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Posts Tagged ‘Thai artists’

Writer Steven Pettifor talks about the old and the new in Thai contemporary art – Art Radar interview

Posted by artradar on August 10, 2010


Steven Pettifor, author of 'Flavours - Thai Contemporary Art'.

Steven Pettifor, author of 'Flavours - Thai Contemporary Art'.

THAI ART BOOK WRITER INTERVIEW

Thailand has long had a small but very vibrant contemporary art scene. Compared with its recently-flourishing neighbours, however, contemporary Thai art hasn’t been getting much attention. Little has been written about it. Back in 2003, Bangkok based Briton Steven Pettifor decided to address this problem with his book Flavours – Thai Contemporary Art.

Flavours was listed on a reading list for newcomers interested in Southeast Asian art, as reported in an earlier Art Radar post. With 23 profiles of artists of different mediums (painting, sculpture, textile, costume, installa­tion, ceramics and photography), the author hoped to provide exposure of Thai artists outside their home country, and to give readers “a ‘taste’ of Thailand’s burgeoning contemporary visual arts.”

It’s now been seven years since the book was first published and much of Thailand’s contemporary art scene has changed. Art Radar Asia caught up with Steven Pettifor to find out more about his book, and to see what he thinks of the country’s current art movement.

Most importantly, this interview has revealed that there is now more non-Thai Asian art able to be viewed in Thailand. Local art galleries are teaming up with other Asian galleries to bring non-Thai Asian art into Thailand and foreign artists are now viewing Thailand as a place to set up professionally. He also identifies a number of important emerging Thai artists and names some of the top collectors of Thai contemporary art.

What prompted you to write Flavours?

I’d been writing about Thai art for about seven or eight years. I was starting to build up quite a body of artists that I’ve written about and covered. There was only one other book on Thai art written in English up until that point, and that was Modern Art in Thailand by Dr. Apinan Poshyananda. His book went up to 1992 and then after that it was nothing, and 1992 was the year I arrived in Thailand, so I felt like filling in the gap from that period onwards. That was my intention.

I was floating the idea for about a year or two before I actually found someone  who wanted to collaborate and publish it, and Thavibu Gallery said yeah okay, we’ll be interested in doing it, we might be able to find someone to back it financially, which they did. They found Liam Ayudhkij, who is the owner of Liam’s Gallery in Pattaya. He’s been collecting art here for thirty, forty years. So Liam kindly backed it. That’s how the book came about.

'Flavours - Thai Contemporary Art', published by Thavibu Gallery.

'Flavours - Thai Contemporary Art', published by Thavibu Gallery.

What were the main issues and challenges for you when writing and researching Flavours?

I wanted the book to broaden the message about Thai art. I didn’t want to keep the book an academic book, purely for an already art-affiliated readership. I wanted to move beyond that and try and get more general public interest in Thai art. So one point was to keep it accessible in terms of language and to try and cover as broad a scope as possible within a coffee-table sort of format. That was one challenge.

Another was to try and cover as many different mediums as possible, so it was finding sculptures, paintings, installations, photography… I tried to cover as many mediums as possible, and that wasn’t easy, given that some of the less popular mediums… it was hard to find good quality artists working in that field.

Tell us more about your selection of artists in Flavours.

Medium was one big consideration. Also, their career point. I tried to get as many young artists or emerging artists or mid-career artists, so that the book would have relevance ten years on. It’s six years old now and most of the artists are still in their mid-careers. I didn’t want to pick artists that were in their twilight years or have passed away. People ask me why didn’t I include Montien Boonma, who’s considered the father of installation art here. I included him in the overview essay, but because he has passed away, I didn’t want to profile him, because there wasn’t so much currency. His career is not still being carried on, basically.

How did your interest in art, and in Thai art, evolve?

As early I could remember, I could draw and paint. Not self-taught as such, but it was there from an early age. I don’t come from an artistic family at all, so it was never really nurtured as such. But when I reached high school, I then got pushed toward art, just because they saw my natural talent or whatever. So the interest in art has always been there, but I’d say from high school onwards it was developed by teachers.

