150104_out12 (5K)


Dream Team: Some of the artists who are showcasing their work at the exhibition pose with Robert Walker's Cul De Sac. From left: Joyce Kohl, Chamruang Vichienket, Jack Bowers, Robert Walker, Ehja Kang , lightman Bill Morse and Kamol Tassanachalee. Picture by YINGYONG UN-ANONGRAK
Artists in joint American-Thai exhibition emphasise creative process

It has been only two weeks since the excessive New Year's celebrations, but the year 2004 has already seen a fresh, active start to Thailand's art scene - a very international one at that. The project "International Thailand-USA Art Exchange" opened last Saturday and is now showcasing its first exhibition until January 25, drawing on masterpieces of seven of Thailand's National Artists and eight American-based professional artists.

Over the past two years, the project has been patiently conceptualised and realised by National Artist Kamol Tassananchalee. With the help from Robert Walker, who's in charge of LA Artcore, a non-profit art gallery in Los Angeles, he has managed to bring into Thailand artwork from top-notch artists, many of whom are lecturers in art colleges and universities in America.

"We've talked about this project for many years, especially after I had an exhibition with Robert in Yokohama,'' said Kamol. "Since many of the American artists are lecturers in university, January should be a perfect time for them to come here as it's Christmas break.''

It was agreed that works by American artists will inhabit more space when the exhibition is held in Thailand to allow local art connoisseurs to experience unfamiliar type of works. On the contrary, when the American leg of the exhibition is showcased in April at LA Artcore, more room will be allocated for Thai artists. All artists involved seem to agree that an opportunity to be exposed to art and culture of other countries can play a vital part in terms of inspiration and perspective. This, in fact, is one objective of the project.

150104_out13 (5K)

Compartment by Jack Bowers.

"You will look at your work differently,'' said Jack Bowers, one of the artists whose work graces the exhibition hall at the Thailand Cultural Centre. "The exhibition also gives us a chance to meet up with local prominent artists, who will in turn be exposed to other international artists from all over the world. This is really good for the Thai art educational system,'' added Walker.

This is the first time these American-based artists, who have had exhibitions in Europe and Japan previously, will showcase their art in Thailand. They took the selection of their work to be brought to Thailand very seriously. Although it takes considerably longer than air freight, shipping the work allowed the artists to show huge-scale works, which many of them regard as their masterpieces.

"My selection is a blend of past and present work, whatever represents my body of work,'' said Bowers, whose latest artistic exploration is a contemplation on the box shape, which he sees as the perfect metaphor of the human condition. "[The box shape] helps you understand the world,'' he said. "It's about perspective - how we see the world and how the world is shown to us. "You cannot really tell the front from the back, and even though it seems the box is coming towards you, it can be totally different when looking from a different angle.'' This is what Bowers considers an illusion of life. "It's subjective to the way you look at it. A whole world is subject to interpretation.'' Metaphysical questions are by no means the only issue explored in this exhibition. Over 70 works from 15 artists speak a great deal about the world we live in. They are about nature, process of creation, experience, environment and time, all in a wide variety of art forms including painting, sculpture, printmaking and mixed media.

Joyce Kohl's works employ the motif of feet to illustrate the connection between actions and consequences. "It's about my country and how I feel we should treat other countries with respect,'' said Kohl about her sculptures, some of which make use of steel parts from farm and industry collected from the San Joaquin Valley. Just like we ponder artefacts left to us by the older generations, Kohl's works encourages us to look upon the artefacts that we leave for the later generations to discover. "My interest is in having the viewer consider the larger picture, to reflect on our impact on the environment, its impact upon us and our place in time,'' reads her artistic statement in the exhibition booklet.

Walker is another artist whose works, although process-oriented in style, strongly address environmental issues. Reacting against the concept of heavy and high art held dear by many contemporary American artists, his pieces employ seemingly useless materials, aptly underlining the concept of recycling. "In America, we make more than we can consume. America produces so much and throws away so much,'' said Walker. "The very best artists reflect on the world they live in, and environment has become an issue that several artists are concerned about.'' Walker's works also give as much or even more weight to the creative process as the finished pieces themselves, an artistic issue much explored by several artists of various fields from visual artists, musicians and writers to film-makers. Walker's works capture perfectly the ongoing process of creation _ it's impossible to tell where it all starts and at which point the pieces are complete.

Another interesting figure is Korean-born Ehja Kang, whose works define the moment when abstract art meets the naturalistic approach. Her work is inspired by her travel experiences, mostly road trips she took with her family. Her paintings contemplate shapes, lines and textures. All visual vocabulary, though heavily based on nature, is a reflection of her inner self _ an "inscape'' painting, as she calls it. Like Walker, Kang's artwork pays particular attention to the spontaneity of the creative process. "When I started, I didn't have an idea where [the piece] would finish,'' said the artist. "The painting dictates where to go next. Spontaneity and intuition are very important for me in creating a work of art.''

In addition to works by international artists, the exhibition will feature masterpieces by Thai National Artists such as Kamol Tassananchalee, Chamraung Vichienket, Thawan Duchanee, Prayad Pongdam, Sawasdi Tantisuk, Prakit (Jitr) Buabusaya and Chakrabhand Posayakrit. The pieces selected to be exhibited are the artists' well-known and award-winning works.

The International Art Exhibit Thailand-USA will take place at the exhibition hall, Thailand Cultural Centre until January 24 and at the exhibition hall, Faculty of Fine and Applied Art, Burapha University in Bangsaen, Chon Buri, until January 24. There will be lectures from visiting American artists for college students and members of general public at Burapha University. For more details, call 02-247-0028 ext 4142/47.