002: Chantranet, Sritrakulkitjakarn
Please see the pronunciation notes at the end of this issue.
Welcome to Issue 002 of Several Artists! For this, the April 2023 issue, I will show you two contemprary Thai artists who take radically different approaches to depicting the world they live in: Krit Chantranet and Verapong Sritrakulkitjakarn.
But first, an apology from your humble host, author, critic, for missing a little more than a month: “sorry for late,” as they say in my area. For a couple weeks I thought I would just go with “Covid ate my Homework” but by now I have to admit it was writer’s block. Hopefully over, for now: I will try to catch up with an extra issue in May.
Krit Chantranet is doing figurative painting in what until recently we probably would have called the muscular fashion, and in his case I think we can still get away with that term, if only because of his paintings of bodybuilders and athletes. For context: Muay Thai boxing is very mainstream in Thailand; bodybuilding is very fringe. When was the last time you saw a serious contemporary artist treating bodybuilders as subjects respectfully? Mapplethorpe?
Much of Chantranet’s work is very straighforward, the painter’s-painter sort of thing: bold, sometimes brazen brushwork, an obvious love of the physicality of oil paint. A lot of those saturated greens you see everywhere in Thailand. The joy of fresh water, of the countryside, of the flora.
But then some of the figures start to fade. Are we sure of this reality? Did we really see those people?
I find this work fascinating, especially now: we are living in a time when corporations and the governments that serve them are aggressively trying to erase the line between what is human and what is machine; what is mind and what is software; what is freedom and what is safety.
When we are enmeshed in the daily rituals of civilization, we have the physicality of a boxer, and of a consumer. But when we step into the forest, we can be animals, we can become the forest itself. We can fade to green.
Verapong Sritrakulkitjakarn is traveling an altogether different road, while also making bold paintings of and about Thailand. This is still oil on canvas, but of the denser kind, and meticulously composed.
It covers so many motifs and topics, and the canvases are so large and full, that it’s frankly hard to take it all in. Here we can thank the age of mechanical reproduction for some digital help.
As a newbie in the Thai art world, I have no idea how to interpret most of this work, but it’s one heck of ride in the gallery. My best guess is that monks should not own fancy watches; turtles and elephants are good; robots and insects are ambivalent but probably related; fish can actually fly if you think about it; NFTs are a joke; and the military should consider checking its privilege. But who am I to say? I could have it all backwards.
I got a particular thrill from the random everyday things and pop-culture references woven into this tapestry of overdriven vision. It’s enough to make you, I dunno, examine your priors maybe.
One thing I really like about these two painters is the solidity of their respective visual styles and interests. To say the quiet part out loud: lots of people can paint like this in 2023, especially when you exit the West and get into more traditional training regimens; but very few have anything interesting to say. Chantranet and Sritrakulkitjakarn very much do.
Postscript: The Law of Coincidence
Here’s a funny thing. I wasn’t planning to write about these two artists in this edition of Several Artists – I knew they were both interesting and would show up here eventually, but I had originally planned for this edition to be about three abstract artists, and the next edition to include Chantranet. I wasn’t sure I had a proper “pairing” for Sritrakulkitjakarn yet.
So I kind of threw them together early because I wasn’t ready with the other things, and they were too good to just leave indefinitely. And just now, Dear Reader, I have discovered that these two artists had a show together!
It was back in 2012 – well before my time in Asia – and it was called “INSANE.” Mad props to artbangkok.com for keeping an archive of this, especially since the gallery’s website has since gone dark. Long live the archivists!
- Chantranet Insta
- Chantranet @ 333 Everywhere
- Sritrakulkitjakarn Insta
- Sritrakulkitjakarn Blog
- Sritrakulkitjakarn @ Number 1 Gallery
Text (c) Copyright 2023 Kevin Frost, all rights reserved.
Photographs as photographs (c) Copyright 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 artists’ preferred Latin spellings. The following is my humble attempt at writing the Thai names from this issue, for an International English audience, as they might be spoken:
- Krit Chantranet (กริช จันทรเนตร) == Krit Jantaranaet
- Verapong Sritrakulkitjakarn (วีรพงษ์ ศรีตระกูลกิจการ) == Weerapong See-dtragun-git-ja-gaan
Corrections from native speakers are welcome.