…It’s not so much as a passion for Thai art. The main art that was in view in Thailand was Thai art, and you just got into it. I got to meet a lot of the artists quite quickly and I found it quite interesting to be thrown in on that level. Back in 1997, there weren’t so many foreigners involved in the art scene and everyone was quite accommodating, inviting you to their studios and things like that. So it was interesting. You got to feel involved.

What makes Thai art different from other Asian art?

Buddhism is quite predominant here. Sometimes that can be good, sometimes that can kind of almost saturate the art that is produced here. If you look at Burmese art or what’s coming out of places like Laos, you’ll see a lot of Buddhist imagery as well. Places like Indonesia and Vietnam… the art being produced in those places is not so religious-focussed. Religion would be one aspect that defines a lot of the art that is made here. Not necessarily the art that is hitting international levels. They tend to deal with work that is more universal, or themes that would fit more into the international art interest. But across the board, a lot of them deal with Buddhist subject matter.

Santi Thongsuk, 'I'm Glad I'm Dead Year', 2000, oil on canvas.

Santi Thongsuk, 'I'm Glad I'm Dead Year', 2000, oil on canvas.

Another thing would be the craftsmanship. I do see it elsewhere in Asia, so it’s not necessarily different but there are different kinds of crafts that are brought into Thai art. Chusak Srikwan uses shadow puppetry, but he does things like modern politicians and symbols of corruption. Montri Toemsombat has used silk weaving and silk crafting in the past. There’s this attention to craft. A lot of technical training goes on here, so they get very good grounding in the technical aspects of art training, so that comes through very strongly as well.

Chusak Srikwan, 'Birth-Age-Ailment-Death', 2009-10, leather carving.

Chusak Srikwan, 'Birth-Age-Ailment-Death', 2009-10, leather carving.

Tell us about the artist training system in Thailand.

It’s pretty much similar to anywhere else. It’s art school, mainly. It’s an emerging thing. Art school is expanding constantly and courses are expanding constantly here, but it’s still largely focused in Bangkok and Chiang Mai, with a couple of provincial centers in the north-east and in the south. A lot of young wannabe artists, when they graduate here, will go through assisting a senior artist in a studio for a couple of years. Again, that’s comparable to anywhere else as well. But I find it quite good that artists get a lot of hands on training through working with the artists when they graduate.

Is the Thai art scene receiving greater external interest, as compared with before?

It was anticipated here around the early 2000s on that there would be a lot more interest on the back of the increased focus towards Asia, with China and India doing very well. Vietnamese art in the mid to late 90s kind of opened up a lot. And it was always expected that there would be more people coming in for Thai art, and for a while there was. There’s a lot more Thai artists now included in biennales and triennales and international thematic shows, but I would say that is comparable to just part of this larger focus on finding art in Asia. I would also say in the last couple of years it has slowed down a lot. Since the coup in 2006, and the financial recession in late 2008, the commercial aspect of art has slowed down quite a bit. But I don’t think it’s just here, I’d say it’s everywhere.

Do Thai artists see international acceptance as one of the criteria for success? How does that compare with domestic recognition?

There are artists here that are quite content to work on the domestic level, but they have to work within a fairly narrow framework in order to succeed there. And then there are those who desire and need the international exposure in order to continue making art of that kind of calibre.

You mentioned in Flavours about a gap between the public and the local art scene, citing insufficient education and exposure as a major problem. Has the situation improved?

Things like education are not going to improve overnight. There are more universities and higher education establishments offering art related courses. But for your average state sponsored school, like high school, there’s still going to be a very limited art practice beyond basic drawing techniques and painting.

But in terms of accessibility, they are trying to change things. They’ve opened the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC) here in the last two years, which is a major art center in the heart of downtown. It was always the intention to put it in a very commercial area so that it would be on the consumers’ door step. So they’re hoping to draw in the public to look at art and find out what art is. And there’s another plan to build a national art center in Bangkok. But that’s all very Bangkok-focused.

…one way the void is being filled in the provinces is that some of the artists that have either come from different provinces or have gone there to settle or to set up a studio have built artist-gallery-public places – places to promote their own work, but also places to give something back to the community. Up in Chiang Rai, Thawan Duchanee is a good example of an artist that has made his work open to the public.

Montien Boonma, 'Drawing of the Mind Training and the Bowls of the Mind', 1992, held in the collection of Chongrux Chantaworasut.

