Bangkok gets its Soul

Art November 10, 2017 01:00


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Maha-Nakhon in Bangkok, a mixed-use high-rise billed as Thailand’s tallest tower, has installed a giant sculpture “Bangkok Soul” by world-renowned artist Jaume Plensa at its Maha-Nakhon Square in front of the main tower.

Best known for his signature sculptures that play with the relationship between words, signs and the human body, Plensa uses materials such as bronze, copper, and iron, and his works can be found around the world including at the Ocean Financial Centre in Singapore, Lotte World Tower in South Korea and Yorkshire Sculpture Park in England.

Although based in Barcelona, his success as an artist sees him crisscross the globe. Most people who travel might find themselves inspired by the differences in the cultures they encounter, for Plensa it is the exact opposite. Underneath it all, he says, “People are the same everywhere you go.”

 “The more I travel, the more I see and understand this, and the more it makes me happy,” says the artist. “You start a conversation, and you know other people everywhere are having the same conversation, and the deeper you go to your roots, the clearer it is – how similar we all are.”

His primary interest is in the “biological condition of language” – and his works see multiple letter forms take on a human shape. Bonded together into silhouettes of human bodies, seated or kneeling and contemplating the horizon, his spiritual figures represent a shared human soul.

Using different letters from a diversity of alphabets and combining them, as if they were pieces of a jigsaw puzzle or a mosaic, Plensa demonstrates the symbolic nature of language. The human form they make up represents hope, beauty and unity. As light enters the cavities between the letters, it’s possible to see the entire sculpture from every angle at once. With its face blank and with an entry-way through the crouching legs, it conveys openness in spite of the conventional barriers that frequently divide and separate humankind.

The nine-metre-tall, seated man sculpture Bangkok Soul also incorporates letters of the Thai alphabet, allowing visitors to see the high-rising Maha-Nakhon as the backdrop. 

“Given the times we are living in, when much of the world seems to be trying to separate people, and destroy bridges, I want to share a positive message about community and encourage people to come together,” says Plensa.