BANGKOK — You don’t have to scour the alleys of Bangkok to find the latest display of the mysterious street artist Headache Stencil (those graffiti were usually erased in a few days anyway). Just head to the downtown neighborhood of Chidlom.
The artist, who has been reportedly stalked by the police for the political undertone behind his works, is exhibiting a new collection called “Do or Die,” at the Foreign Correspondent’s Club of Thailand. The pieces lampoon topics that Thailand’s mainstream media refused to touch, Headache Stencil said in an interview.
“Thai journalists do not report about these issues so here I am raising the issues to foreign correspondents. Does Khaosod dare to dig deep on the news?” the artist said, gesturing to an artwork that references Wanchalearm Satsaksit, a monarchy critic who disappeared in Cambodia on June 4.
“The mainstream mass media has become state PR apparatus only. And what about Tiwagorn?” Headache Stencil went on, referring to Tiwagorn Withiton, a man who was forced into a mental institution for wearing a T-shirt saying he had lost faith in a certain institution.
“Thai reporters might as well count birds and ants and report as news, instead of caring about what will happen to objective news,” he said.
A total of eight large paintings were on display at the FCCT, including three collaborations with graffiti artist Patcharapol Tangruen, also known as Alex Face. Another series of eight more images will be put up in mid-August.
Since Headache Stencil’s works are best enjoyed by interpreting the characters and finding clues that link them to the news, we will not spoil the fun here.
Buyers can also purchase the images, which are highly sought after and therefore slapped with hefty prices, except the painting about Wanchalearm. “I don’t want to be making money from a dead person,” the artist said.
Headache Stencil’s reputation among the political community has come at a cost. The artist has told the media he was threatened by security officers and had to move to a new home. In June, Headache Stencil also said a group of police officers were seen wandering around his condominium building.
FCCT board member Phil Robertson said he came up with the idea of inviting Headache Stencil to exhibit his work at the club when he read news about those alleged harassments.
“We are very pleased to have his works hang here,” said Robertson. “Freedom of expression is an important principle to uphold. The expression doesn’t just come in words but art.”
But not everything could make it to the final cut; Headache Stencil said he had to drop one of his works due to concerns from the club that it that it could be interpreted as touching on the monarchy.
Nevertheless, he said the second part of his installation would be even more daring than the first. The artist also said he has arranged a security guard to accompany him in public to deter any attempt by the authorities to assault him.
“If they want to nail me, they have to poison the food,” Headache Stencil said.
Do or Die Exhibition is on display at the Foreign Correspondent’s Club of Thailand until Aug 28. Call the FCCT. Call 02-652-0581 for details.