The Singapore Art Museum (SAM) has partnered with the Office of Contemporary Art and Culture, Ministry of Culture (Thailand), to present its latest exhibition, Thai Transience. Guest-curated by Professor Apinan Poshyananda, a leading Thai curator, writer and arts administrator, the exhibition is a stellar showcase of the vivacity in Thailand’s contemporary arts.
In line with SAM’s commitment to developing a vibrant contemporary art scene in the region, this comprehensive milestone survey of Thai contemporary art casts a spotlight on the heady possibilities of the current Thai art scene and offers the Singapore public a chance to become acquainted with the works of some of the most exciting artists practising today.
This exhibition, the largest survey of Thai contemporary art in Singapore, features over 50 works including historical objects and contemporary art spanning genres such as paintings, sculptures, photographs, installations, videos and performances. Intertwining the old and the new to showcase the dynamism of Thai culture, the artworks are also accompanied by a range of artefacts such as traditional statues, lacquer paintings, shadow puppets and manuscripts on loan from local museums and religious sites within Thailand, as well as from the Asian Civilisations Museum.
Seeking to demonstrate how Thai contemporary artists express their identity and reflections on society across generations, a mix of artists ranging from the young and emerging to mid-career and established artists will present new interpretations in response to their society, heritage and faith. Many of the artists hail from provinces outside Bangkok and the traditional art-producing centres, imparting the works with fresh and diverse regional traditions, to offer a unique perspective on topics and issues facing Thai society today.
Thai Transience explores themes of identity, impermanence and spirituality in its various expressions. Through his papier-mâché sculpture of a standing Buddha made of decommissioned Thai bank notes, Kamin Lertchaiprasert’s Lord Buddha said, “If you see Dhamma, you see me”, comments on the transience of material wealth and its ultimate valuelessness. Kamin’s art playfully straddles faith, irony and whimsicality.
One of my favourite works is from Dow Wasiksiri who is one of Thailand’s leading photographers. In his series of photographs here entitled Local Fashion around Kard Luang Market, Chiang Mai, Dow presents people from all walks of life who meet daily at the market, from hill tribes and vendor merchants to rap dancers and rickshaw cyclists. Dow’s style is fast and spontaneous and he shoots right in the street as he “likes the pressure of being run over at any time” and he feels this captures the essence and unpretentiousness of his subjects. Crowd participation is also a key feature in his photographs, as they are involved in holding up and moving his backgrounds while they dodge traffic on the streets. Colourful and playful, Dow distils the essence of life in these brief moments through his witty lens.
Another beautiful piece is Panya Vijinthanasarn’s Rebirth of the Buddha. Famous for his neo-traditional Thai murals and inspired by symbols related to Buddhism and Traibhumi, Panya creates multifaceted layers of meaning in his arresting work. His bronze Boddhisattva image made up of tiny bronze amulets convey the concept of rebirth and the many lives of the Buddha as transient symbols that offer fleeting moments of faith and assurance.
A highlight of this exhibition is the new work by internationally recognised performance and installation artist Rirkrit Tiravanija, Untitled: Freedom Cannot Be Simulated, created especially for the exhibition. Taking up an entire room of a gallery, Rirkrit fuses elements of space and time, tracing the journey of three political leaders during Thailand’s deluge in 2011 with the 19th century French Romantic painting, The Raft of the Medusa (1818-19) by Theodore Gericault. The viewer is also invited to draw on the walls and become involved in the reciprocal art process.
Thai Transience is part of the Thai CulturalFest organised by National Heritage Board and will run from 26 October 2012 to 6 January 2013 at the Singapore Art Museum. During this time, visitors can also look forward to additional exhibition-related programmes including panel discussions featuring various artists from the exhibition, a curator’s tour, a puppet-carving workshop with artist Chusak Srikwan as well as a guest lecture on Thai Buddhist art by former Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Culture and expert in Buddhist art and culture, M.R. Chakrarot Chitrabongs.
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