Montien Boonma, 'Drawing of the Mind Training and the Bowls of the Mind', 1992, held in the collection of Chongrux Chantaworasut.

How has the local art scene changed since you published Flavours?

There are a lot of commercial galleries that have opened up in the last  five to ten years, but a lot of them have a less than five-year shelf-life. A lot of galleries are still set up here by people who have an interest in art, but I wouldn’t say that they are specifically trained in how to operate a gallery on a professional level. A lot of them have opened galleries because it’s their passion, but managing it on a professional level doesn’t always work out the way they expect. It’s still tough to make a profit here as a commercial gallery. There’s been a few more non-profit spaces opening as well, but they’re even harder to manage and sustain with no profits coming in and it’s hard to find sponsorship to back spaces like that.

One thing that I think is important to push is that there’s been more diversity of art that’s been on view in the last five years or so. When I first started looking at art thirteen years ago here, it was very Thai. Most of the galleries were showing Thai. Any foreign or overseas art would predominantly be at university spaces and would be by visiting lecturers or hookups with overseas institutions. But now, in commercial spaces, more regional art is certainly being seen. Thavibu Gallery bring in Vietnamese and Burmese art. Gallery SoulFlower, which just closed last year, brought in Indian art on a regular basis. Tang have a gallery in Bangkok, and they bring in a lot of good quality, high-profile Chinese art. And there’s a couple of galleries that bring in Japanese artists, and you’ll see Indonesian art here every now and then. So there’s been more exposure to regional and international art.

Another development is there’s been more foreign artists coming and spending time here, trying to work out of here. Some just setting up their own studios and still working with their galleries overseas… others coming here to make a goal out of it, trying to get involved with the Thai art scene. If I look at foreign artists based here thirteen years ago, it was more of people using art as hobby rather than a serious pursuit. But now I would say that there’s a lot more foreign artists here that are serious about art making and trying to make a career out of their art here as well.

What is the biggest problem facing the Thai art market at the moment?

There are probably only around fifty viewing spaces in Bangkok that attempt a regular or an occasional exhibition schedule, but not of huge amount of that translate into sales. I would say only a dozen or so galleries here manage themselves towards a sustainable and professional gallery that also tries to promote its artists beyond Thailand.

Can you name some interesting galleries and non-profit spaces for our readers to explore?

It’s a bit of a self promoting thing, but I initiated the Bangkok Art Map, which is a useful tool for people arriving in the city wanting to see art, or people living in the city wanting to see what’s happening on a monthly basis. It’s a map of the city’s galleries with the regular exhibition calendar plus highlights of what’s on, and a spotlight focus every month.

…obviously I have to say Thavibu Gallery, because they published my book, and I’m working with them this year on a curatorial project for the course of a year called “3D@Thavibu“. That is my conscious effort with the gallery to promote small-scale sculpture in Thailand towards more collecting base and to push emerging sculptors here that don’t get seen in so many galleries here.

There’s H Gallery, another professionally-run gallery. It’s run by an American, H. Ernest Lee, and it’s in a beautiful colonial-style building. One of the best galleries running in terms of putting their artists into biennales and working with some of the major Asian and Thai artists is 100 Tonson Gallery. Ardel Gallery is run by a Thai artist called Thavorn Ko-udomvit, who curated the Thai Pavilion for Venice last year. DOB Hualamphong brings in artists that are not necessarily commercially minded. Numthong Gallery has been a gallery that’s done very well over the years. [Mr. Numthong Sae-tang] runs a fairly small space out of a co-op building, but he attracts some of the big name Thai artists to work with him, because he tries to help them out and he’s a very good supporter of the artists when they come on board. Obviously the BACC is a place worthy of visiting.

Which artists have been doing interesting things recently in your opinion?

There are quite a few artists. The big names are already on the radar. People like Navin Rawanchaikul, Chatchai Puipia, Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook, Sakarin Krue-on… these are all very good established artists.

Maitree Siriboon, ''Isarn Boy Dream" series, 2008, photography.

Maitree Siriboon, ''Isarn Boy Dream" series, 2008, photography.

