Phatthalung is an unusual and surprising town in Southern Thailand which attracts very few foreign visitors, and one of the surprises you will find in Phatthalung is the range of good quality street art produced by members of the local community.
The street art in Phatthalung is spread out within the small town centre area, in and around the other main points of interest. If you spend a day in Phatthalung you find some great pieces of art work most likely by accident as there is a lot of it.
About Phatthalung’s Street Art
The style of street art in Phatthalung is similar to type of street art you will find in Penang and Ipoh in Malaysia. Phatthalung is very much part of a distinctive style of South East Asian street art which is characterised by technically proficient realistic depictions of local culture and everyday life. This emerging form of street art does not have an overtly political message, instead South East Asian street is a celebration of the place where the mural is painted.
Two Styles of Street Art
The street art in Phatthalung is particularly interesting because it encompasses two different styles of painting, both achieving the same artistic objective. The better known murals in Phatthalung are painted in a similar style to the murals Ernest Zacharevic created for Penang Festival in 2012, which marked the start of the South East Asian street art movement.
Zacharevic’s murals playfully engage with local culture often using humour, in a similar to how Banksy’s work makes a political message by using depictions of the absurd to highlight real life issues in a kind of a visual reductio ad absurdum. This style of painting is one of the ones which has been adopted by local street artists on Phatthalung.
Traditional Southern Thai Style Art
The other style which has been adopted by Phatthalung’s street artists is a more traditional Southern Thai painting style which you most often see in painting on fabrics or used to brighten up the outside of small wooden boats. This style of painting uses bright and bold colours with large amounts of details; the subjects in these mural don’t float against a background of white wall, they exist within an environment which has re-imagined and painted in detail. This is an interesting approach which suggests that in the mind of the artist the place where subject matter is happening is just as important as the subject matter itself.
Southern Thai Identity
The other distinctive feature of this type of street art in Phatthalung is engagement with Southern Thai identity. The art is not simply about life in Phatthalung its about life in Phatthalung for a Southern Thai person and they view themselves. One of the wall mural that really brings that out is one where a modern Thai person in golf cart is giving a lift to two Nang Talung.
A Nang Talung is the principle character from Southern Thai Shadow Puppet shows. The character is fat, very dark, wearing only the checked cloth that Southern Thai mean are traditionally given by their wives to wear around their waist. The Thai man in the picture is modern and successful enough to be playing golf, but still takes his Southern Thai cultural heritage with him where ever he goes in the form of two slightly grotesque characters from the theatre of Southern Thailand.
The key to really appreciating South East Asian street art is to understand the cultural background as the murals are always about the culture and this is more true of Phatthalung’s street art than of other better known street art destinations. The art draws its inspiration from local traditions and beliefs and the meaning of the murals is lost if they aren’t viewed with an appreciation of how people live in Southern Thailand.
Location of Phattalung’s Mural Wall
- The Mural Wall in Phatthalung is located on the main road leading to Phatthalung Clock Tower.