This was a great opportunity for me to interview Banjerd Lekkong, the sculptor who is widely known as a world class artist. During the interview he was preparing to travel for a conference in June 2019 in Ethiopia. He held his time well for the interview because I wanted readers to see his sculptures made of metal, copper and aluminum. At a glance, we can see both strength and tenderness in his works. It might be quite difficult to explain the beauty from the deeper feelings as well as to express those feelings with sincerity.
Prior to the interview, he sent me a video clip of a tragic incident mentioning a story of Thich Quang Duc, a Vietnamese Mahayana monk who committed suicide by burning himself at an intersection in Saigon City in 1963 to protest Ngo Dinh Diem, the Vietnamese president who was involved in the annihilation of the Buddhist monks and Buddhists in the South Vietnam at that time. The burning body of the monk was motionless. Only his heart still remained after the burning.
It was quite the lengthy interview with me and Banjerd, talking about that past event. This incident inspired Banjerd to create an artwork using the name of that monk and later this sculpture was sent to exhibit in Vietnam. I can barely remember that sad news. At that time, I was still in pre-school age but I learned reading from daily newspapers sent by the train every morning.
Looking at his work from the photos, although he was not born before that time, I could see that his contemporary sculpture had profound meaning.
Here is the interview
JY: Could you tell me about your previous works?
BL: I started sculpting using mainly metal, copper and aluminum. I am very confident all of my creations will be made to my own wish and feeling that I intend to do my work in a particular way. I am not interested in other people’s objections. If I can do my job well, people will accept the beauty in differences. In Thailand, all artists’ creations have to be copyrighted to protect from replication by someone else other than the original creator. This is contrary to my own thinking but I understand that copyrighting is a tradition done by most creators. I believe that if our works are copied, it means they are quite good enough.
My talent and creativity shone in the ability to weld and lathe metal since I was eight years old. My architectural knowledge also enhances my ideas and creations, especially when I work with metal and shapes swirling, billowing lines that express both vitality and tenderness. I strive to create possibility out of impossibility. Each of my art pieces is unique and one-of-a-kind, because I believe in telling unique and individual stories.
I would love to assemble all these pieces by myself, enjoying a great degree of freedom and relying on exceptional physical and mental strength that results in magnificent creations. Each of my works has no copy, no duplication – it is its sole existence in the world and the universe.
It was coincidental that I went to join the fair at Bangsai Arts and Crafts Center in Thailand and knew about the art competition run by UNESCO that I was so interested. I sent my sculpture for the competition but I received a letter. The content stated that they never gave the award to the sculpture in the style I sent to the competition before and my sculpture style was unexpected for them so they have no suitable award to give me. For many years, I have kept the statement in the letter in my heart but I never gave up. I have to find the fund, equipment and materials for my creations as everything costs money. Metal, copper and aluminum are all expenses.
For over a decade I improved my skill, I started thinking about the way to make my creations to have better recognition. To exhibit my work, I contacted many institutes, museums and art galleries such as Bangkok Art and Culture Center. Unfortunately, I was told by people from those establishments that my works were more suitable for group exhibition but I only had my own works. It was a different kind of rejection I experienced. Back then I was thinking that my works were no longer suitable to be exhibited in Thailand. Maybe they need some works that can be compared and evaluated.
My works come from my own inspiration and have no reference to other people’s work. Each piece of my work is unique and one of a kind since there is no second copy. Each one of them comes from my pure dedication by my own feeling in my heart. I sent you a video clip about a Vietnamese monk who burned himself to protest against the cruel Vietnamese president who ordered the massacre of monks and Buddhists in Vietnam many decades ago. I studied about Mahayana monks and Buddhism in Vietnam before making the metal sculpture of a Vietnamese monk to be the symbol of that event. Reading about that incident, it was so miraculous that his heart was not burned by the fire at that time. It was like he died without a shred of regret. I used some copper to make a full bloom lotus to stand for his heart. This piece of art work was exhibited in an exhibition in Vietnam many years ago.
Beside this sculpture, I also studied the Ramayana from India. The Thai version of this literature is called “Ramakian”. I reimagined figures of Hanuman (Monkey Soldier) and Tossakan (Giant King) as well as other characters in the literature. I also made some sculptures of samurai characters.
JY: What is your work principle?
