James Jirat Patradoon is a renowned artist celebrated for his distinctive and captivating visual creations. With a unique artistic style that melds elements of pop culture, street art, and digital illustration, Patradoon’s work is characterized by its vibrant color palettes, bold lines, and surreal imagery. His portfolio spans a wide range of mediums, including illustrations, animations, and designs, and he has earned recognition for his thought-provoking exploration of themes such as identity, sexuality, and contemporary culture. Patradoon’s art has been featured in numerous publications and exhibitions, establishing him as a prominent figure in the contemporary art world. His innovative and evocative creations continue to captivate and challenge viewers, making him a dynamic force in the world of visual art.
You have a pretty interesting origin story. Originally you are from Thailand, but actually, you grew up in Australia, and then you moved to Bangkok where we met. What unique things did you learn from it? What’s next?
My family moved to Australia when I was a year old and I’ve spent my entire life here. My family would visit Thailand every few years when I was younger, specifically the south of Thailand where the way of life was vastly different. It was always very eye-opening and quite the culture shock.
Growing up in Australia was great but I experienced a lot of racism and so I never was able to feel like it was truly my ‘home’, and when visiting Thailand I always felt I wasn’t Thai enough either, so I’ve always had this sense of being an “Other” which I have come to accept as a significant part of my identity.
I was avoiding military service for most of my 20s and only returned to Thailand in my 30s. I was burnt out with my life and my career and didn’t think I’d experience anything new ever again, but moving to Bangkok changed my life completely. I fell back in love with life and my work. I spent the year taking a hiatus from my commercial work and was focused on creating more personal artwork. I eventually created a series of paintings for an exhibition called INFERNO that was exhibited later that year in Los Angeles at Superchief Gallery.
I had every intention to live in Bangkok for a few years, but during a brief visit back to Sydney to visit my friends, the pandemic happened. I didn’t think it would last as long as it did. In that time I fell in and out of a serious relationship, learned how to tattoo, and now have a new art studio that I’ve turned into a dedicated private tattooing space. I see myself being based out of Sydney for a while. I will return to Bangkok but probably not to live, I’m not really the same person I was when I lived there, but I miss it terribly.
We’ve seen you’ve made a poster for an event HOUSE OF MINCE PRESENTS HONEY DIJON at Sydney’s renowned queer party. It’s a rhetorical question 😉 … Does nightlife inspire you?
Absolutely! Thai people are inherently night owls. My parents had a Thai restaurant when I was growing up and that meant I’d only be home on weeknights when the restaurant would shut very late. I was always late to school because I wanted to sleep in. I developed a close affinity with nighttime, and that’s when I feel most comfortable.
Sydney nightlife suffered during what was called the ‘lockout’ period. Bars and clubs were forced to shut far earlier than they once did, it was under the guise of keeping people safe but turned out to be a conspiracy by our corrupt Premier at the time.
He single-handedly killed Sydney nightlife, it was heartbreaking. I felt strongly that I needed to be immersed in a city that was a reflection of myself, one that didn’t sleep, so I made the decision to move to Bangkok and reconnect with my roots. It met all my expectations and more. I would stay out late partying with strangers and every night was a new adventure. I loved the way neon lights would reflect off wet streets and chrome, the constant smells of street food, bass coming from everywhere, scooter rides home feeling the wind in my hair. It was very cyberpunk. I loved every moment. I try and convey that intersection of danger and euphoria in my work.
We read in one of the interviews you said “I am an artist because I can’t imagine doing anything else.” How do you divide your personal life from the daily creation routine?
I don’t, and I’m not sure if that is a good or a bad thing? My artist friends and I often joke that we don’t have secret identities, that we are ‘on’ all the time. When I’m not creating work I’m always thinking about it, and the things I do in my leisure time like partying, binging films, and writing, all contribute to inspiring my work. Even the quiet moments of riding my motorcycle around Sydney give my mind the negative space for ideas to surface. I don’t think I need a balance, I like it this way, it’s a self-perpetuating loop, it’s very minimal, my life feeds the work and the work feeds my life.
