As the month of June arrives in Bangkok it brings with it the hope that things are (fingers crossed) slowly returning to normal. This is especially good news for gallery goers who haven’t had much to lift their spirits during the recent lockdown period.
Hero image: Image from Eugenio Recuenco’s 365° photography installation
The month of May, in 2021, will be remembered, in part, for its strict lockdown regulations, all part of Thailand’s ongoing attempt to deal with the Covid-19 global pandemic fallout. Many businesses in Bangkok were affected by the enforced closures, although some galleries in the city remained open, with by-appointment-only visits that followed strict masking and social distancing protocols. Thankfully, as things appear to be a bit more under control, more galleries will be opening their doors to visitors, and the line-up for June (and beyond) promises some very worthwhile shows; including a major international photography exhibition making a stop here in town as part of its world tour. Be advised though to double check in advance about opening hours and visiting requirements.
A RETROSPECTIVE OF VERSATILITY & DISCIPLINE
Bangkok Art & Culture Centre (BACC): Until July 25
The BACC presents a career-spanning exhibition of the late Damrong Wong-Uparaj, who in 1999 was awarded the title ‘National Artist’ (painting category). Entitled ‘A Retrospective of Versatility & Discipline’, the show features 70 paintings and prints, displayed alongside academic essays and video interviews with the artist’s classmates, colleagues, family, and collectors. By the time of his death in 2002, Damrong’s career had spanned over four decades, with much of that time spent dedicated to the development and progress of Thai art. Aside from his primary role as a multi-disciplinary artist, he was also a teacher and lecturing professor, as well as a writer, curator, art conservator, and director for art centres.
Tang Contemporary: Until June 13
Kitti Narod is the featured artist now on display at Tang Contemporary gallery at River City Bangkok. Entitled Fragrant City, this is Narod’s second solo exhibition with the gallery and it showcases fourteen of the artist’s most recent works. Relationships have always been the focus of Kitti’s paintings, whether cats or cows or people, while the bright, warm colours in his works help convey the emotions. This past year has been especially emotional and complex for Kitti who has experienced – as we all have – the universal fallout caused by the global coronavirus pandemic, but also Thailand’s own centric, economic, and social turmoil. This exhibition, however, is a sort-of healing process for a beautiful city, offering a brighter perspective on our relationships in a challenging world.
Kalwit Studio & Gallery: Until June 20
In 2018, artist Apiwat Banler (who ran the now defunct Cho Why bar-slash-art-gallery) had the glare of the media spotlight thrust upon him when he won the prestigious UOB Thailand Painting of the Year award. His prize-winning entry was a delightfully chaotic cartoon canvas depicting Bangkok traffic in all its gridlocked glory; with overlapping lanes of standstill traffic converging into a central vortex that, as a result, seemed poised to explode at any moment. His latest collection of works – on now at Kalwit Art Gallery & Studio – is entitled Linetopia, and it continues his satirical look at 21st century sprawl. Many of the paintings depict an over-populated, over-industrialized, and over-polluted Bangkok which is on the brink of self-implosion. Of course, the artist’s very approachable pop art style makes it much easier for audiences to digest these fun, yet foreboding, images of urban alienation.
A LIFE BEYOND BOUNDARIES
JWD Art Space: June 1 – Sept 30
Conceptualized as a large group exhibition, A Life Beyond Boundaries (The Geography of Belonging), examines the notion of national belonging in a distinctly Southeast Asian context. Curator Loredana Pazzini-Paracciani has invited artists of different generations to muse on conceptions of identity and belonging, going beyond straightforward geographical perspectives to include subjectivities and personal observations. What’s revealed is that departing from the normal understanding of nationhood at times means dismantling or rejecting its very symbols and connotations. The artists taking part include: Boedi Widjaja; Bounpaul Phothyzan; Citra Sasmita; (estate of) Montien Boonma; Haffendi Anuar; Hà Ninh Pham; Irwan Ahmett & Tita Salina; Ly Hoàng Ly, Mark Salvatus; Norberto Roldan; Pathompon Tesprateep; Soe Yu New; Vuth Lyno; and Wantanee Siripattananuntakul.