On the younger front, I like Maitree Siriboon. He is an artist I think is worth watching. He’s been using photography to photograph himself to examine his identity as an openly gay guy from Isarn. He deals with the rural to urban migration, exploring on a sensory level what it means for him as an artist and as an openly-gay person to move from the provinces to Bangkok. Yuree Kensaku, a Thai-Japanese artist; I like her brand of painting. She’s also doing some sculptural work. I like Yuree’s work a lot. There’s Tawan Wattuya. He does watercolours, very loose watercolour paintings, all about conformity and uniformity in Thai society. He’s done a lot of paintings of groups of Thais in uniforms. There’s a strong sexual element to a lot of his works as well. Also Sudsiri Pui-Ock in Chiang Mai.

Yuree Kensaku, 'The Killer from electricity authority', 2009.

Yuree Kensaku, 'The Killer from electricity authority', 2009.

Are there any major collectors of Thai art?

There’s Narong Intanate. He has been collecting more conventional Thai art – modern Thai artists but not necessarily contemporary. But he’s recently started to branch out into contemporary. Disaphol Chansiri has a really interesting collection of Thai and international contemporary art. His collection is open by appointment, he’s housing it in an apartment space that he’s opened up as an art-viewing space on Sukhumvit Road. His collection is very contemporary, probably the most contemporary I’ve seen in terms of the artists he’s collecting. Jean Michel Beurdeley is a French collector who has lived here for decades. He has a collection that he opens up in quite a nice traditional Thai house where he lives. Again, viewable by appointment only. One more worth mentioning is Petch Osathanugrah. He’s collected contemporary domestic art. I don’t think his collection is housed in any permanent space at the moment. For awhile he was going to open a private museum, but I don’t think that has materialised.

Are there any books or websites you would recommend for learning more about Thai contemporary art?

I would say our website, the Bangkok Art Map, would be a site to mention. The Rama IX Foundation is very well supported. Until recently, they’ve focused more on senior conventional artists. I think there’s more diversity to their website, but there’s a lot of contemporary artists not on there. But it’s a good website. Several of the gallery websites have good listing info.

As I said before, there are only two books out there, Modern Art in Thailand and Flavours. They’re the only two English-language books that have been written on Thai art in the last fifteen years.

About Steven Pettifor

Born in 1968 in London, Steven Pettifor graduated with degrees in fine arts from both the Wimbledon School of Art and Liverpool Polytechnic. The writer-artist-curator has been living in Thailand since 1992, immersing himself in the local contemporary art scene. He is currently the Thailand Editor for Asian Art News and World Sculpture News.

VL/KN

Related Topics: Thai artists, promoting art, interviews

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27 contemporary Southeast Asian artists featured in ASEAN-Korea photo exhibition

Posted by artradar on July 28, 2010


KOREAN ASEAN CONTEMPORARY PHOTOGRAPHY EXHIBITION

Created to showcase the range of dynamic contemporary photography coming from Korean and Southeast Asian artists, Emerging Wave“, currently on view at the GoEun Museum of Photography in Busan (South Korea), features works from 27 artists ranging from emerging creators to established veterans.

Established in March 2009, the ASEAN-Korea Centre promotes both cultural and economic cooperation between Korea and the ten ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) member countries. The organisation  recently partnered with Seoul Art Centre’s Hangaram Art Museum to open their 2010 photo exhibition which features 27 artists from 11 countries.

The exhibition, which is the second since ASEAN-Korea Centre’s launch, exposes the international community to new work by some of Southeast Asia’s brightest contemporary photographers. While many of the participants are veterans, the exhibition gives younger artists exposure to the contemporary art scene of a major city such as Seoul.

“Emerging Wave” attracts artists from all over ASEAN region

For example, for emerging Bruneian photographers Hirfian Hussain and Akmal Benangsutera, the exhibition is an opportunity to showcase the budding photography scene in their home country, as well as a chance to connect with dedicated artists from outside of Brunei.

Artists well-established in other media also make up this year’s selected names such as Burmese performance and installation artist Po Po. While not considered a prolific artist – he has had only two solo exhibitions since 1987 – his work is thoughtful and full of depth. As an artist who works with different media there is much crossover within his work. With his photography he employs elements of cubism, a movement he considers to be painting’s “highest state of intellectual approach.”

Po Po, Searching for Identity: Bottle # 1, 2002-2007, C-print, 167 x 305 cm

Po Po, 'Searching for Identity: Bottle # 1', 2002-2007, C-print, 167 x 305 cm.

