Finding the Art in Phuket
The Art of Living
by Anthony S. Cameron
What I love the most about Phuket is the eclectic bunch of humans that find their way here from other parts of the world and decide to call it home. We have all sorts of reasons for coming here: some are running from an unsatisfactory life; some are enamoured by the closest thing to paradise they have found so far; some of us come here exhausted from the pressure of being someone we don’t, or never did, want to be. Some of us come with pockets full of money, others come with pockets full of dreams. Nearly all of us have decided to jump off the treadmill and live cheaply and easily, for a while at least.
You know you’ve come across a unique human being when he shares his dream with you and infects you with its intoxicating rhythm, a rhythm driven by the ocean currents and a love of dancing with the energy hidden in those currents. Without doubt the most talented and prolific sculptor I have come across on this mad island is a former landlocked Swiss watchmaker who is sculpting objects of beauty out of EPS foam, fibreglass and resin. And not only do you get to stare in awe at his work as it sits on the wall above your dining room table, you get to use it to find the art trapped deep inside you.
David “Mousset” Sautebin started making surfboards only a handful of years ago, and this makes his body of work even more amazing. I have had the pleasure of watching him at work and trying to fathom the effortless precision and joy he brings to his designs, the innate understanding of the ocean inside each custom design and the freedom he gives to each lucky owner to explore themselves.
When an artist can awaken the creativity in others and then encourage them to explore it, I think that is the most successful art you could hope for. It seems to make a lot of the stuff that passes for art in the gallery scene look very static, and dare I say, unimaginative at best.
Not only does this guy humbly go about the business of exploring his inner creativity, he has a credo that he actually lives by: live simple, consume less.
Most of the manifestos about art practice I have read are so fake and lofty in their intentions, but this one rings true. You won’t find David waxing (excuse the pun) lyrical about his philosophy of life and art to a bunch of nodding cronies over a cheap glass of red in an over-lit gallery. He just lives it.
As you well know, I have trouble with the lines that exist between artist and artisan, and if it wasn’t for David, I would still be floundering and seething with the injustice of it all. But this guy personifies the living, breathing, interactive art that so-called career artists can only dream of. For some reason, if an art form, such as surfing, is all about fun and has a kind of beautiful pointlessness about it, then it is not considered ‘serious’ art. To that I would say, I wish looking at ‘serious’ art put the kind of smile on my face that surfing a wave does, and that it could help me feel so happy to be alive.
Every wave is a completely unique experience to be involved in, and lasts the briefest of moments. David’s art celebrates the beauty of those moments in a way no other art form can. He gives you the tools to find in it something you didn’t even know was there. I am hard pushed to find another art form that could make this claim, nor could I find one that has such universal appeal. And the overriding beauty of it all is that anyone can have a go, anyone can paddle into a wave and look for the stuff a mirror cannot see. It doesn’t matter how many times you get pounded or thrust onto the sea floor, it doesn’t matter how many times you fall off as the wave has its way with you. If you keep at it, soon you will find the rhythm that we search for in the rest of our lives and rarely find.
One of Australia’s great singer/songwriters, Broderick Smith, for whom I had the pleasure to manage sound many years ago, would say of his favourite musicians: you could lock them in an empty room and eventually you will hear music.
This is David’s great art. He helps you find the music we all have in us. On his website home page, you will find this quote:
“The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labour and his leisure, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence in whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him, he is always doing both.”
Sarongs from all over Sth East Asia adorn his boards, fitting snugly over the custom designs he and the new owner collaborate over. Arresting veneers of sustainable Paulownia wood cover the decks, stunning testimonies to the eternal and sublime beauty of the forest. So, not only do you get to ride a work of art on a wave that is a work of nature, but you get to be involved in the design process. There’s no cloak and dagger stuff going on here, no hidden method that has to be protected lest it is stolen by people with less vision. It’s an organic free-for-all. The only constraints are the need for the sculpture to glide through the water like it is a part of it.
With this guy, it couldn’t be any other way.
You can find David’s work at: elleciel.com
Anthony S. Cameron is an Australian ex-pat living in Phuket, Thailand, and the author of two novels, Driftwood (2014) and Butterfly on Bangla (2015). Born in Melbourne, he escaped in his early twenties to central Victoria, where he designed and built a sustainable house and raised two sustainable children. His books are available on Amazon here.
Photos by Roxy Cameron