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Studio Visit: Sculptor Nino Sarabutra

From molding butt busts to carving 100,000 miniature skulls, the porcelain focused artist talks life, death, food and sex

by CH Editors
on 11 March 2015
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During our recent trip to Thailand and Tokyo by way of All Nippon Airways (ANA) we had the opportunity to survey the rich local art scene in Bangkok. There, we were lucky enough to meet with local Thai artist Nino Sarabutra. Working largely with porcelain as her preferred medium, Sarabutra has exhibited all around the world in both solo and group shows. We met with the artist at her home—which doubles as her art studio—in the suburbs of Bangkok, where we explored the space and her process.

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Though Sarabutra studied Ceramic Arts at Silpakorn University in Bangkok, upon graduating she turned to advertising where she worked successfully for many years. Recently however her focus has shifted back to her creative roots. With a lively spirit and keen sense for enjoying life, Sarabutra's work often centers around less cerebral concepts like food and sex—though she also touches upon life and death. In light of this, her work often seems to encourage her audience not to take life so seriously, enjoy it with loved ones and make the most of the time we have.

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In one of her more recent and well-received bodies of work—"What Will You Leave Behind?" which has traveled to numerous cities during a run between 2013 and 2015—Sarabutra, along with countless friends and family members created over 100,000 handmade miniature porcelain skulls that were displayed throughout the many gallery settings, covering every inch of the floor and even incorporated into upholstered furniture and tabletops. By encouraging show-goers to walk on the artworks, she extends the impact of the art from visual to physical, hoping to blur the line between observer and participant.

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Inside Sarabutra's home and studio it was immediately apparent that her work permeates each and every aspect of her life. Her dining room table features thousands of the aforementioned porcelain skulls. Her kitchen is brimming with homemade plates and dishes (she almost exclusively eats using self-made flatware) and her stairway and upstairs hall act as gallery walls. Even her guest room is illuminated by hand-cast lamps in the form of skulls and shapely buttocks.

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Her latest show, "What Are We Drinking?" is currently exhibiting through 14 March 2015 at ARDEL’s Third Place Gallery in Bangkok. We were given a rare personal tour where Sarabutra explained how the show takes aim at the growing consumption culture in Thailand, as obesity rises and becomes a pressing public health issue. Handblown glass sculptures depict the milk that nourishes us as children, when we have no choice. Meanwhile hanging porcelain bottles represent the many things we consume by choice, like soda and other not so healthy options. The goal is to contrast the beginning of our relationship with food to how it evolves within a consumption-based society, again brining our most primal motives and decisions into focus.

To learn more about Sarabrutra visit her site and keep an eye out for a CH Video in the coming weeks. And to learn more about ANA and their By Design campaign aimed at the global creative class, visit ANA online.

Images by Cool Hunting

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