Tawatchai Puntusawasdi's endless journey, fuelled by time and intelligence, is ready to be discovered in his new exhibition "Marco Polo". The root of the Thai artist's travelling reveals a conceptualisation and re-examination of the Earth physically, through various aspects of assumptions and doubt.
Planet Earth & Moon, 2012
To give you a small flashback, the artist often explored content that challenged gravity, such as his Stand-Egg, awarded the Grand Prix in Sculpture at Osaka Triennial in 1995. It is a giant wooden sculpture that, without putting water inside, cannot stand up by itself.
From 2003 onwards, Tawatchai has added new frameworks of unusual perspective in his "The Beauty Of Distance" exhibition.
By continually thinking of searching the "otherness" and "possibility" of art, Tawatchai's inspiration for "Marco Polo" is derived from a wooden ship structure that he has kept for many years.
"I suddenly thought of an explorer's ship journeying around the world in the time when there were only stars and a compass for navigation," he wrote in the exhibition programme.
Before examining the details of Tawatchai's artistic works, an essential point should be noted: the artist frequently looks for ordinary materials in his environment in order to create art. The use of raw materials _ aluminium, bio-fabric, metals, slate, water, wood and zinc, for instance _ is Tawatchai's conceptual approach in realising and interpreting history, its meanings, relation and existence. His cross-disciplinary merging of art and science has inextricably been a characteristic feature of his creations for a long time.
The artist has studied science and maths and sought answers by repeating and experimenting.
"Marco Polo" does not exhibit only the outcome _ the artworks _ of those experiments, but also the in-between processes of creation and thought. In Planet Earth & Moon, 2012, Tawatchai's highlighted piece describes a different view and time of our planet _ the sculpture's front depicts major mountain ranges of the world, along with latitude and longitude lines. Meanwhile, the other side shows the view of Earth from space on slate plates in a circle form framed with wood. In addition, a big table-mirror allows a revolving 360-degree perspective.
Without borderlines, it seems the artist's intention is to connect non-political geography. A combination of these images refers to our tangible comprehension of spaces and reality _ it's a two-dimensional view of a three-dimensional concept.
The piece Earth's Shadow At 3pm is an individual study of specific time and the distorted oval form is a way to learn rational relation of the position between Earth and the Sun. The artist's hypothesis came from his idea to "study how people in each period of time divided a circle into different sections", and he "found images of strange oval shadows caused by a sphere".
Through a sculptor's logic, Tawatchai does not only think of the object, mass and volume, but also the surrounding atmosphere and space that make up the entire field of perception. This relationship between body and shadow can be interpreted into people's lives and how they defined their own circles _ physical and metaphorical _ in each period. His alternative measurement approach shown in Globe Measure, 2012, a drawing on paper, gives an answer to how the artist arrived at the strange oval form in Earth's Shadow At 3pm; the drawing shows the audience his thinking process of form and shadow.
Tawatchai's journeys are specially engaged with Buddhist narrative. Loka Tipakasan is originally a 1910 book by Supreme Patriarch Metakon and it inspired the artist to depict how the Earth and the universe are measured in Buddhist teachings. Meanwhile, the Planet Earth, 2012 drawing compares the use of science and religion in interpreting the definition of the world through distance, height and weight, according to the rules of each reference. Tawatchai's use of fonts and handwriting will relate the audience to Buddhist manuscripts and illustrations.
Without Suffering Hut, 2005 uses an etching technique on slate and is the oldest creation in this exhibition. He explains why he chose the scratched method and material: "I learned to write my first letter on a slate in kindergarten, and also copied the map of Thailand from the back of my notebooks onto the slate in my art class at elementary level."
If this work had been shown last year, people would have understood it as a flooding metaphor. In the etching, the mobile house "without suffering" invites us to imagine a utopia where living subsistence is sufficient. His little hut contains three things _ a wooden chair, a large earthen jar and a dog. Below the picture is a scribbling of a Thai astrological manual on how to build houses and boats to achieve cosmic blessings. Those texts express traditional Thai wisdom regarding the importance of astrological context in our strong faith derived from Hindu influence.
The last piece of Tawatchai's _ Sacred Rain, 2012 _ is also inspired by one of the Jataka tales of the Buddha's previous lives. Nostalgic experience takes the artist back to his childhood. A soft mosquito net and dots of red rain are the logic of a private and safe space where the artist releases his creativity; the red rain under the net seems a metaphorically grand narrative referring to the story that Lord Buddha conjured up red rain to test people's faith. Originally, the red rain of Buddha fell from the sky, but Tawatchai creates it in a specific site of his own memory and experience. The cosmic is the individual, after all.
Earth’s Shadow at 3pm
About the author
Writer: Suebsang Sangwachirapiban