shaped her into who she is today. She also believes that her journey will be a great lesson for her son.

“I would love to teach my son that, if you realise your passion early, you will be able to find a direct path into your dream.”

Working with passion doesn’t, however, mean that everything will be easy. Instead of calling them ‘obstacles’, Chanida prefers to call them ‘challenges’, implying that changing our mindset and attitude towards certain things can make a difference. Most importantly, your value is not determined by other people’s opinions of you.

“Your value is not determined by people saying that you can’t do it because you’re a woman. We have to think that I am a woman and I can be anything and I can do anything.”

As to what she would advise those who have been underestimated by naysayers, Chanida suggests they keep doing what you love and show such people that you are much more than what they think.

“Once you’ve done it with true passion, you have given your all and you really love what you’re doing, everyone will eventually see it, but the most important thing is that you keep doing it.”

By Nad Bunnag, Thai PBS World

More of Chanida’s artworks can be found here.