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Middle Fish

Thai Artist Torlarp Larpjaroensook is helping to transform the interior of new Melbourne Thai café using found objects and his innate creativity. Belinda Aucott has the story.  

Torlarp Larpjaroensook describes his evolving design aesthetic as simple but special. Based in the beautiful Northern city of Chiang Mai, Torlarp (or Hern as he is commonly known) is currently in Australia to help his friends at the new cafe Middle-Fish bring the  interior to life with a series of site-specific art works. Complementing Torlarp’s work for the the Carlton cafe will be a thoughtful, creative, handmade interior that includes a chandelier made from ceramic bowls, a long steel bench for eating, exposed brick walls and an indoor bicycle parking. Belinda Aucott caught up with the artist to discuss his approach to the project, his home town and newly built house come gallery.

Belinda Aucott: I hear that you fuse industrial design with traditional and contemporary design. Can you please give me a good example of an artwork from your practice?

Torlarp Larpjaroensook: An example would be the chandelier at Middle Fish. The structure is made from metal and then decorated with traditional Thai bowls that reflect the light.

BA: You say you use mixed media to emphasise your love of functional art – what kind of materials do you use?

TL: I can basically use any and every object around me. When I look at objects and materials, I actually look for the main purpose and then create something interesting out of that. For example if I get a piece of metal, I will use that for structural purposes. One of the doors at my Art Gallery is actually made out of a metal bed frame. I also have a radio painting that you can plug your iPod into and the sound will come through speakers, which are a part of the painting. Yes, you can listen to the music from the painting.

BA: Can you give me an example of re-purposing in your work?

TL: I like looking at general objects differently and then creating something interesting of it. For example, with the bathroom wall at Middle Fish, I suggested to David that he do a curved wall.  Whilst it is a little bit more work, it will make the room much more interesting. 3147966 Gallery (my mobile gallery) is a kind of multi-function gallery where I transformed an old car into a gallery. The space inside the car is used for art exhibitions and sometimes even acts as a bedroom.  I also have a herb garden on top of the car from which I use the produce to make tea for visitors.

BA: How did you first get involved with Middle Fish?

TL: I first met Pla and David (the owners of Middle Fish) in Chiang Mai while they were on holiday. However, they knew about me earlier as they saw some of my works at a Thai Restaurant in Thai Town, Sydney. Then they accidentally met me at my gallery after reading about the gallery in a local guidebook, not realizing that I owned the gallery. That was when I showed them more of my work and my style.


BA: Middle Fish focuses on Southern Thai cuisine – how does the cuisine differ from north to south?

TL: Herbs have a big influence in Thai food.  As the geography is different from the North (High land) to the South (Sea Side), the kinds of vegetables and herbs that we grow are quite different; each one has their own unique flavour. Chilli is a great example, in the north (where I come from) we use large chillies but in the south they use tiny chillies (bird eyes chilli) that are extremely hot. In the north there are lots of vegetable dishes, whereas in the south they have a lot more seafood dishes, as they are closer to the sea.

BA: Torlarp you are commonly known as Hern – what can you tell me about this nickname?

TL: 99% of Thai people have a nickname. I got my nickname when I was studying at Art College in Bangkok.


BA: You recently built your own house, can you tell me about that and  what motivated you to do that?

TL: I wanted to build something simple. So, I got the idea from a child’s drawing of a house which mostly consists of a few squares and triangles combined. My home is in Chiang Mai Town is very close to my gallery. Chiang Mai is considered a big city in Thailand, however; people there still very kind. They live in a big town but they have a slow life. We have a strong Art Community there. A friend of mine wrote songs for my gallery, which I then exchanged for a chair that I made.  I love the weather, environment and people. It a good place for artist inspiration. Small enough for me to ride a bicycle to open three galleries in one day. It is growing pretty fast; tall buildings are starting to rise…. And lots of good cafés are opening up.

Where do you hang out when you are not at home in the house you built? Do you have a favourite restaurant or bar, gallery or piece of nature – you spend a lot of time in?

I spend most time in my gallery. I love taking my dog (Chon) for a run at Chaing Mai University. They have a big lake there and I like to hang out at the North Gate Jazz Bar.

Tell me about the site-specific work for Middle Fish – what is it and what will it look like?

The wave and fish pieces on the wall that are influenced by traditional Thai drawing and traditional materials. I adapted the piece on the wall from traditional Thai drawing but gave it a modern take. The chandeliers have a steel structure and are decorated with traditional Thai bowls. All my pieces at Middle Fish are designed to be suited to the industrial warehouse building. I choose the objects and materials to match with building structure for example. Bricks and big timber trusses. I want my works to make Middle Fish unique.

Can you describe any of the furniture you made?

Tables, Chairs, Lamps, Cars.

What is the aesthetic?

Simple but Special (I am still on my journey to find it)

View more work by
Torlarp Larpjaroensook

Middle Fish will be open from early November from 7:00AM-5:00PM on Monday to Friday, and from

10:00AM-4:00PM on Saturday and Sunday.

Address: 122-128 Berkeley Street, Carlton

To take a peek in Torlarp Larpjaroensook’s Bangkok home pick up a copy of Habitus 16, out now.