Absolute Art Tour: Contemporary Thai Art, Up Close And PersonalSteve Thompson takes a closer look at Bangkoks contemporary art scene byjoining Bangkok Art Map editor and art critic Steven Pettifor on his inaugural Absolute Art Tour of Bangkok.I recently got the chance to join the very first Absolute Art Tour of Bangkok, organized byExotissimo Travel Thailand in tandem with Bangkok Art Map, whose editor - Steven Pettifor -hosted the four-hour tour around some of Siloms most interesting galleries.A Wealth of ExpertiseOur host, a leading art critic, curator and artist, certainly boasts a wealth of experience. Long-term Bangkok resident Pettifor has developed a deep knowledge of the local contemporary art scene as Thailand editor for Asian Art News and World Sculpture News (published in Hong Kong). This experience was put to good use in his debut publication, Flavors - Thai Contemporary Art (available here), which offers a tantalizing taste of the kingdoms burgeoning art scene.Since the inaugural Absolute Art Tour took place on a Saturday, Pettifor opted to visit a singlearea of the city, which makes good sense for those familiar with the capitals often unpredictable traffic conditions. In this case, we got the opportunity to visit several galleries along or off Silom and Sathon.First ImpressionsAfter meeting up with Pettifor at 1 pm at the Dusit Thani Bangkok, the tour got underway ina comfortable, modern minibus, which whisked us off to our first destination – Surapon Gallery, which is located on the first floor of TISCO Tower on Sathon Road.
During our visit, the gallery was hosting a series of the latest works from award-winningsilkscreen specialist Pongsiri Kiddee, entitled: The Wonders of Color And Beauty (see photos,above). The collection of 40 silkscreen prints on canvas and paper were inspired by the artist’s appreciation of the architecture of Sukhothai-era temples.Pongsiri uses tiny geometrical squares, rectangles and circles to create colorful works, whichare meticulously produced by using up to 20-30 layers, resulting in a highly original finish.Clearly familiar with the artist’s history, methods and inspiration, Pettifor guided us expertlyaround the gallery, while involving the gallery owner in his introduction to the artist’s work. Although this exhibition has now come to a close, you can find further examples of the artist’swork on the gallery’s website here.I was particularly impressed by the way our host imparted his knowledge in a neutral andbalanced way, while allowing participants sufficient time to get their own feel for the exhibits.After the opportunity to conduct a short Q&A with the owner, we headed back to the minibus,then made our way to the next destination.Color FieldOur visit to Galerie N included a nice personal touch, as the artist joined us personally torespond to questions about his work. Clearly hugely inspired by nature (the collection was entitled Nature in Spaces), Seni Chaemdet provided us with some interesting insights into his bold and colorful oil on canvas paintings.It should be noted that aside from addressing the group collectively, Pettifor was also happyto provide insights on a more personal level, based on participants’ specific interests througho
ut the tour.Depth of KnowledgeThe ‘personal touch’ was also evident during our visit to H Gallery on Sathon Soi 12, wherewe got the opportunity to meet with Bangkok-based Irish curator Brian Curtin.Surface Depth was a particularly diverse exhibition (see example, above), featuring the worksof a host of emerging and established Thai and international artists, including PornpraseartYamazaki, Norasert Vaisayakul, Sutthirat Supaparinya, Arin Rungjang, Olivier Pin-Fat, Nigel Power, Heman Chong, Dutton and Swindells, Adam James, Simon Larbalestier and Simrin Mehra-Agarwal.The curator’s presence proved to be especially useful given the wide range of techniquesused by the artists featured in this exhibition, including acrylic on linen (Simirin Mehra-Agarwal – ‘Metamorphosis of the Grand Chandelier of the Transept Crossing’), gliclee digital print onaluminum (Nigel Power – several works) and HP pencil drawing on wall (Heman Chong – ‘LETIT DIE’), among others. For further information about H Gallery, visit the website here.From H Gallery, we headed for Kathmandu Photo Gallery, which is just a short distance awayfrom Wat Sri Mariamman (the Indian-style temple) on Soi Pan (see map). Although Peter Nitschs interesting photos of Bangkoks unique and often rather chaotic shophouses has now come to a close, you can still enjoy the shots by visiting the gallerys online archives here.Four SightThe ‘grand finale’ of our Absolute Art tour was a visit to Silom Galleria. The large, multi storySilom Galleria Building (address: 919/1 Silom Road [see map]) hosts four galleries, allowing us to cover an amazing eight galleries in four hours!Thavibu Gallery, located on the third floor of the building, got its name from its three focuscountries – Thailand, Vietnam and Myanmar (Burma [Tha-Vi-Bu]). During our visit, the gallery
was hosting an exhibition of interesting dog-related sculptures called Breed by Chatchawan Amsomkid.Chatchawan, who teaches sculpture at the King Mongkut Institute of Technology LadKrabang, has received both a BFA and MFA from the same institution. Marking his debut soloexhibition, the sculptural installation comprised resin-molded canines performing acrobatics. These bestial parodies are considered to be extremely pertinent to the current heightened socetal discord in the kingdom. Although this exhibition has now come to a close, you can still check the sculptures out online here.Next door, Gossip Gallery was hosting a collection of highly original sculptures by TanadolDerujijaroen. While I personally did not appreciate these works, art appreciation is notoriouslysubjective, so you can take a closer look by visiting the gallerys website here (please scroll down the page to see one or two examples).Tang Contemporary Art was hosting an exhibition featuring the works of PreeyachanokKetsuwan and Maitree Siriboon called Differ-ence during our visit.Preeyachanok, a native of Chiang Mai province, relates her prints on paper to her ruralcommunity’s unique cultural traditions through the use of various symbols, including human hair. Maitree, a native of the northeastern province of Ubon Ratchathani, juxtaposes traditionalsymbols of the rural region known as Isan, such as buffaloes, with a proudly Gay young urbanite in color prints and photographs that resemble a form of self portrait. Having worked directly with these artists, Pettifor was perfectly placed to comment on their works, providing a good deal of personal insight.Finally, we come to Reflections From Within by Jirasak Plabootong, which was on display atNumber1 Gallery (B1 Floor) during our visit.A graduate of Graphic Art from Silpakorn University, Jirasak’s art works, featuring acrylic andacrylic and golf leaf on canvas, somehow manage to successfully meld the ancient with the contemporary. Although this exhibition has also now come to a close, you can check out some examples of Jirasaks work by visiting the Number 1 Gallery website here.Having reached the end of tour, we congregated at Cafe Ice on Sathon Soi 8, where weenjoyed a refreshing drink and an informal chat with our host, before thanking him and bidding him and our fellow participants a fond farewell.To learn more about the Absolute Art Tour of Bangkok, visit Exotissimos web site here.To learn more about the Bangkok Art Map, visit the website here.