Any advice you would like to share with aspiring artists who would like to pursue their passion as a career?
This is a tough one because I feel I’ve been very lucky to just be on autopilot my whole life. I never set out to specifically have a career in art when I was younger, I never thought it was possible. I just didn’t really do anything else. Call it stubbornness or the Dunning Kruger effect but by continuing to compulsively create work, my life as I know it formed around me. I compare it often to being possessed or having an illness that I manage. I have all this work that needs to come out, and I just try to live in a way where I can pay my bills and be alive and create an environment for the work to keep happening.
If I had any practical advice it would be to get an easy day job where you don’t have to think much that isn’t taxing on your energy, so you have space in your mind to think about your work and most importantly have the time to create it uninterrupted. I made the mistake of turning my creative output into a career very early which led me to distort and change my vision for money a lot. It led my work into directions I did not want, and I became very burnt out. It took my hiatus and moving to Bangkok to get myself out of that rut.
You said once “ I make sexy and stylish images to jolt your dopamine. I’m most known for combining a euphoric ‘80s neon color palette with a dash of dark imagery and occasionally turning them into gif loops.” Does your musical taste affect your art or is it totally something separate? Have you ever thought about implementing your illustration universe into the music videos?
Haha, my music taste is often described as being pretty horrible, or schizophrenic. When I’m tattooing, the playlist I listen to is the same one I listen to every day, which is every song I’ve ever liked in my life, which goes from genres such as pop, emo, electronic, RnB, 80s, and metal, some of my clients love it, some of them hate it. When my parent’s Thai restaurant was open I’d be waiting in the car by myself a lot, and there was nothing to do but listen to the radio in the dark.
My musical taste affects my art in the sense that the songs I like make me feel euphoric. Sometimes I imagine how I’d do music videos for them and I get some ideas from that sometimes. I also like combining disparate influences to create something new both visually and thematically, hence the pop horror, a campy noir style I have.
I’d love to make an animated music video, it’s always been on my bucket list, but I am too slow with animation right now. When I worked as part of a studio collective we made visuals for the Australian electronic artist Flume, but they weren’t illustrative. At one point there was a project where I art-directed visuals for tracks for an EP that was a departure from his usual work, it was a lot darker. It didn’t go ahead but a lot of that imagery found its way into my work in the subsequent years.
You were working with big brands like Coca-Cola, Budweiser, Black Sabbath, Facebook, Oculus Rift, HBO, RVCA, FOX, Nike, Microsoft, and many more. Which one was the most interesting commercial collaboration for you so far in your career and why?
My favorite commercial work I’ve ever done is probably my tour poster for Queens Of The Stone Age during their 2016 Australian tour. I think that is in large part due to the fact that they gave me complete carte blanche, there was no brief, and no feedback other than making sure the characters weren’t completely naked. I was really able to push myself to create something very strange, I don’t know if it suited their music but my favorite thing about the tradition of gig posters is how sometimes the visuals don’t relate to the music, and the viewer’s imagination is forced to fill in that space, like why did the artist do this?
Do you think it is important to have a mentor or rather stay away from outer influences? Have you ever had one? If you could pick any favorite artist to become your mentor, who would it be?
I think having influences and a tribe is important as an artist. It is often debilitating to feel unseen or unable to relate to people. My closest friends are all artists and although we don’t really talk about art every single second, it feels good to be understood and to understand your friends.
As far as mentors go, I thought I needed one because of this tradition of having one. I sought them out but was often disappointed because it was just older artists telling me to do things their way because they thought it was the only right way, which wasn’t helpful. The closest thing to a mentor I’ve had was probably my teacher Michael Kempson at art school, he didn’t tell me what I could and could not do, and wasn’t egotistical in that way, he inspired my approach to making art, which was to be rigorous, unrelenting, and prioritize it above all else, sometimes to the detriment of other aspects of my life.
