With the exhibition of contemporary art about to close in London, interest has been keen
Kawita Vatanajyankur's resolutely sensual videos showing her getting intimate with shaved ice and various juicy fruits are among the artworks riveting Londoners’ attention in the “Thailand Eye” exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery.
The influential boutique of contemporary art is helping 23 Thai artists develop some international muscle with the help of its director Nigel Hurst, who selected the 60 pieces on view through Saturday.
What’s spinning heads right now in London will be seen in Bangkok, at the Art and Culture Centre, in March.
Along with Kawita’s photos and videos of her experiments with a juicer, an ice shaver and a weight scale, there is Pannaphan Yodmanee’s stunning installation “Prophesy”. It has Buddha figurines embedded in horizontal remnants of a concrete wall bearing a faded mural, one chunk suspended from the ceiling.
This is “the future of art” in Southeast Asia, declares the gallery, which has already hosted similar shows from elsewhere in the region.
“For a young artist like me it’s a great opportunity to exhibit here, and a lot of Europeans have expressed interest in my work,” Kawita tells The Nation. Mingling performance art with various media, she’s exploring humanity’s physical and spiritual limitations. Using her own body, as inspired by the Serbian artist of considerable controversy Marina Abrabovic, Kawita challenges women’s mundane role in the kitchen.
“It’s a great experience working with a professional gallery like Saatchi,” says Pannaphan, whose installation was made specifically for the London space. An earlier version of “Prophesy” sold for more than Bt1 million in China.
Hurst is candid about the show, which is missing several well-known names on the Thai contemporary scene. “I can’t say this is the best of Thai art,” he admits, “but we aim to broaden the perspective of Thai contemporary art here.” Saatchi’s spotlights on Asia “create a gateway to the wider culture” that the artists depict in their individual ways, he notes.
The gallery worked in collaboration with the Culture Ministry, Singapore’s Parallel Contemporary Art, the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre and the insurance firm Prudential.
The female participants have turned out to be standouts. Besides Kawita and Pannaphan, Bussaraporn Thongchai is showing her drawings exploring identity, love and desire, as well as “Internal Monologue”, her portrait digitally manipulated to suggest both her presence and her absence.
Among the more established artists who transport tradition into post-modernity, Somboon Hormtientong investigates faith and art in charcoal drawings so realistic they look like photographs at first glance. The Buddha meets Jesus in a study of old Siam’s relations with Portugal, its earlier Western trading partner.
Udomsak Krisanamis does abstract paintings on bubble wrap and rattan mattresses, the strokes inspired by the patterns seen on prehistoric pottery unearthed at Ban Chiang in the Thai Northeast.
Kosit Juntaraip offers video from his 1994 “happening” entitled “Lily Ovary”, at which he “married” a plastic bride.
Sakarin Krueon’s installation “Monkeys in the House” is smaller in scale than when presented in Bangkok, though just as compelling. It has realistic model monkeys posed among home furnishings.
The emerging artists participating in “Thailand Eye” are happy with the show, but some of their seniors have lamented that the small space (roughly 400 square metres) prevented the inclusion of larger works.
“Untitled 2015 (Curry for the Soul of the Forgotten)” by the internationally acclaimed Rirkrit Tiravanija is only partial. Londoners are seeing the old-fashioned curry pot – but not the accompanying video showing how green curry is made, which adds crucial context.
There ought to be no complaints about the coffee-table book commemorating the show. Printed in Italy, it has works by 75 artists and comprehensive articles on the history of art in Thailand. Culture Ministry Permanent Secretary Apinan Poshyananda and his curatorial team wrote four of these essays.
The exhibition “Thailand Eye” ends in London on Saturday but will be mounted in |slightly expanded form in March at the Bangkok Art |and Culture Centre.
n Next month Serenella Ciclitra, editor of the collectible book of the same name about the show, will be in Bangkok |for its launch.