Not for decoration

In 2005, to raise awareness of the importance of collecting in the Thai art ecosystem, the Bangkok Art and Culture Center (BACC) hosted the exhibition “Crossover: The Unveiled Collection”. The exhibition presented a collection of Thai artworks from local and international collectors. This year, BACC, in collaboration with the Thai Art Collector Association (TACA), presents “Crossover II: The Nature Of Relationships”, which features 72 paintings from 11 organizations and 10 private collectors.

Hell (1956) by Sompot Upa-In.

“TACA has helped us work with many organizations and we have tried to convince people to recognize the value of their art collections, which can be more than just decoration in board offices, and to allow the collections to be shared with the public speak,” said Suebsang Sangwachirapiban, Head of Exhibitions Department of BACC.

“Allowing paintings from the past to speak to the viewer brings these paintings to life. It’s like 50 year old paintings are traveling through time to speak to the young people of the TikTok era. Some people from organizations told us that they can feel the aura of their paintings in the exhibition because of the atmosphere and presentation. Based on these comments, we hope that after we bring these paintings to life, many organizations will collect more artworks, review their collections and artwork preservation, and increase their support for arts activities in the future.”

Suebsang said the exhibition presents the relationships between art, artists and the environment during the period of Thai modern art from 1945 to the end of Tom Yum Kung’s financial crisis in 1997 that ushered in the new millennium. He explained that “environment” does not only refer to green spaces.

“Environment is not just limited to green space or nature, but refers to everything that surrounds artists in terms of tangible and intangible elements. It can be objects, subjects, the artist’s thoughts or subconscious,” explained Suebsang.

Suebsang said that during the modern Thai period, artists expressed their views and attitudes through their artworks, rather than just serving as an expression of religion, as was the tradition.

He explained that the BACC selected art collections from 1945 to 2000 because that was the period when Thailand’s first higher arts training institute, Silpakorn University, was established. The Tom Yum Kung crisis of 1997 also caused many financial institutions to sell their assets, including their art collections. It was the start of many private collections as much art was sold at low prices.

Suebsang said that Thai modern artists tried to combine localism and internationalism. Artists also experimented with different materials and tools during this period.

Dazzling (1972) by Kiettisak Chanonnart.

“Artists of the Thai modern art period presented their works in a Western style, but their content was localized. We see artists experimenting in their works using different materials and tools. We saw a collage of thick Western magazines. Chakrabhand Posayakrit is an artist who used unusual materials; he mixed rice water with tempera for an untitled painting in 1967. Some artists were poor so they used all the materials around them to create their works. In the exhibition, visitors will see artworks created by different techniques, presentations and interpretations. Each painting is unique with its own identity,” said Suebsang.

He explained that the 72 paintings were chosen because they offered the best cross-section of contemporary Thai art.

“We tried not to choose the same artist and to find rare works that might not be the best, but we wanted them to have an opportunity to be shown to the public,” he added.

The paintings in the exhibition are divided into six different groups: Landscape, Place of Faith, Part of the Spirit, Surrealism, Nature in Abstraction and Social Criticism.

Suebsang chose a few paintings to illustrate each category. in the countryside, Rowing in a canal (1966) by Niro Yokota mixes watercolors and fast bold lines. This realistic painting depicts outstanding natural springs. hut (1977) by Pratuang Emjaroen influenced the artist to turn to abstract art.

For Site of Beliefs, the painting The hell (1956) by Sompot Upa-In caught Suebsang’s attention. Sompot created this aesthetic image on pine wood using an exceptional color technique. Viewers can see shading and gradients.

Rowing in a Canal (1966) by Niro Yokota.

Sorrow (1970) by Suchao Sisganes in the Part of Mind section expresses artists’ viewpoints and/or subconscious. grief presents Suchao’s humble desires, such as a house and a lover. grief features vibrant colors and mesmerizing textures, created with a superb technique using spatula knives. The background surface of grief was also painted to strengthen the canvas and have vivid colors.

The Surrealism section features the work of Kiettisak Chanonnart, a pioneer of Thailand’s Surrealist art movement. His Dazzling (1972) portrays strange creatures from his subconscious. As curator of the exhibition, Suebsang explained that the artist thinks we have something else on our minds. Kiettisak’s works deal with emotional dimensions, human diversity, chaos and hesitation.

Leading abstract artist Chang S.Tang presents his untitled painting in the Nature in Abstraction section.

“This Expressionism painting was painted by hand, not with a brush. Chang used chan na rong, a black material used by Thais to repair leaks in a boat. The material costs are cheaper than oil paint. Chang’s artworks are related to nature, so this painting was likely inspired by its surroundings,” Suebsang said.

Child labor (1991) by Lerpong Pudhichart was drawn with pen on paper. It is one of the best examples of social criticism and shows an emaciated child with a factory on his head. The factory releases polluted smoke and water while the child holds a fish bone with a 5 baht coin attached to his head.

Cabin (1977) by Pratuang Emjaroen.

“During this time, I heard news about child labor where children are only paid 5 baht a day. The painting reflects the poor quality of life for children in a capitalist society,” Suebsang said.

As a tribute to Prof. Silpa Bhirasri, the father of modern Thai art, two of his portraits, painted by local artists Fua Haripitak and Chakrabhand Posayakrit, are included in the exhibition.

Suebsang hopes that the exhibition can reach a wide audience.

“It’s an opportunity for visitors to see what old paintings look like and appreciate their uniqueness. Perspectives in the paintings from the past can reflect the present. We can learn why things changed or disappeared in the past. We hope that the exhibition can reach the public, so many people can learn from it in one way or another,” Suebsang said.

Mourning (1970) by Suchao Sisganes.

Child Labor (1991), a pen-on-paper drawing by Lerpong Pudhichart.

Suebsang Sangwachirapiban, Head of Exhibitions at BACC on Crossover II: The Nature Of Relationships.

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