There’s nothing like a good dose of culture shock to creativize one’s zest for life. Around the time of the great tsunami, I lived in Thailand for a couple of tropical years and I have consequently developed a soft-spot for the place, as you do for any place you call home – especially if it has cha yen and abundant frangipani.
Regular visits to Bangkok’s galleries and museums were pretty dichotomous: exhibitions of run-of-the-mill, nepotistic hi-so paintings or facile images of buddhas were interspersed with epiphanic journeys to fascinating new artists. Obviously, I adore the frescos of Ramakien stories in the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, but there was lots of exciting contemporary art too. I discovered Montien Boonma (thank you!) and couldn’t understand why I’d never come across his sculptures in New York, London, Barcelona or any other famous-for-art city. They are mind-blowing! I guess you have to be in the right place at the right time, and let art own you when it wants to.
I laughed at the Pink Man, and will die adoring Manit Sriwanichpoom‘s totally unbarbiefied use of pink (sorry Schiaparelli, he wins…). Yuree Kensaku is another one to watch. Her small picture below, ‘The Battle of Love’ (2005) is on a 3D support, and is a fantastic mix of luminous and metallic paints with heavily textured, alla-prima oil.
I can’t remember all the names of many other Thai artists that rocked my artosphere, but do read the links on this post, there’s a whole lot to enjoy. Off the elite art world radar there were plenty of other joyous manifestations of visual savoir-faire. From Chalit’s art workshops for children, to the best T-shirt designs in the world (usually combining hilarious world play with unusual craft-collage). Fun stuff.
This month’s Art in America, ironically subtitled Europe Focus, has a special on Thai artists which is a must-read and has great pictures!
My favourite BKK gallery is 100 Tonson, which in August 2010 is offering something pretty special. They’re setting up the first solo show of Rirkrit Tiravanija in his homeland! Yep, that’s the guy made famous by Relational Art and all of that come-dine-with-me before chillaxing in Chiang Mai kinda art…
P.S.: Artist and Economy professor Hans Abbing says that ‘in contemporary Thailand … the artist’s identity hardly matters’ (Why Artists are Poor, 2002). He adduces no reasons for this statement, which I can’t agree with. Maybe the rationale has something to do with the differences in the individual ego versus group ego that Asia and the West are said to be at odds with? If there is truth in this insight, perhaps that helps explain why I had trouble finding individual websites for the artists I mention. There are many reason why artists would have a page on an art portal rather than their own website of course (see my Artexposure research on this), it could also be that all of the Internet that is not written in Roman script is barred to little ingnarmus me… I can’t read Thai characters. Just the art!
Chan shorb silapin Thai!