There are always times when we wish we could teleport to any place we want. In 2017, a New York-based Thai artist, Kantapon Metheekul, better known as Gongkan, created Teleport Art, his iconic character in a black circle as a door to instantaneous travel anywhere. Since many people can relate to the unique character, who represents freedom to travel, Teleport Art has broken through into the New York street-art scene.
One year after his previous exhibition, "Teleport", in Bangkok, Gongkan has returned to the City of Angels for his recent exhibition "YesterTodayMorrow" to convey messages about time through acrylic painting on canvas, sculpture on canvas, resin on mirror, and aluminium and chromium-plated steel.
Unlike "Teleport", this exhibition is personal. The presentation is divided into three main rooms: Timeless, Dining and Insomnia. Mirrors play significant roles in every room; Timeless, especially, is covered with mirrors at every unit. Dining presents his childhood experiences which affect how he became in the present. And Insomnia is a bedroom which can be a peaceful or a chaotic space, up to an occupant's mind. Gongkan has experienced chronic insomnia because his mind is unable to turn off. Life spoke to the 29-year-old artist about his ideas behind the exhibition.
You have never drawn a character with a smile. Any reasons?
I don't smile often. I think a face without a smile can be interpreted in several ways, unlike a smiley face. A character may be happy or miserable or waiting for someone. Smiling is too obvious for representing happiness. Pleasure can be manifested in other ways, such as relaxation or stillness.
The acrylic painting-on-canvas Appear. A pear or a fruit represents coming into existence and perishing.
Why did you want to tell a story about time through the exhibition?
Time has effects on us. I wanted to overcome time in "Teleport". When we want to travel through time to change something or we would like to know about our future, it's all about time. I want to talk about the past, present and future.
Things in the past affect and build up a person to become himself in the present. The future gives hope and a reason to keep doing something. I learn from my past, but the past is sometimes similar to fetters which lock us up and prevent us from doing something. And if we have high hopes or wrong expectations, it will pressure us until we forget our happiness in the present. Time is significant. If we can balance our present, past and future, we will be among the happiest people.
You are a famous artist, yet you have trouble balancing your happiness?
Happiness isn't about rich or poor or success. It's up to our perspective. It depends on how we manage our thoughts. I take my job very seriously and have a lot of memories. Like many people, there are some memories from the past that I can't forget. But if we can release ourselves from them, we will be happier.
Do you intend to tell stories associated with Teleport Art?
Yes. It's about freedom of mind. It probably isn't a teleport to another place, but there are teleports to better versions of ourselves. We will see new worlds and will be free from our unstable pasts.
Kantapon 'Gongkan' Metheekul returns to Bangkok for his pop-art exhibition 'YesterTodayMorrow'. photo: photographer
Why did you use a lot of mirrors in the Timeless room?
Timeless room is a nonstop period which there are endless reflections of our past and present. An image in a mirror may be one of our past which will overlap to another image and multiple images and become endless dimensions.
Why did you decide to tell a personal story in Dining?
It is a problem in my generation and the younger generation. We gain distance from our family members. I love my family, but we misunderstood one another. During my childhood, there was always a fight at a dinner. I was paranoid and thought when would my parents start their arguments? That makes me not want to have dinner with my parents. I think whatever we have done, we should think it through, because it can become a memory which is difficult to forget.
Tell us more about the Insomnia room.
I often have insomnia because I always think what I should do tomorrow. My brain can't have a rest. In the Insomnia room, it conveys the story of an unbalanced time. There is daytime at the window, but in the room it is the night-time.
In your own interpretation, what does a pear represent?
A pear or a fruit represents coming into existence and perishing. There are seeds in a fruit, which refers to rebirth.
Are there any political messages like with the previous showcase?
No. There is no politic issue. It's all about the mind.
Should an artist create works that reflect society?
No. Art is healing the world. To heal the feelings of a person will make him or her happy about themselves. When people are happy about themselves, they will be less greedy or selfish.
What was it like to have exhibitions in Taiwan and China?
It was fun. I have fans in Taiwan and created special "Teleport" street art for them. It was about how I spent two months in Taiwan. Street art in Taiwan is similar to ours, but their styles are more adorable. In China, it is difficult for people to know me because they don't use Facebook or Instagram. They have their own social media.
What is your advice for a Thai who aspires to be an artist in New York?
You must be determined, be yourself and diligent. When I worked on my pieces in the past, I didn't know when an opportunity would come. A renowned artist, Chalermchai Kositpipat, said an artist who isn't successful is the one who doesn't work hard enough. So, if you love what you do, you must be diligent.
The resin-on-mirror MS.Lalala was inspired by rapper Lisa from Blackpink, who represents freedom.