A Breakout Portrait Artist Invested in Asian Representation

In 2018, she moved to Lyon to be with her now-husband, Guillaume Bouzige, a blockchain architect. During our chat, Prachakul walks me around their apartment, where, in the main room, a collection of plants rest on a table and a tower of art books are piled in one corner. In the small second bedroom she uses as her studio, a recent oil painting, “Ostis in Arles” (2020), leans against one wall. The portrait depicts a Thai friend, June Osti, her Italian husband, Cristoforo, their baby, Peonia, and their pet dog. Though Prachakul’s subjects usually sit for her in person, this portrait, a commission — she takes five a year, and is booked until 2023 — was painted from a photo her friend posted on Facebook. The setting is the L’Artalan hotel in Arles (the city where van Gogh, another self-taught artist, famously lived and produced much of his most significant work), and, in the frame, sunlight streams from a window and across the subjects’ bodies and the multicolored mosaic floor tiles — the light in her paintings tends to be temporally specific, conveying the soft graininess of nighttime, say, or the bright clarity of midday. The female sitter, in a long black skirt and white sneakers, rests her hand lightly on her husband’s shoulder; he, in polished leather dress shoes and a distinguished-looking fedora, lovingly directs the child to look at the camera. Even if you don’t know the back story (the couple tried to conceive for five years before finally succeeding), you can feel the intimacy that pervades the portrait, and the affinity Prachakul has for her subjects. “I’m quite selective with sitters,” she says, “I really need to feel like I have some connection with them.”

For “14 Years,” Prachukal created eight new paintings — all of whose subjects are of Asian descent — including two self-portraits. (Seven of them were sold before the opening). In her artist statement, she calls the show “a continuation of a self-observation on Asian identity, my identity.” There’s “Lexi” (2020), an exuberant painting of her friend’s young daughter, who wears a floppy red hat in the shape of a mushroom cap and looks directly, mischievously, at the viewer. There’s the somber “Naked” (2020) — the spiritual opposite of “Lexi” in which Sakamoto, the composer from “Night Talk,” sits on a stool, clad in all black save for a pair of electric blue sneakers, and looks down, vulnerable and exposed. There is also a painting of the Thai independent film director, screenwriter and producer Apichatpong “Joe” Weerasethakul seated alone at a restaurant in Lyon, the banquette behind him and set tables before him a deep scarlet. “All of these subjects represent aspects of me over time,” Prachakul says.

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