This has been a good year for Vipoo Srivilasa. The ceramicist has had four major showcases in four different venues in two countries: the Nellie Caston Gallery in Melbourne and 4A Contemporary Asian Art in Sydney; he also exhibited at Bangkok's La Lanta Art Gallery and his "Thai Na Town _ Little Oz" exhibition is currently on show at Chulalongkorn University's Art Center. Vipoo's art is internationally recognised _ he has built his groundwork since he did his post-grad diploma in ceramics at Monash University, Melbourne, and a master's in Fine Art & Design (Ceramics) at the University of Tasmania. His work can be defined both as fine art as well as craftsmanship, depending on how you choose to appreciate it.
Thai Na Town—Little Oz runs until Jan 16 at The Art Center, Chulalongkorn University. For more information email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thai Na Town _ Little Oz _ a pun on Chinatown _ is grouped into nine series with headlines such as Memoir of Coral, The Country I Missed (Spoon Project), Textile Project, Luang Phor and Luang Pi, Seux-Phen Teapot and Yellow and Red. The exhibition clearly draws on the artist's Thai-Australian experience and is based on the idea of culture, nostalgia, sexuality and social circumstances that he absorbed from the two societies. Vipoo's aesthetic is fused with the Thai tradition of ornamentation; for instance, he festoons some of his works with Thai garlands.
Meanwhile the two main colours in this project _ white and blue _ are derived from Portuguese and Chinese art, a reflection of artistic exchange between Europe and Asia.
His 125 ceramic pieces are installed across the gallery space on low Japanese style tables arranged in a spiral shape. The spiral is inspired by the "Watta" pattern of ancient Ban Chiang pottery, signifying water. Through this demonstration, Vipoo's sculptures seem to persuade his audience to sit down, take a deep breath and look at the details.
Among the exhibited works, there are 14 figures in different postures that speak about overconsumption, loyalty and men's desires. In the Luang Phor and Luang Pi series, the artist sculpted unusual figurines of the Buddha that offer a social critique. Luang Phor I-Tra-Kul (Buddha with Apple's Mania), for example, has four hands, stands on a lotus and is depicted with the Apple logo, clearly teasing the Mac craze and brand worship. Luang Phor Yok Ra Dap (Hi-class Buddha) wears a brand name scarf with Louis Vuitton, D&G and Prada logos on his body. Luang Phor Busaba (Buddha of Beauty) satirises the Buddha's teaching about the impermanence of beauty and bodily existence. In this piece Vipoo uses a large number of small flowers to ornament the body that make it look like an overcoat.
Playing with the concept of faith, three wizard figures called Thep San Ti (God of Peace), Thep Rak (God of Love) and Thep Thraphy (God of Wealth) seem to represent the three most popular requests made by men to deities. The Seux-Phen pieces show bodybuilding poses during a contest and feature the Thai tattoo patterns of a leaping tiger, which signifies invulnerability.
Other interesting marks on the bodybuilders' legs address the wish for ngoen thong lai ma tae ma _ "may money and gold keep flowing in". Again the muscular need to make money is the subject of humour here.
In Suk Phan Din Deud (a battle), the figure of a white buffalo obviously has something to do with our political turmoil, especially with the words "yellow" and "red" on the animal's back. In contrast, the artist decorates the surface of the animals with white flowers to soften the violent character.
As part of the exhibition, the artist organised "What do you miss most about your hometown?", a workshop held in both Sydney and Bangkok which invited Thai immigrants, students and workers in Australia to participate as well as Australian expats in Bangkok.
The participants were asked to answer the above question _ focusing on what they dislike about their hometowns. The answers, mostly about unpleasant memories and social ills of Bangkok and Sydney, are placed under the spiral table in the exhibition _ showing how they are things that people know but prefer to overlook. This shows the aspect of "relational aesthetics", which uses human interaction to give context to the artwork and social environment.
Thai Na Town _ Little Oz is a tale of two cities, but it shows how people are more connected than we might think.
About the author
Writer: Suebsang Sangwachirapiban