001: Krisanamis, Thavee, Baiposuwan
Several Artists from Thailand.
Please see the pronunciation notes at the end of this issue.
Welcome to Issue 001 of Several Artists! For this, the February 2023 issue, I’m happy to present three Thai artists whose work I had the privilege to see over the last months. These artists have markedly different styles, which is typical of art in Bangkok – even if you live and work in a mountain jungle or on a tropical island, if you’re rich or poor, young or old – all roads of Contemporary Art lead to “BKK” here.
The Thai capital has the most dynamic art scene in South-East Asia, despite a certain banking center attracting more money and with it, press. This owes a lot to the cambrian explosion of methods, projects and aesthetics being pursued by the many artists of this region and its leading metropolis. If you’re here, come to the shows! And even if you’re not, take note: If Hong Kong is Basel, Bangkok is Berlin. But with much better food!
Udomsak Krisanamis is one of the better-known Thai artists internationally, and if you go to survey shows in Thailand you definitely see his work, but I admit I wouldn’t have matched the name to the works until I came to see his mesmerizing show at Gallery VER in Bangkok. This is an artist pushing big, messy ideas and doing it in a way that’s as ambiguous and disorderly as a life intensely lived.
The show was all over the place, in a good way. From abstract paintings to woodblock prints to text experiments to a Giacometti taking a selfie to straight-up (but witty) Arte Povera to a toy race track with working racecars, Krisanamis has a lot going on.
And these, uh, cavemen? These are the Non-Modern Men. One is the Krisanamis, the other may or may not be Thailand’s most internationally famous contemporary artist, Rirkrit Tiravanija.
I love interactive installations, and art that invites play. Toy race cars are a great feature – the viewers were free to turn them on and off (they’re loud!) and otherwise do as they like with them. But at this show there was another more intense play option: a ping-pong table, equipped with golf balls!
This, gentle reader, is something that had never occurred to me before. And I confess I was too cautious to try it out, because my ping-pong ninja fu is probably sufficient to break the fridge (there was a fridge) but not score any points.
As with most artists who have a sense of fun and the playful nature of art, Krisanamis has a lot of serious ideas underpinning the joy. Take the Giacometti Selfie sculpture: it’s a chuckle at first, but if you’ve been to any shows with under-30’s you have probably notices that the selfie is more important than the looking. So much so that a lot of artists now include an obvious “selfie-station” work in any solo exhibition. In the age of social media this has become a common, almost standard practice – but is that a good thing?
Krisanamis invites us to consider: if the selfie is more important than the art, why not just have the art do the selfie itself?
Yes, it’s fun. And it’s serious. And it’s seriously fun. These things are all quite at home in good art, and in my experience the Thai tradition of contemporary art (a very young tradition indeed) gives plenty of room to enjoy yourself while also getting into the deep-mind aethetics of a rich and rewarding mix of cultures.
In closing I want to point out that Krisanamis has a lot of work that can absolutely stand on its own in any contemporary gallery, Kunsthalle or museum. The remarkable thing about him is that in addition to the high-polish International Contemporary work, he’s not afraid to let the mess out like a Fluxus happening in 1968.
Chatcha Thavee is the other kind of artist. The not-so-messy kind.
Thavee is a painter of ordered worlds. Of systems. But while they look at first like almost computational, generative fields of structure, on closer examination they reveal themselves to be very much of human origin.
Another Chiang Mai artist, she happens to be showing in the same complex as Krisanamis, at VS Gallery, as I write this.
The accompanying text shows us that the pictures are intensely personal for the artist. Just to pick one, which you will have to search for as I did not photograph it:
I never knew my real grandmother. She was the first of 4 wives of my grandfather who migrated from China. I was told though that I look like her. She was also an artist.
The title of that painting is “First of 4 wives” and it’s a real trip. But words are tricky guides to images. Which thing is worth a thousand of the other is never quite settled.
The strength of Thavee’s paintings is in their depth, with or without the backstory. They challenge you to think about what they can, or should, mean if they are made by a computer, or by a human, or – the fast-approaching future – a little bit of each. And then as you get closer, you start to feel the human hand, and then your attention begins to switch between the possibilities as you stand before the painted canvas.
Like golf balls across the ping-pong table of tomorrow’s philosophy.
To wrap up this first official issue of Several Artists, I bring you: Pacharaporn “Jeentee” Baiposuwan. In my opinion a seriously underrated artist, doing a lot of work on paper, which of course is a seriously underrated form.
At her group show in River City Bangkok last year I had the opportunity to speak with this artist briefly. Her work reflects dreamscapes and Buddhist themes. What I love about Baiposuwan’s work is that you can go deep on the themes, or you can just look closely and love it for the richness of its imagery.
One of the interesting things about Baiposuwan is her evolution. A few years ago she was painting much more abstract, non-objective, ethereal pictures. (Says the Internet, anyway!) And now we have even greater mysteries, in the objective realm.
The works below are ridiculously affordable, if they’re still available. Underrated works on paper. Just sayin’. This is an artist you will see a lot more of one day.
Thank you for reading this issue of Several Artists. Please consider subscribing if you have not already done so
Special thanks to Pearamon Tulavardhana of Gallery VER for giving my BKK Art Galleries Meetup group some valuable background information on Udomsak Krisanamis.
The following links are the best I could find, because Artists. Many still don’t have a proper web presence, and are beholden to their galleries, social media or the search giants. I hope the AI Overlords can fix that soon.
- Krisanamis show at VER
- Krisanamis on Artsy
- Krisanamis at BKK Art Biennale
- Krisanamis at Art Basel
- Thavee at Meeting Room – these photos are much better than mine!
- Thavee at VS via Art City
- Thavee on Facebook
- Baiposuwan on Instagram
- Baiposuwan on Artsy
- Baiposuwan older abstract work
Text (c) Copyright 2023 Kevin Frost, all rights reserved.
Photographs as photographs (c) Copyright 2022/2023 Kevin Frost, all rights reserved.
Artwork itself (c) Copyright the respective artists, all rights reserved.
I make art, and I also collect art. If I own art by any of the artists featured in the Several Artists newsletter at the time of writing, I will call that out. This may not be done retroactively; and you should keep in mind that I want to own art by every single artist I write about, and you should want to own their art too.
Transliteration of Thai words is complicated. I have used the common Latin spellings, which are not phonetic. The following is my humble attempt at writing the Thai names from this issue, for an International English audience, as they might be spoken:
- Udomsak Krisanamis (อุดมศักดิ์ กฤษณมิษ) == Udom-sak Krit-sana-mit
- Rirkrit Tiravanija (ฤกษ์ฤทธิ์ ตีระวนิช) == Ruakrit Tee-rawanit
- Chatcha Thavee (ชัชชา ทวี) == Chat-chaa Tha-wee
- Pacharaporn “Jeentee” Baiposuwan (จีนที พัชราภรณ์ ใบโพธิ์สุวรรณ) == Jeen-Tee (or Jee-na-Tee?) Pat-chalaa-pawn Bai-pho-suwan
Native Thai speakers are welcome to send corrections!