If I could pick any artist to become my mentor it would probably be Hajime Sorayama, I’ve loved his work since I was a kid. He has a certain joie de vivre that I aspire to have at that age, I want to drink beers and go to strip clubs with him.
We’ve seen your relations from the stunning exhibitions you are hosting. It’s another level of experience of your art in real time and space, which puts the visitor in a very unique trip state. Congratulations! Can you tell us about them and those which are in preparation?
I strongly believe that given the way we experience a lot of art now, on small screens, scrolling past, not remembering what we even pressed ‘like’ on over the course of a day, if art is to be experienced in a space it should be memorable, and give something that a small screen cannot. For these reasons whenever I make an exhibition now I want the space to be immersive. I will often paint the walls and make very large artworks, and have a sculptural element in there too. I want people to feel they are inside an artwork itself.
I did that with my exhibition INFERNO where I painted a mural over the entire gallery between the paintings and had a large animated projection on one wall and a giant inflatable yin-yang ball I painted in the center. When I got back to Sydney I had a small pop-up exhibition with the 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art called ULTRA where I painted over an entire abandoned retail space and created a found object sculpture of a chrome motorcycle with a bull skull in the center.
It’s always tough to do those things though because conventionally a gallery just wants you to bring in paintings and hang them on a white wall. I think also because painting over the mural is a pain in the ass for them, so I often meet resistance from the gallery. I have no interest in half-assing things though, If it’s worth doing it’s worth doing right, the audiences deserve more. I’ve already put so much work into the artwork, why drop the ball and give up in the last phase? I want to create a space of immediate euphoria, not quiet contemplation, we have enough of those.
I would eventually like to have an immersive exhibition in a nightclub.
What was the biggest surprise in your life so far? Was there anything you didn’t expect to happen?
I’m going to sound like a broken record but Bangkok was the biggest surprise of my life because I didn’t expect to love life ever again. I was very depressed and burnt out, and thought I knew how everything was going to go in my life, and it was dismal. Bangkok showed me how to fall in love with life again, and that it was possible to recover, and escape darkness. It showed me that changing one’s environment could change oneself inside, It was a vital lesson for me. It gave me hope and a renewed sense of possibility for my life.
Name three different movies, three different books, and three different artists and why you chose them to share with your audience as a source of personal inspiration.
I have always been inspired by the color palette of this film, I don’t remember what happens in it but the visuals are incredible I want to eat them.
My favorite film, my second favorite film is Charlie’s Angels 2. I love them so much, they are so camp and horrible at times, I might actually watch them again tonight.
The Fifth Element
I’ve watched this movie more times than I can remember. It makes me really happy immediately, I want to live in that world so badly.
I read this book whilst I was traveling in Kuala Lumpur with a really bad flu and high on pseudoephedrine the whole time. It gave the experience of reading the book a whole other level. William Gibson’s highly descriptive writing style and use of analogy shaped the way I notice and experience being present in my own life.
Anything by HP Lovecraft
I have a playlist of HP Lovecraft audiobooks that I play whenever I’m on planes or trains. Although somewhat formulaic at times, I love the way he conveys nameless fear.
Rick Rubin The Creative Act
I recently read this one, it is full of great advice and insights into the creative process. I found it frustrating at times though because at the time I was reading it I was too busy stressed out trying to pay bills, and it kept reminding me of the joy I could be having.
Probably, my favourite artist, his work is perfect for me. I was lucky enough to see his Hall of Robot Ladies at an exhibition in Los Angeles, it was breathtaking. He is staggeringly prolific, I don’t know how someone has made so much work.
I love the overloaded maximalism of his work, it gives me the feeling of putting my head underwater at the beach, when I see his work I feel euphoria and awe.
I found this artist on Tumblr a long time ago. His gif loops inspired me to make my own. I love the strange world that he has built in his artworks. I love every single thing he has ever made. The way I feel when I see his work is how I wish to make my own audience feel.
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