Channatip Chanvipava, originally from Thailand with Chinese heritage, uses his art to navigate his bicultural upbringing and the emotional landscape of his memories. The abstraction in his work invites viewers to connect on a personal level, while the varying scales and formats of his pieces serve as reminders of different dimensions of life.
Kelly Foster – Can you tell me more about your background? It seems like your multicultural upbringing has significantly influenced your work.
Channatip Chanvipava – I’m originally from Thailand; my father is Thai-Chinese and my mother is Malaysian-Chinese. My Chinese heritage plays a significant role in my art, exploring themes like intimacy and filial piety. I moved to the UK for boarding school at the age of thirteen, therefore my life has always involved finding a balance between cultures. I paint what I can’t put into words and my work explores the links between biography and the subjectivity of memory.
KF – Colour seems to play a crucial role in your art, reminiscent of Fauvism and Impressionism which capture emotions rather than mere realistic representation.
CC – The choice of colour is unintentional; it’s driven by instinct and emotion. Each painting is the product of a personal process in which I unlock a fastened memory through my present perspective. I paint the experience of overcoming challenges and the forms I create are a direct download from within. I try to paint with honesty and I feel that there is nothing more realistic than that.
KF – Does your painting process involve reflecting on specific life events, or is it more abstract?
CC – I keep a list of titles in my personal notes, each title describing a challenge I’ve overcome. I refer to this list before I start a painting and use my memory to draw from the source. Each title from my notes then becomes the title of each painting. I feel we often fail to acknowledge our resilience and growth and I want my paintings to represent a personal affirmation. I believe in the power of positive thinking and would like to translate that into my work.
KF – Absolutely, recognizing growth and feeling gratitude comes with time. Is your art a therapeutic process for you?
CC – I want to describe it as therapeutic but it is not always the case. The process I go through recalls memories and each memory has an attached emotion that is released when I revisit it; I sometimes find myself angry or brought to tears in front of the canvas.
KF – It feels both genuine and powerful. It seems you’ve developed a unique style featuring fluid, loose brushstrokes. There’s a sense of chaos but also harmony.
CC – I hadn’t painted for seven years and when I started painting again, these abstract forms began to appear on the canvas. Over time, my work evolved into its own visual language and became less abstract. The abstract forms are bound to me and are hard to escape. They symbolise everything: you, me, our auras. They represent energy—always moving, always transforming. I don’t want to capture the true form because I believe and see life as constantly changing and vibrating. These symbols serve as a way to connect the viewer to my work, each representing a different affirmation, episode, or circumstance.
I practise a form of meditation that is centred on the heart and the lines that I paint materialised from that. It is a way for me to ground the work and link my spirituality to it. They emerged during a period of darkness when I started painting again.
KF – Your paintings convey a sense of aura, and it resonates with me. Your work is abstract but also hints at figures and forms. You seem to be expressing formless qualities, like energy and vibrations, rather than strictly representing physical shapes. It’s captivating.
CC – It’s about seeing beyond the visible. When I am working I tend to feel and not think, it is a more honest way of seeing and painting. I paint directly from reconstructive memory without any sketches or tests and I think that also contributes to the formlessness.
I am attempting to capture a purer form; When I think of beings I think of souls, which to me can’t be fully encapsulated in a human figure. We are all forms of various energies and I like to believe we are all connected somehow.
KF – Exactly, I love that. What you were saying about the works reflecting your life while also allowing the viewer to connect really resonates with me. Do you think that’s possible because the figures are abstract? They’re not necessarily specific people but more like colourful representations of figures.
CC – I want people to respond to my paintings. I would like to think that the abstract forms and figures are an invitation to connect in a way that allows the viewer to discover their own meaning with each painting.
KF – Could you tell me more about the smaller, more purely abstract works you create?
CC – I often feel the need for balance when working on large-scale paintings, so I also work on smaller formats. They are painted simultaneously with the larger works and carry their own unique meanings and stories. I envision these two types of works living close to each other in different rooms or walls as reminders of different dimensions.
KF – There are so many layers to consider in your work. Your paintings feel like living organisms that anchor and communicate with each other within a space. I appreciate how one painting may revolve around a specific feeling or story, while another might serve as a homage to something less specific.
CC – It’s difficult to be literal because the paintings aren’t literal. There are so many meanings and stories behind each painting. I sometimes think I might run out of stories or feelings or moments, but that’s never the case.
KF – Exactly–life keeps unfolding, and new experiences continually arise. So, is it important that the viewer knows these specific stories?
CC – To me, it really isn’t. As long as they feel something—good, sad, happy—that reaction already pleases me. If a viewer is intrigued and wants to know more, I’m happy to share the stories and meanings behind each painting. However, some viewers prefer to form their own relationship with the work, and that’s fine too. I don’t want to impose my perspective.
The most important thing in my art is honesty and staying true to myself. I try not to be influenced by other artists or institutions. I don’t want to impose myself on anyone else either.
KF – It’s refreshing when paintings are open-ended. They intrigue the viewer, prompting questions. The abstraction and elements left unsaid also make people inquire about the meaning. The more I know, the deeper and more relevant the work becomes to me.
CC – Thank you. I like to use scale and proportions in my art to represent the different parts of me. Sticking to the same formats helps with consistency, one very large and one very small scale. I keep that constant, along with my brush, because sometimes we need certain things to ground us.
KF – How do you think your work fits into the contemporary art landscape? Are there other artists who influence you, or do you find inspiration solely within yourself?
CC – I am not sure how my work fits in, I just need to paint and speak my truth. I admire and respect other artists and of course, they influence me in some ways. Artists like Tracy Emin and Lucian Freud, who are very personal and honest in their work, have influenced how I approach my painting.
My source of inspiration comes from what I am, what I remember and what I have forgotten. I paint—to make the world a more beautiful place. While I may not be saving lives, I’m doing the best I can with what I have.