“How can I make cubist photos which present every aspect of a thing? These works are not objects of material.  They are objects of mind”.

Although in an article on the Myanmar Times website Po Po states his distinterest in “flashy technology or visual hype”, his selected photos demonstrate his willingness to experiment with newer media to create complex, visually stimulating images without losing the sincerity of his message.

Like Po Po, Singaporean artist Mintio incorporates multiple overlapping angles in photos from her “Concrete Euphoria” series (2008-2009).

Mintio, Kuala Lumpur City Centre, 2008, D-print, 152 x 122 cm

Mintio, 'Kuala Lumpur City Centre', 2008, D-print, 152 x 122 cm.

In spite of being relatively young Mintio, who got her start at a major commercial studio at age 16, has already created a stir with her documentation of Asia’s largest cities using long-exposure techniques. For Mintio, the process is about both rediscovery and finding the unknown in familiar things.

“At the end of the day, no matter how familiar we think we are with a person or a place, there always will be jewels left undiscovered. Perhaps the answer of what a place or city means might just be a continuous journey of finding those jewels.”

Also on display is work by fellow Singaporean Zhao Renhui, a resident artist and member of the Institute of Critical Zoologists. Zhao channels his fascination with man’s perception of animals into photos sometimes depicting live or taxidermy creatures, and other times depicting man’s often futile attempts to be at one with nature. In an interview with Asian Photography Blog, Zhao expresses the idea that photography is a medium through which people “relate to animals and the world”. At the same time it is a medium which “blurs the distinction between fact and fiction”. In one particular image he presents a zoologist who appears nearly invisible with the aid of a camoflague cloak and photo manipulation.

Zhao Renhui, Tottori Sand Dunes, 2009, archieval piezographic print, 84 x 121 cm

Zhao Renhui, 'Tottori Sand Dunes', 2009, archieval piezographic print, 84 x 121 cm.

In doing so, Zhao presents a surreal image as reality and challenges the validity of photography as a medium for depiciting truth. For the artist, reality in photography is illusory and constantly in flux. Viewers must try to make sense of the natural, scientic world through a manipulated, and possibly false, image.

A fascination with perceptions of truth also permeates the photographs of Thai artist Dow Wasiksiri and Vietnamese artist Richard Streitmatter-Tran. While Streitmatter-Tran makes no attempt to hide the artifice of his composite images, Wasiksiri’s saturated photos capture a side of Thai culture that he feels foreigners are not exposed to when viewing the “styled and staged” images of Thailand. According to the artist’s statement on his website:

“Visitors are presented with contrived, idealized images of Thainess by Thais ourselves … countless published views of Thailand are staged and styled. The contrivance and the reality rarely match, leading to startling juxtapositions”.

In presenting what he calls the “unexpected moments”, Dow aims to show unabashed ‘Thainess’ with humor and unself-consciousness.

Indonesian photographer Angki Purbandono makes use of what he calls a “freestyle” approach which allows him to employ methods ranging from collage to the scannography technique used in “Avocado Horse” (2010). Even so, Purbandono doesn’t separate himself from other photographers too much.

“Just like other people working with photography, I play with objects, considering light as important and employing a dark room to print my work.”

Angki Purbandono, Avocado Horse, 2010, Scannography, 100 x 100 cm

Angki Purbandono, 'Avocado Horse', 2010, scannography, 100 x 100 cm.

Korean artists well represented in “Emerging Wave”

Although most of the eleven countries are represented by two artists, organisers made sure to give Korean artists plenty of additional exposure. Bright candied flora populate the work of Koo Seong Youn while Hyun Mi Yoo seems to suspend falling objects in time with skillful compositions. The warped perspectives of Zu Do YangWawi Navarroza’s impersonation of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, and “real vs. unreal” themes explored by artist Lee Yeleen add to the diversity of subject matter and style. Given that they were chosen for their talent and thoughtful innovation, it comes as no surprise that “Emerging Wave” participants turn the idea of photography on its head. With their photos they call on viewers to question the factual nature not just of the images they view but also the experiences which they have come to accept as normal and routine.

