Interview with Ong from ComPeung Artist Residency

Pisithpong Siraphisut (Ong) is a multidisciplinary artist. In 2005 he founded ComPeung, the longest ongoing independent artist residency in Thailand. ComPeung doesn’t only provide a space but a playground, a home and freedom. Studio 88 talked to Ong about ComPeung and the reasons behind opening such a space in Doi Saket.

The start of an idea

Aom first worked with Ong when she was a manager at the land foundation, working on their residency programme. Ong shared his ideas and asked for advice on how to establish and run artist residency programme. Ong found that when he was looking for a residency place in Thailand there were no independent ones, only those attached to exchange programmes between universities or institutions. Additionally, whenever he applied for a residency to go abroad the process was very competitive and the chance of rejection was very high, in spite of numerous attempts. So instead of going out to the world, Ong decided to bring the world closer to him; he established his own independent artist residency.

Ong, founder of ComPeung Artist Residency in Doi Saket
Ong, founder of ComPeung Artist Residency in Doi Saket

Learning from other artists

Apart from working on his own art projects and working for other senior artists, having his own Artist in Residence has driven him to network more and to build connections. Running the business also enabled him to understand his strengths and weaknesses. Besides getting income to do his artwork and nourishing his daily life, Ong had an opportunity to meet new artists from around the world and to learn about other art disciplines. ComPeung has brought a range of artists and art practitioners with diverse artistic and life experience to his life. He said the stories of these people have become a mirror reflecting his own life.

Connections with community

Contemporary art was not well-perceived when he started the initiative, especially within local governmental organisations. However, he found way to establish a micro community within an artistic oasis. Ong worked with local schools and temples in a micro scale. He wasn’t sure how much these groups understood contemporary art, but he found that they embraced a contemporary approach with an open-mind and had so much joy when they participated. For communities in Doi Saket, culture and tradition are embedded in everyday life. What Ong thought to be special were viewed as ordinary to local people.

ComPeung welcomes people who prefer interaction. Many artists and visitors perceived ComPeung as a sharing platform and playground where they had freedom to learn and progress on their work without strict rules. The space allows free spirit and has no expectation that the artists has to do or contribute anything to ComPeung.

ComPeung Artist Residency
ComPeung Artist Residency

Future directions

There have been some challenges when working on an artist residency based in Doi Saket. Ong wished there were more people working in the arts who were able to make connections to artists and organisations. Additionally, the distance between Chiangmai and Doi Saket has pros and cons; artists can focus on their work in a quiet, rural setting, but it can be difficult to encourage audiences to drive 30 minutes from the city centre to engage in their projects, events or workshops.

Things are now changing at ComPeung since Ong now has new priorities in life, with an additional member recently joining his family. Therefore, after more than 12 years of hosting more than a hundred artists, in 2020 he is looking for a partner to continue the new chapter of ComPeung.

This is the next stage in an exchange that Aom and Ong started more than ten years ago, when he started ComPeung and first went to discuss the idea with Aom. Now, as Aom starts Studio 88, Ong has shared his experience of creating an artistic community in Doi Saket. Wherever this next stage goes, both are dedicated to support each other in carrying on their dreams to bring artistic values and contemporary approaches to Doi Saket, their hometown.