Meriam Thidarat Chantachua’s Surreal Cosmic Gateway to Reality

by Jonquil Dun

In Thailand, rose a contemporary young artist whose work reflects and extends beyond a personal story to the universal human plight.

Her artwork is a surreal sight of seemingly infinite constellations, intersecting in an intricate network of a web stretched across a canvas- engulfing, striking, dramatic, idyllic, poignant- a cosmic gateway into our reality. Her name is Mariem Thidarat Chantachua, a rising Muslim artist in a mostly Buddhist society, captivating and paving the way to connect her religious culture to that of her countrymen.

As a child, she had been fascinated by Japanese cartoons, which became her motivation to practice drawing and eventually led her to pursue study arts after high school and acquired a Master’s Degree from the Faculty of Painting, Sculpture and Graphic Arts at Silpakorn University.

"Traces of History" by Meriam Thidarat Chantachua (Photo by Meriam)

“Traces of History” by Meriam Thidarat Chantachua (Photo by Meriam)

The surreal artwork that got her to the pedestal of success is a mixed media; embroidery using threads, textiles, and paint, which was developed in 2015. The unique embroidery technique she fused in her paintings was inspired by her skill in mending her own clothes. She applied the techniques to her visual installations creating depth, multi-textures, and a vision of infinity by employing the arabesque geometrical art interpreting humanist themes and undertones, now decorating empty ordinary buildings, and walls to framed artworks in museums. Her first solo painting was in 2017, just two years after she discovered her embroidery medium. She already won several awards such as “Artist of the Year”, “Painting of the Year”, and the Gold Award, when she participated in artist exhibitions in Thailand and toured with her paintings to countries like Malaysia, Singapore,

Meriam posing for a photo during her first solo exhibition in 2017 (photo by Meriem)

The thread which she found a meaningful representation of unity, brotherhood, and bond, is synonymous with human relationships; unlike the fragility of an individual life, there is beauty and strength in unity, which becomes the main subjects of her artworks.

The racial and religious differences which she saw on her travels inspired her.

“I myself always felt the disconnection in the place where I am now. I am a Muslim woman living in a city where most people in the country are Buddhist. From a young age, I was always asked questions that sometimes I didn’t have and had no answers. Maybe because I haven’t seen the world enough. However, today, we have advanced in many areas of knowledge, but we have not processed them because we have not learned to accept the difference in others. Therefore, I would like to share my humble experience through the symbolism of cultures I have visited, such as materials or patterns that can be seen in architecture. To me, architecture and its structure represent the memories I had shared with the people I met on my travels. In some places, I shared with the locals theirs with my own stories, in other places I was allowed to trade my culture for others. While other places were the central points for people of different religions. But on every trip, I found that the people I met had no problem with my difference. So why do we still see violence because of differences in ethnicities or religions? We cannot say what is right or wrong, but we can ask questions and seek the answer.”

“The Path of Different Cultures” by Meriam Thidarat Chantachua (Photo by Meriam)

Mosque in Morocco; Embroidery and Painting on Fabric by Meriem (Photo by Meriam)

Her work communicates overlapping topics of space and humanity, the relationship between people and religion, and sometimes political and socio-economic issues.

“Politics and religions are the issues often linked to major news headlines. It is imperative to understand the differences, otherwise, we will create separation and cause bigger problems beyond our control. There are many countries, many nationalities, and many religions in the world. We need to improve the bad and spread the good places within us. Through my recent trips to Asia and Europe, I have learned that I am an infinite woman when it comes to life and people. Different people in different countries have their own problems, whether it’s the laws, conflicts in religions, or the minority and so on.”

She uses different colors and sizes of thread to create the dimension. The thick, light-colored thread gives a highlighting effect on the work, while darker threads create shadows. The thread is small and fragile, but when they are together, they become strong and beautiful. She paints randomly with the dictates of her sensitive soul.

Close-up view of her artwork

“Prostrate Oneself “Series #2 by Meriam Thidarat Chantachua (Photo by Meriam)

′′ Before I adopted this technique, I painted simply like others because I was afraid people wouldn’t consider it as beautiful. My mom taught me how to sew and I’m pretty good at it, so at one point I decided to combine it with art, using thread to make lines and designs. I was inspired by an artist I met at Silpakorn University who uses a sewing machine for her art. In my case, however, I created my designs first in Photoshop before putting the design on canvas and embroidering it by hand.

When I decided to become a full-time artist, it was a stressful time. I was confused about life and my family isn’t that rich so I turned to religion because I needed something to hold on to. Since then, I started studying more about Islamic teachings and making art out of them. The thread, for example, represents the relationship between Muslims and Muslims and people of other religions. One thread alone is fragile, but many threads together, are stronger. The forms I used in painting – the rectangle or triangle – are the designs we usually see in sacred religious places like mosques. Many times the material I use for canvas is actually the fabric for making Muslim dresses.”

Meriam is compassionate with the world around her and through her paintings, she is able to articulate what is in her heart;

“When we open our hearts and embrace the difference without looking from just one corner, we will find there are so many people out there who are willing to offer friendship and kindness. When we can do this, maybe we will be much closer to peace “.

*****

To catch up on new exhibitions, like and follow Meriam Thidarat Chantachua page for more.

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