Koo Seong Youn Ht01 (+ Ht02), C-Prints, 2009, 120 x 150 cm

Koo Seong Youn, 'Ht01 (+ Ht02), C-Prints, 2009, 120 x 150 cm.

Other artists included in the show are Koreans Choi Jung Won, Lee Won Chul, and Nanda; Laotians Manichanh Pansivongsay and Phonephet Sitthivong; Indonesian artist Arya Pandjalu; Filipina artist Bea Camacho; Malaysian artists Liew Kung Yu and Tan Nan See; Burmese artist Thit Lwin Soe; Tanapol Kaewpring; Vietnamese artist Le Kinh Tai; and Cambodians Sok Sophal and Tralong Borin.

The exhibition has moved from the Hangaram Art Museum to the GoEun Museum of Photography in Busan and will close on 8 August.

EH/KN

Related Topics: Southeast Asian, photography, museum shows

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Posted in Asian, Connecting Asia to itself, Emerging artists, Indonesian, Korea, Korean, Laoation, Malaysian, Museum shows, Museums, Myanmar/Burmese, Photography, Singaporean, Southeast Asian, Thai, Vietnamese | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

New York gallery Tyler Rollins holds rare showing of Thai artist Jakkai Siributr

Posted by artradar on May 13, 2010


THAI ARTIST NEW YORK RELIGIOUS ART

Showing at Tyler Rollins Fine Art, a New York gallery which specializes in Asian art, Jakkai Siributr’s Karma Cash and Carry features a series of textile compositions alongside installation and video works.

Karma Cash and Carry installation view

Not a first for Siributr, the theme of materialism and Thai cultural heritage, a significant part of which is the Buddhist religion, resurfaces with Karma Cash and Carry. In 2008, Tyler Rollins featured an installation by the artist called Temple Fair, challenging notions of religion, society and politics in the Thai context.

Red Buddha at Karma Cash and Carry

Siributr’s current exhibition extrapolates the concept of everyday materialism in religion as a Karmic convenience store, where merit can be bought and sold. Making use of daily objects and ritual practices, his work puts forth powerful visual stimulus to encourage an understanding of the growing consumerism that afflicts every social practice.

Buddhist shrine- part of the installation at Karma Cash and Carry

Drawing from an ancient legacy of Thai textile art, the artist’s work primarily uses the textile medium with a contemporary sensibility. Maintaining a crucial relationship with the legacy of Thai textile, Siributr’s use of fabric in Karma Cash and Carry pushes the boundaries of the medium.

Additionally, Siributr uses the video format for the first time here.  Evoking a cosmopolitan space where popular culture mixes freely with ancient faith, the installation presents the loss of the sanctity of the essentially non-materialistic Buddhist faith. Siributr himself is a practicing Buddhist and has often articulated deep concerns about the commercialization of the Buddhist faith. In Thailand however, such articulations are unwelcome by the Government and the largely Buddhist polity. To battle this, Siributr tactfully appoints irony and satire to veil his dissent.

Jakkai Siributr is considered one of Southeast Asia’s pre-eminent textile based artists and his work is often politically charged. He also featured in Viewpoints and Viewing Points – 2009 Asian Art Biennial in Taiwan.

Karma Cash and Carry is on at Tyler Rollins Fine Art, New York, until 5 June, 2010.

AM/KN

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Posted in Art spaces, Buddhist art, Events, Gallery shows, New York, Religious art, Thai, USA, Venues | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Thai Chinese artist Nipan Oranniwesna shows installation art made of baby powder in Hong Kong – review

Posted by artradar on August 25, 2009


THAI CONTEMPORARY ART IN HONG KONG

Is national identity still relevant within our globalized world, which is more interdependent than ever before? Where do we get our identity, and what does baby powder have to do with it? Art Radar talks with the renowned Thai contemporary artist Nipan Oranniwesna at the Osage Gallery in Kowloon, Hong Kong before the opening of his latest exhibition Being….. at homE.

