Encapsulating the vibrancy of the 80s and 90s.
By Aiden Jewelle Gonzales
From the 9th of July onwards, Chim Chim Bangkok officially unveiled ‘Arcade of Dreams,’ their latest artist-in-residence exhibition which whisks guests back to the decades that sweet dreams are made of – the 80s and 90s. We were given a sneak peek of the exhibition before their grand opening, together with an opportunity to speak to the creative mind behind the exhibition, beloved Thai illustrator Tachamapan Chanchamrassang, known by her more renowned pseudonym, Pomme Chan. Even before we visited the space, the invitation we received was already a homage to nostalgic oddities from the decades, from a Hot Wheels car to an eminently addictive water ring toss game straight out of my childhood, and even a working cassette tape with popular tunes from the day; a hint of what we could expect.
Nestled on the Ground Floor of the idiosyncratic Siam@Siam, Design Hotel Bangkok, Chim Chim Bangkok is an all-day-dining-cum-art-gallery and hangout space, and is an ode to maximalist design. From its mismatched furniture, bold colours and prints, and rotating gallery of multimedia artwork that converges into a vibrant, carefully-curated whole, the space is the epitome of the ‘go big or go home’ maxim, with the aim to showcase both established and emerging talents from around the world. Although we had previously visited their debut exhibition, Souvenirs by Parisian designer duo Munchausen, I was especially looking forward to their first local artist in residence, whom Boualem Arezki, the hotel’s Creative and Marketing Director, had acknowledged as one of the “best of the best” of Thailand’s artists. Together with her team at Happy People Studio and Chim Chim’s own creative team, Pomme Chan has put her own stamp on the space, bringing together key motifs from her childhood.
“I believe I’m not the only one feeling nostalgic about these simpler times with less chaos and technology, when we would watch the sunset without having to take a selfie,” Pomme Chan says about her exhibition. I’d heard that she’d been inspired to start drawing by Japanese manga comics and anime shows during her childhood, and this familiar story had struck a chord within me as I recalled my own brother’s similar forays into art. Indeed, as Pomme Chan enthusiastically walked us through her exhibition, every element seemed designed to tug at the heartstrings of those of us who’d lived through the 80s and 90s. A “free-flowing homage to all that’s fun and cool from yesteryear,” we started the exhibit with outsized renditions of iconic sunglass shapes, which we were told were created in honour of Pomme Chan’s parents. The Hen Ngao Nai Ta Chun Mai, a pair of white Ray-Bans, showed reflections of the sea, a reference to family vacations during which her dad would sit and watch over them by the beach, while the Hen Tur Yoo Nai Nun Mai exhibit, a pair of red cat-eye glasses, was a more abstract representation of her mum’s style and effervescent character.
Throughout the gallery, this mix of abstract symbolism and cheeky references to 80s and 90s pop culture continued, from the freeform Bubble Gum canvases in a cascade of bold colours, to the softer pastel renditions of cotton candy and Thai khanoms created during the lockdown in an attempt to bring back joy during those dark months, by connecting to soft-tinged childhood memories.
“Chim Chim has given us the freedom to do anything we want, so our creative juices can flow with no limitation,” Pomme Chan tells us, indicating the different art styles that she has experimented with. One that particularly caught my attention was the Memory Marbles – swirling spheres of colour which represent core emotions and memories, and which draw inspiration from Pixar’s Inside Out (2015) movie, a particular favourite of mine.
Moving upstairs to the completely-renovated mezzanine floor, the exhibition’s ‘Arcade of Dreams’ concept becomes clear, with a veritable extravaganza dedicated to interactive fun. At the top of the stairs is a Gameboy Mirror, the requisite Instagrammable spot, and we also had the chance to add our own stamp to the exhibition with a selection of retro stickers that we could arrange on a wall dedicated to that purpose. Before we turned the corner, a ring toss game allowed us to prove which one of us used to win at schoolyard games (not me!), while a vibrant Happy Hopscotch game on the floor brought peals of laughter to all who tried it.
Beyond, tables were strewn with board games of all shapes and sizes, a tempting invitation to sit and enjoy a few hours of good food, good company and easy camaraderie; while immense blocks form a Happy Cube Puzzle for more good times. In the corner, a retrofitted Pac-Man Arcade Machine sits against a wall in a riot of patterns and colour, another picture-perfect spot for the discerning visitor.
Of course, no visit to a café is complete without sampling their pastries, and Chim Chim has created three desserts just for the ‘Arcade of Dreams’ exhibition, which “combine the flavours of the good old days with modern twists.” I’m not usually a fan of croissants but the Thai Tea Croissant (THB 130) was delicious, packed with Thai tea cream and black coffee jelly, encapsulating the flavours of the best Thai afternoon coffee breaks, with white chocolate to add sweetness. The Mango sticky rice cruffin (THB 130) was of course a homage to the quintessential Thai dessert, with vanilla sticky rice and soft caramel for an added twist, but my personal favourite was the Kanom Chan Millefeuille (THB 290), sublime in the best way and blending fresh pandan cream and coconut sorbet together in perfectly flakey morsels. Don’t forget to pair the pastries with Chim Chim’s signature drinks – I recommend the Contra (THB 320), made with rum, milk, lime juice, and syrup, for those who want a simple yet sweet cocktail that packs a punch.
Finally, before we left, we made sure to make full use of the Photoautomat booth, which will be present until the end of August 2022, to capture the fun times for posterity. Throughout the next couple of months, guests are invited not only to visit the interactive art experience, but to also attend a series of monthly workshops by Pomme Channe, starting with one on watercolour painting tips on 21 July, then others on acrylic painting, pattern making, typography layer collage, and silk screening.
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