Sculptor Dong: Meet the quiet genius behind Bangkok's artistic landmarks


Ever noticed the sculptures in front of Bangkok skyscrapers and wondered what they mean and who made these strange artworks?

Meet Pongsatat Uaiklang, aka "Dong Sculpture", the only Thai artist invited by LVMH to create art pieces for Cheval Blanc’s hotel in the paradise islands of Seychelles.

The name may not be familiar, but if you live in Bangkok, you have likely encountered his iconic large sculptures on the streets. Make your way to MBK shopping mall and you can’t miss his masterpiece on the Siam skywalk connecting MBK, Siam Discovery and Bangkok Art & Culture Centre above Pathum Wan intersection.

"Pathum Wan intersection translates as ‘lotus crossroads’, so the architecture was inspired by a lotus pond when looked at from above. I added functional details with a sunshade that resembles lotus leaves," said the artist.

Sculptor Dong: Meet the quiet genius behind Bangkok\'s artistic landmarks Sculptor Dong: Meet the quiet genius behind Bangkok\'s artistic landmarks


Dong, 47, specialises in large sculptures and his creations adorn six-star hotels across the region – a unique feat among Thai artists.

Each of his sculptures is aimed at provoking thought among guests and passersby. Each individual will find a different meaning in the meticulous design; there is no right or wrong when it comes to art, he explains.

"A sculpture will be interpreted differently through time, it will trigger people's imagination endlessly, unlike signs that convey direct messages," Dong said.

Delving deeper, he explains the different roles that urban artworks can perform.

"Some sculptures embody the spirit of the entire building. At Christmastime, red decorations will also reflect on the sculpture and create a vibrant and new atmosphere every time we look at the artwork." Sculptor Dong: Meet the quiet genius behind Bangkok\'s artistic landmarks

Sculptor Dong: Meet the quiet genius behind Bangkok\'s artistic landmarks

Redefining space

It takes Dong from six months to a year to research and design each sculpture, and another six months to actually produce it.

But while he takes pride in his artworks, he prefers to remain anonymous as their creator.

"When people look at my art pieces, they often puzzle over whether it was created by me or not. I don't want people to see my work and think of it as Dong's gallery. Rather than the sculptures being linked with me, I want them to connect with the space, the buildings and the customers' brand identities. I don't have a particular style. I believe my way of thinking and my working method are my signature.”

For youngsters interested in art, he offers these words of encouragement: "It’s not about just finding your style, it's about finding knowledge. The more knowledge you have, the more you can connect with people and that helps you create your own artistic character."

The main problem with Thailand's art world is that most artists stick with the same old method and personal style and are reluctant to experiment with new possibilities, he said.

"By using this [innovative] methodology when working, we can create a piece of art that is more meaningful and linked with the DNA of the brand or company," he added.

Dong said his work also involves collaboration with architects, which often sparks disputes because architects and artists look at things from different perspectives.

"Architects only think about poles, beams and construction materials. But for us, we might see poles as raw material for our sculptures. Or I might have to adopt an engineering perspective if I have to create a functional sculpture designed for people to sit on.”

Sculptor Dong: Meet the quiet genius behind Bangkok\'s artistic landmarks

Art's evolution

For centuries, artworks were reserved for the eyes of the rich and privileged in Thailand. The only art seen by ordinary people were murals and religious artefacts in Buddhist temples.

However, as society evolved and art expanded beyond painting, it became more accessible to the people.

"I think we have progressed, with more art in our cities and people now recognising its importance – including real estate projects paying for sculptures to amplify their property's identity," said Dong.

He also draws a contrast between the West, which views nature through a materialist lens, and the East where the landscape is imbued with spirit. This can give Asians a more intimate relationship with the world, he says, citing as an example the belief that cars have a spirit that protects us while we drive.

However, no culture or art is superior to another, he adds. It doesn't matter what we believe, only how we apply those beliefs in creating art.

Sculptor Dong: Meet the quiet genius behind Bangkok\'s artistic landmarks

Thailand’s largest property project

Among property moguls eager to support local art and artists is Korn Narongdej, Director and Chairman of the Executive Committee of Raimon Land Plc.

An admirer of Dong's work, Korn commissioned him to create a large sculpture for Raimon Land's project at One City Centre Bangkok (OCC), currently the largest property development in Thailand.

"Beautiful art pieces can lift the spirit of people living in the building," said Korn, before going on to reveal his reason for involving Dong in the project.

"When discussing beautiful sculptures, Dong's name comes top of the list. He has worked with numerous leading organisations not only in Thailand but also abroad. We are very lucky and delighted to collaborate with him on the OCC project.”

The OCC building is a perfect illustration of Dong's ethos. He created three O-shaped sculptures representing air or oxygen to emphasise the brand’s care for the environment.

He also cleverly hid the building’s name in the sculpture by placing it on stairways so that passersby will observe how the O changes to C when stairs overlay parts of his creation.

Sculptor Dong: Meet the quiet genius behind Bangkok\'s artistic landmarks