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Thai artist's colourful cityscape

Thai artist's colourful cityscape


Llewellyn Flores
Doha
In the Qatar art community, the name 'Ooh' has become synonymous with the Doha skyline. And if you have received a painting of the popular subject as a gift any time in the last two years, there's a big chance that it bears Ooh's signature.
Ooh, real name Sinchai Zonputh, has sold over 300 original paintings of the skyline since his first sale two years ago; over 500, if you count the reproductions. He said that most people who buy his work want a souvenir from Qatar."I want people to have a good memory of this beautiful country when they leave. And maybe, say, 'I used to work in this country and I got this painting from this guy..."
The 32-year-old artist from Thailand first painted the Doha skyline for a friend, which received praise and a commission for another. When he displayed 10 of his paintings of the subject at the QatArt Handmade Market in Katara two years ago, it sold out and more demands followed.
Ooh has just finished a 4.5x9-metre mural of the skyline at Ezdan Mall in Al Wakrah. His is one of the seven murals that cover an oval wall on the first floor of the mall. And the requests continue to pour in. He is currently working on completing 20 20x30 cm original paintings and 10 reproductions commissioned by an oil and gas company. It is due in the middle of this month.
Ooh said that it used to take him at least 10 hours to complete a 20x30 cm painting of the skyline. Now, he can finish one in two to three hours. That is if his artist self decides to come forward."You cannot do it like a factory," he said."You have to give it its own character." He does force himself to paint sometimes."But I end up redoing the work because I am not happy with the result."
During the National Day week of 2017, Ooh held a solo exhibition at the City Centre Rotana titled 'Qatar from the Eyes of Ooh' where he exhibited 15 paintings of the skyline from different perspectives. It showcased the city's iconic buildings and landmarks.
"I don't get bored painting the Doha skyline," Ooh said."But sometimes, I get tired because I never say no to customers."
Ooh claims he came from a family with artistic inclinations. He has an uncle who paints, another who creates sculptures and a third who is a fashion designer."I think I learned from all of them," he said.
As young as six, he was filling his notebooks with doodles and drawings. Winning an art contest at that age surprised his parents but also solicited their support for his art and got them to enroll him for art classes. He has been winning contests since.
But despite his obvious talent in painting, Ooh pursued a 'more practical' degree. He earned a Bachelor's degree in Clinical Psychology and moved to Qatar in 2009 to work as assistant administrator and HR manager for a construction company. He kept painting and selling his works on the side.
Ooh is also known for another form of art papier-m'e2ch`. In fact, he said it was through this form that he broke through the art scene in Qatar."I was visiting the QatArt Handmade Market and thought, 'What can I make that would sell?'" What he learned from his sculptor uncle came into play and Ooh started sculpting animal banks cats, dogs and owls using used paper. The 10 pieces he made were sold even before the market opened. And after two years, the joy of the sale still emanates from Ooh's face as he tells the story.
Ooh said he didn't expect that he would ever use papier-m'e2ch`. When he did, people started asking about his technique."It's a simple thing. We use to do it as children in school, but I guess nobody has used it in a serious way," he said."After that, I got invited to different places to conduct workshops on the craft." He started conducting workshops at Katara and continues to do so whenever the cultural village holds cultural or art festivals. He also conducts workshops at Souq Waqif, Mataf Museum, Al Riwaq Gallery and the Fire Station Gallery.
In 2017, Ooh worked with the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy for its 'School Art Project' and conducted the workshop in public schools."I went around Qatar conducting the workshops in 35 public schools and made a big sculpture for each," he said. Ooh taught teachers and focused on using recycled materials."We don't need to buy everything from the art store," said Ooh."We can start with something simple we have at home like newspaper or cardboard."
Among Ooh's popular sculptures are the butterflies with a wing span of 2 metres. One of these hangs in Building 19, in Katara.
For the artist who paints with acrylic, palette knife and paint brush, art is not just a tangible object."It should be meaningful to people," he said. He believes incorporating recycled materials into a painting adds meaning to the piece the value of caring for the environment. He has used newspaper strips and pulp in his paintings. He said,"It gives it a 3D texture. It makes it different."
This value he also teaches in his workshops."The more people I teach, the happier I am. Especially when we're using recycled materials," he said. He also wants to instill in his students the belief that anyone can be an artist. All a person has to do is to encourage himself."I hear so many people say, 'I want to do art' but when you ask if they had started, they'll give you reasons why they have not.
"I tell them, 'set a corner in your house and put art materials there.' Because sometimes you'll say, I want to paint but then you'll have to think about where you can get the materials. When you already have the materials, you just have to bring yourself to sit in that corner and do it. Do it, start here and now. Do more and talk less."
Ooh's works can be purchased at MIA park bazaar and at QatArt Handmade Market in Katara whenever he's participating, or, at Souq Waqif Art Center and Artfix gallery in Lagoona Mall. He also has a collection sold at the Artfix gallery in Florida, USA but of the New York skyline and the Miami beach.
Ooh is currently holding a workshop at Katara as part of the Halal Festival which will run until March 10. As to where he wants to take his art next, he said,"I want to combine two things, art and therapy." He plans to take up a Master's degree in Psychiatry."I want to bring art into therapy and become an art therapist. We can help people with this."

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