SAN FRANCISCO — Jiab Prachakul: 14 Years at Friends Indeed Gallery is a celebration of the journeys we take to find comfort and move homeward. The eight paintings on view are portraits of Prachakul’s friends and acquaintances who, like the artist, are part of the Asian diaspora.
“I’m curious about my subjects, their life, how they move their body when I speak to them,” said Prachakul in an email to Hyperallergic. “I try to seek their special aura, nearly like falling in love, a platonic love. That’s the way I could share my empathy with them as a person, as a human being.”
Prachakul was born in Thailand and worked as a casting director in the Bangkok film industry before moving to London 14 years ago for a long holiday from work. During the two years she lived in London, she visited a David Hockney retrospective and, upon seeing his iconic 1971 “Mr. and Mrs. Clark and Percy” portrait, was moved to pursue painting — an activity that had previously been little more than a pastime.
“It was as if someone turned on a light and for a split second, the dots connected,” Prachakul said over email. “I knew I wanted to be an artist. Seeing that painting, and the rest of the show, I understood how an artist develops and the hard work that goes into that development. The process is something to cherish.”
Since then, she has become known for her self-taught style, and just last year won the prestigious BP Portrait Award from the National Portrait Gallery.
There is a strong sense of light in her work, fitting given her past in the film industry. Light seems almost viscous, binding her figures to their environment while emphasizing their separateness, their lonesomeness.
Prachakul said, “I like to think of my artwork as an unmoving film, a memoir of a certain moment, where the past and the future of that moment can be felt in the painting.”
Jiab Prachakul: 14 Years opens on February 1 with Friends Indeed Gallery at Four One Nine (419 Tenth Street, San Francisco) and continues through April 30.