Piyatat Hemmatat was born in 1976 in Bangkok, Thailand. In 1991, Hemmatat relocated to the United Kingdom where he attended boarding school in Devon. Hemmatat received his Bachelor’s in fine art from City and Guilds London Art School in 2001, where he developed his passion for photography. He went on to complete his Master’s in fine art at the Chelsea College of Art and Design in 2002. After graduating, Hemmatat began working as a professional photographer and exhibited his works in galleries and spaces around the UK.
Hemmatat’s 2002 series, Void, focuses on spacial studies of venues typically full of human bustle but in this case are viewed completely empty. Bars, theatres, arcades, cinemas, galleries and trading floors are photographed, conjuring a sense of claustrophibic isolation in grand and expansive settings.
In 2007, Hemmatat returned to Bangkok, and seeing a need for more creative venues in the Thai capital, founded RMA Institute in 2010. Named in memory of his grandmother, RMA Institute is a non-profit space which holds exhibitions by local and international artists, as well as hosting creative workshops. His move saw Hemmatat’s photographic interests diversify, and over the years his oeuvre has come to accommodate photographic essays of socio-political commentary, abstract experimentation and curated collections from his ongoing practice.
Hemmatat’s 2007 series of mutilated Buddha statues, Vestige, is a photographic essay debating the relevance of faith and religion in current society. Hemmatat’s shots were taken at various locations around Thailand – once places of ceremony and now developed into tourist destinations. The proud and straight-backed statues are an aesthetic memento in a Thai society becoming increasingly distant from its original religious vision – an homage to the importance of relics.
Another series in which Hemmatat focuses on societal issues is Apasmara, where the artist observes bullet-ridden windows of luxury fashion retailers in the aftermath of the 2010 standoff between the government and the red shirts. Hemmatat’s subtle series addresses the dynamics at play in an increasingly consumer driven Thai society.
In his 2007 introspective series on balance and sufficiency, Verve, Hemmatat captures light penetrating beneath and around doors resulting in a series of minimalist black and white compositions of linear geometric abstraction. Hemmatat develops his abstract intentions in 2013 with a series of macro photographs shooting inside a variety of camera lenses. In 3rd Eye, Hemmatat’s circular series is rich in colour and hue; optical flares illuminate hidden universes, and mechanical details of shutters invoke scenes of science fiction.
In his Civilisation (2009), 11:11 (2012), Landscape (2013) and Sacred (2013) series, Hemmatat’s lens searches for signs and encounters; recording anthropological moments and exploring diverse reflections of civilisation, spirituality and humanity. Observations of varied terrain and natural beauty are juxtaposed with monumental sculptures and architectural achievements Hemmatat’s strong compositional instincts and lighting sensibilities capture each subject with a curious observational sensitivity and unique attention to detail.
Hemmatat’s work features in collections in Asia and Europe, including the Museum Siam in Bangkok and the Not Vital Foundation in Switzerland. Hemmatat lives and works in Bangkok.
(Profile photo by Meeratchata Rujinarong)