Napin

Storytelling through sight, smell, and unexpected mediums

Nipan Oranniwesna had a big job ahead of him when he arrived in Hong Kong for his exhibition at the Osage Gallery, perhaps the most respected experimental art gallery in Hong Kong. In only 4 days, he would create 2 massive installation exhibits that sprawl across the floor of Osage’s Kwun Tong gallery space in Kowloon, which are sculpted out of only baby powder. Not just any baby powder either, mind you. Nipan’s baby powder installations require the signature scent of a product by Johnson & Johnson that is only available in Thailand, and countless packages needed to be flown into Hong Kong for the artist’s materials. The exhibition is essentially a story, and is complete with 3 narrative installation works that consider identity and the idea of home on a global scale, a national scale, and ends considering the idea of home and connectedness to one’s personal space.

Napin_2

Powder cities demonstrate fragility

The result of Nipan’s labor is astounding. The exhibition, titled Being….. At HomE questions the validity of nation-based identity within modern society. The first piece of the show, City of Ghost, is a massive cityscape made of baby powder that depicts 13 major metropolitan cities of the world as interconnected. A similar work of his was also on display at the 2007 Venice Biennale for 6 months, and other sprawling works of sculpted baby powder cities have sold to private collectors, fetching up to $20,000 USD. Nipan explains the meaning of this work:

“Every country is nationalistic, but is it real, or does it just manipulate our thinking? This piece challenges personal and national identity. We think we are Thai, but the interconnectedness of this work demonstrates a question… I used baby powder because global society is both beautiful and fragile. The smell of the specific brand was important, as I wanted this to be a full sensory experience, with a stronger, more serious scent.”

Napin_3

Chinese National Anthem in powder suggests vulnerability

The next piece, titled ...with our flesh and blood, examines the idea of home and identity at the national level, depicting the Chinese national anthem written in baby powder. Accompanying framed works also show the Chinese anthem created from small pierced holes on paper, creating a braille-like version of the lyrics. Through these works, Nipan was subtly suggesting the vulnerability of basing personal identity on one’s nationality or ethnicity.

Nipan_4

Come home, take off your shoes.

The last piece of the show, Narrative Floor, brings the audience to the most intimate interpretation of place and identity, the home. The piece invites viewers to get involved, take off their shoes and walk on the work, which resembles a hard wood floor inlaid with photographic ‘rain drops’. Upon closer inspection, these raindrops are revealed to be small scenes from Hong Kong, China, and Thailand. Nipan admits this piece reflects his heritage; he is ethnically Chinese, but native to Thailand. The work begs the question, when a person is connected to different places, where is home? Nipan suggests everywhere that touches someone becomes a part of him, and all of those places are his home. The piece invites viewers to take off their shoes, sit down, and even lie down, demonstrating home is a feeling that can be felt anywhere one happens to be.

It’s easy to miss the meaning

The last work, Narrative Floor, is decidedly different from the other pieces, most notably because it does not use baby powder. Nipan explains:

“I wanted to use a new language. Baby powder is just one language….. I deal with the perception of the viewer, especially using distance, the space between people and artwork, the space between people and other people. This is what I access in my work. In this piece you come inside…

The exhibition is also full of clues of meaning that could be easily missed. Nipan reveals:

Every piece and work is like a sign. The way to read the exhibition is to look for the signs, issues, even though they are almost hidden, very subtle… The red in this room suggests the color of the Chinese flag. The 5 dots that are present in the exhibition title are a reference to the 5 stars on the Chinese flag. The capital letters in the exhibition title Being….. at homE are a reference to the space between the word ‘be.’ I am concerned with what lies between. Of course my work can be read in other ways, and that is okay. But I want to deal with this triangle of me, Hong Kong, and China.

Problem: Fragile art gets harmed

The delicate nature of the work is part of the art’s significance, and also leads to inevitable mishaps. Staff at the Osage Gallery mentioned they considered turning down the air conditioning to prevent air flow from disturbing the powdery surface, and Nipan cheerfully recalled the footprint he discovered in the Venice Biennale’s installation.

Solution: That’s OK.

He explains that damaging the artwork is not encouraged, but minor accidents are natural and ultimately contribute to the participatory quality of the work, relating it to viewers. Such an attitude is wise, considering the tours of school children that parade through the gallery. Furthermore, upsetting the fragile medium reinforces the essence of the work. Nipan proves although something is not meant to be broken, it may still be far too easy to destroy.

Nipan’s exhibition is among 2 others on display at the Osage Gallery in Hong Kong. Other exhibited artists include Cheo Chai-Hiang from Singapore, and Sun Yuan & Peng Yu (China). The exhibition runs from August 21-October 4, 2009.