BL: It is very good for us to work on an international level and create our own art differently from the conventional rules. We should devise our own thinking and working methods as well as setting up our goal and finding a way to reach it. We should wait for the suitable chance and time for pushing our work to pass through the national boundary to an international level. Please remember to select the work style that is internationally accepted and it should be something that knows no limit in the creativity.
JY: Could you tell me something about your family?
BL: My hometown is in Pimai District, Nakorn Ratchasima Province. My father is a mechanic and he has the garage at our house. He is very proficient in fixing bicycles, motorcycles and cars as well as making tools for fixing vehicles. In terms of making art, he said he lost to me in this aspect. I am so familiar with the Prasat Hin Pimai (Pimai Stone Castle) because it is in front of our house. The architectural style of the castle was from ancient Hinduism that came to publicize the religion in Southeast Asia a long time ago. Seeing the world class level of architecture fueled my inspiration to be a world class artist.
JY: Tell me about your past works.
Born : 1969
Hometown : Pimai District, Nakorn Rajasima Province
Address : Bangkok, Thailand
Education : Faculty of Architecture, Rajamangala University of Technology Isan, Nakorn Ratchasima
Career : Metal sculpture artists, Designer, Architect specializing in interior decoration.
Origin of artistic inspiration: May 1998
First work of metal sculpture art completed: June 2003
First television interview: August 2003
First intellectual property registration: December 2003
First solo exhibition: December 2003, at Amarin Plaza
The project contested at Unesco, and was esteemed to be strange, beautiful, and could not be compared in 2006.
The project had shown in the 11th exhibition of art to honor Her Majesty Queen , welcomed by Her Royal Highness Princess Soamsawali, shown in Montein Hotel Hall in 2006
Submitting my artwork to galleries and museums in America and Europe in October 2015. good responses were received, such as, “Unique Artwork, Different From Others”. Moreover, my artwork was considered and accepted by Agora Gallery, Chelsea, New York to be held as a Solo Exhibition in the gallery.
Holding “Metamorphosis: Banjerd Lekkong” – a Solo Exhibition at Agora Gallery, Chelsea, New York between 20 May to 9 June 2016.
Received an award “ATIM Top 60 Masters of Contemporary Art 2017” at Auditorium al Duomo Florence, Italy in May 29, 2017.
1 of 4 winners of “The Global Art Awards 2017” – Sculpture category, at the Armani Hotel, Dubai, Burj Khalifa in November 17, 2017.
HOWE AWARDS 2017 “HOWE SPIRIT OF ART” March 2018 Bangkok,Thailand
ATIM Top 60 Masters of Contemporary Art 2018 at MUSEUM OF ARTS AND DESIGN New York in April 2018
In April last year I received an ATIM Top 60 Masters 2018 award at the Museum of Art and Design in New York. This was actually the second time I received this award as I received the same award the year before. In 2017 I also won the Global Art award 2017 at the Armani Hotel Dubai, Burj Khalifa. My latest exhibition will be at the Lourve Museum in France in October 2019.
JY: What do you think about the government support in regard to art?
BL: At the moment I think the support from the government is still not as high as I hope for. I really want to say that the government should support diligent youth who work hard as artists on the same level as the academicians. This could help them to be recognized within the country and abroad.
JY: What is your view about art in Thailand?
BL: To be honest, I think art in Thailand especially sculpting still lacks individuality. First, we have to reset theold and obsolete mindset to zero and begin anew by instilling knowledge and love of art. If our art foundation is still weak, our work will not be able to improve further. For me, I will not be confused as I have stability and determination. I still believe I can always make new and different artworks for the world to see with appreciation.
JY: What do you want to do next in the future?
BL: I want to expand my material choice for art collectors in Arab countries. If they wish, I can use expensive materials such as gold and platinum for the new creations. As an award hunter, I think I could have opportunities to visit the Middle East region and I am so willing to work with anyone who is interested in the world class organization and meet all of you who would like to support works that are beneficial to the society. Wherever you are, I am ready to work creatively with you immediately.
JY: Anything else you want to inform readers?
BL: I came to Africa because of the project to build my own art museum abroad. Everything is not so strange. Human beings have imagination and wish to create art. Soon you will receive good news with my new museum to exhibit my works. This establishment could be the knowledge base and training center for the youth who could be the new hope and power for the nation. I think making creative and tender sculptures is a good thing that can express the virtues, beauty and mental development of people at the same time.