For artists in the early stages of their career, the news that ArtStart has been extended for another four years through the National Cultural Policy would have been relieving.
Since this information came to light, the Early Career Artists and Producers Program (ECAP) has been interested to hear about the achievements of past ArtStart recipients. Two such people are Melanie Jayne Taylor and Rushdi Anwar, ArtStarters from 2012.
In 2012, Melanie and Rushdi travelled to Thailand and Europe to complete research residencies on Thai art. In doing so they created connections, and developed their skills and knowledge. The result has been the creation of the Australian Thai Artist Interchange (ATAI). Melanie and Rushdi created ATAI out of a mutual passion and interest in Thai art. As a child, Melanie lived in Bangkok and has returned numerous times witnessing the change in political climate and social commentary.
Similarly, Rushdi notes the political affect that Thailand has had in South East Asia and how this is communicated through the country’s art. Through establishing ATAI, both hope to create regular collaboration and communication between the artists of both countries.
The first project of the ATAI was Hua Krathi, which ran from 7 to 22 March 2013 and was curated by Melanie, Rushdi and Shukit Pamonngkol. The Hua Krathi Project presented the work of 14 contemporary Thai visual artists using traditional and contemporary mediums. The Project activities were hold in four different Melbourne spaces: Screen Space , RMIT University School of Art Gallery , a pop up gallery housed within a shipping container at Federation square and an artist and curator forum held at The Edge in Federation Square.
Hua Krathi coincided with the 10th Anniversary of the Thai Culture and Food Festival in Melbourne , allowing the project to sit within a cultural context and garner some support. As Melanie notes, ‘The level of support, enthusiasm and encouragement that we received from funding bodies, cultural institutions, universities, businesses and from individuals within the Australian and Thai art communities was exceptional and very promising for the future relationship of Thai and Australian cultural engagement.’
With the completion and achievement of Hua Krathi behind them, plans for the next ATAI project are already underway, with Melanie and Rushdi hoping to use the Interchange’s existing structure to facilitate creative changes and collaborations between Australian and Thai artists.
‘The success of the Hua Krathi Project and the support that we gained amongst Thai and Australian communities is very promising for us to continue projects in the future – in Australia and also in Thailand.’