-contributed by Erin Wooters

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Posted in Biennials, Chinese, Hong Kong, Installation, Large art, Nationalism, New Media, Nipan Oranniwesna, Participatory, Political, Reviews, Shows, Space, Thai, Uncategorised, Venice | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Art fair Shanghai breaks new ground with Best of Discovery emerging artists – Financial Times, Artkrush

Posted by artradar on September 14, 2008


 

Tushar Joag 

ART FAIR CHINA EMERGING ARTISTS

“Best of Discovery” is a unique curated section of Shanghai’s premier art fair ShContemporary 08 featuring over 30 selected emerging artists from the Asia Pacific region who are presented to a global audience for the first time. 

In a “ground-breaking move”  ShContemporary founder Rudolf has commissioned a team of  independent curators with knowledge of their given regions to make an informed selection of work by promising younger artists largely unknown on the international stage says the Financial Times.  They have scoured not only China but Australasia, Central Asia, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, the Middle East, Taiwan and Thailand.

The works are on display in an open-format, museum-like installation in the grounds of and inside the imposing Soviet-built Shanghai Exhibition Centre, where the ShContemporary fair is held from September 10 to 13 2008.

Selected on merit not gallery affiliation

The pieces have been selected not on gallery affiliation but on merit alone. “In fact” says the Financial Times “half the artists selected had no gallery representation at all. For the purposes of the fair, exhibiting dealers have sponsored these artists, forging temporary relationships that may well continue after the event.”

“Markedly experimental”

The 11 international curators selected a range of “markedly experimental” works says Artkrush. “Pieces by better-known figures such as Beijing’s Wang Luyan – a muscular satirist of consumption and politics – share space with Yael Bartana who employs cultural symbols to unpack political concerns, and from Japan, upstart provocateur Tadasu Takamine – most notorious for his controversial Kimura-san video, which shows the artist helping a disabled friend masturbate – is grouped with his more sedate countryman Sakae Ozawa.”

Intriguing art from Central Asia, Caucasus

The Financial Times notes that “the most intriguing is the work being produced in those regions where creativity has been frozen, corrupted or isolated for decades, even centuries”. Perhaps least known is the art of the new Central Asian republics which first made their debut on the international stage at the Venice Biennale in 2005. To represent Central Asia and the Caucasus, curator Sara Raza has alighted on the work of the outlandish Kazak performance artist Erbossyn Meldibekov and also on the emerging Georgian artist Sophia Tabatadze.

List of Asian artistsCambodia: Sopheap Pich (1969 Cambodia), Central Asia: Sophia Tabatadze (1977 Georgia), Erbossyn Meldibekov (1964 Kazakhstan), China: Wang Luyan (1956 Beijing), Zhu Jinshi (1954 Beijing), Wang Zhiyuan (1958 Tianjin China), Shi Yong (1963 Shanghai), Chen Yenling (1969 China), Taiwan: Effie Wu (1973 Taiwan), Huang Po-Chih (1980 Taiwan), India: Tushar Joag (1966 India), Vibha Galhotra (1978 India), Ved Gupta (1975 India), Sumedh Rajendran (1972 India), Indonesia: Agus Suwage (1959 Indonesia), J Ariadhitya Pramuhendra (1984 Indonesia), Japan: Tadasu Takamine (1968 Japan), Sakae Ozawa (1980 Japan), Hiraki Sawa (1977 Japan), Korea: Jina Park (1974 US works in Korea), Clara Shin (1974 Brazil works in Korea), Jo Jong Sung( 1977 Korea), Thailand: Dearborn K Mendhaka (1979 Thailand), Vietnam: Nguyen Thai Tuan (1965 Vietnam), Israel: Yael Bartana (1970 Israel), Iran: Reza Aramesh (1968 Iran)

List of Asian specialist curators: Erin Gleeson (Cambodia), Sara Raza (Central Asia, Western Asia, Middle East), Huang Du (China), Sean CS Hsu (Taiwan), Deeksha Nath (India), Rikky Effendy (Indonesia), Reiko Tsubaki (Japan), Shin Young Chung (Korea), Sutee Kunavichayanont (Thailand), Din Q Le (Vietnam)

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