365° BY EUGENIO RECUENCO
RCB Galleria, 2nd floor, River City Bangkok: Until September 15
If every picture tells a story, then the lightbox photography exhibition by Spanish-born photographer Eugenio Recuenco, entitled 365°, tells over 360 stories. The premise here is quite simple: there’s 365 days in the year so take a different photo for each date, each against the same three-walled, one-window set, and each using the identical camera angle. The scope of the show, however, is anything but simple, as Eugenio reflects on history, art, cinema, ecology, and the many other passions that have impacted his life. With an unfettered imagination he turns his tiny stage into a swimming pool, a railway crossing, a Salvador Dali painting, a recreation of the baby carriage scene from Battleship Potemkin, and hundreds more implausible scenarios. It’s an incredible, and visually stunning project, which took eight years to complete and employed 120 models and 300 production staff. This ticketed show, which is on now at River City Bangkok’s 2nd floor main gallery, also includes 11 life-size, fully interactive recreations of sets from the series that let visitors see just how inventively low-tech some of these backdrops are.
THE OCAC COLLECTION
Ratchadamnoen Contemporary Art Center (RCAC): Until August 1
For the next couple of months, visitors to the historic Ratchadamnoen Contemporary Art Center (RCAC), in the city’s Phra Nakhon district, can take in an array of artworks – from a wide variety of renowned Thai artists – as part of an exhibition being staged by the Office of Contemporary Art and Culture (OCAC). Over 100 pieces from the OCAC’s official collection are currently on display, with works on the first floor on view until August 1, and works on the second floor on view until June 21 only. The scope of the exhibit runs the gamut from paintings, prints, and photography, to sculptures and complex installation pieces. As for the dozens of artists, they include such well-established names as Thawan Duchanee, Chalood Nimsamer, Maitree Siriboon, Arin Rungjaeng, Rirkrit Tiravanija, and Tawatchai Somkhong.
REINCARNATIONS III – ECOLOGIES OF LIFE
Warin Lab Contemporary: Until July 10
In Reincarnations III – Ecologies of Life, multidisciplinary artist Ruangsak Anuwatwimon looks at three animal species that are already extinct as a consequence of human actions. These are animals that have vanished not because of organic evolution, but because of people exploiting natural resources or manipulating history and geography for political benefits. The exhibit, curated by Loredana Pazzini-Paracciani, occupies the first floor of Warin Lab Contemporary gallery and it’s here we encounter a stylized recreation of the Bhutan Glory (a butterfly once native to the Chiang Dao mountains in northern Thailand), a fragmented, papier-mâché Japanese wolf created using manga comic illustrations, and the Schomburgk’s deer, which takes centre stage as a life-size installation made of debris found in the animals former habitat (now a residential development outside Bangkok).
Nova Contemporary: Until July 3
In Latthapon Korkiatarkul’s solo exhibition Conversation Piece, on now at Nova Contemporary, the artist makes his very attempt at applying any fundamental drawing techniques to “phenomenologically manifest the intrinsic yet elusive relationships and value within and beyond an artwork”. Indefinable and oblique, these are pieces in which all substances present during and after the creation – from cat fur and graphite pencil shavings, to the light and wind in the room – should be considered part of the finished work. Striving for total liberation, his images ultimately achieve a democratic presentation without compositional hierarchy. For his medium he purposely chooses paper, rather than canvas, to transform a seemingly two-dimensional plane into an ambiguous three-dimensional object that subverts the very ideas of drawing, painting, and sculpture.
La Lanta Fine Art: June 5 – July 14
This month La Lanta Fine Art presents a solo exhibition by a Thai female sculptor Rattana Salee. Here the artist presents her point of view pertaining to public monuments and memorials, both of which play a role in the collective memory bank of a society. However, these recollections are directed and influenced by the passing of time, and most often leave behind the other side of the story. History is recorded, erased, and re-recorded depending on who is in power, while the phenomenon of dismantling and modifying the old monuments, as well as erecting new monuments, signifies the paradox of this seemingly long-standing structure. In her artworks, Rattana records her personal memories, dreams, and hopes; all of which could very well fade in the future.
Bangkok CityCity Gallery: Until July 4
Nowhere Special, on now at Bangkok CityCity Gallery, is the second solo exhibition by Thai contemporary artist Tae Parvit. This new body of work introduces new developments in the artist’s painting practice, with completed works bearing the hallmarks of an abstract expressionist style of painting. Non-representational landscapes and sceneries take center stage here, with inspiration drawn from the sights encountered on numerous road trips taken by Tae around Thailand. By going beyond the mere depiction of these sites, the artist creates a vicarious encounter with these spaces, as modulated by his artistic sensibilities.