Exploring the pollution crisis through art
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Exploring the pollution crisis through art

Burning Crop and Forest and bottom left, Industrial Emission represents how human activities cause air pollution. The paintings on the right are Health Effect 02, top right, and Health Effect 01.
Burning Crop and Forest and bottom left, Industrial Emission represents how human activities cause air pollution. The paintings on the right are Health Effect 02, top right, and Health Effect 01.

Two female artists raise awareness about the detrimental effects of smog on humans and animals

Living in a chaotic country is frustrating. Yet, instead of ignoring issues of concern such as air pollution, plastic waste, social equality and animal rights, five female artists — Supmanee Chaisansuk, Sukonthip Pimparian, Salahwarin Jaijuntuck, Sudaporn Teja and Supamas Taveechotipart — decided to speak up on subjects through their paintings at “NIMBY: Not In My Backyard” now on view at Palette Art Space.

“Some people expect to see female artists create beautiful artworks such as flower paintings, but we want to work on something beyond that. We speak about different topics. It is a great opportunity to exchange opinions. “Not In My Backyard” refers to people who don’t want unpleasant things to come close to their neighbourhood. The exhibition has a theme of negative criticism because we want to see the problems solved,” Supmanee said.

Out of the five artists, Supmanee and Sukonthip are two painters who share an interest in air pollution. Sukonthip grew up with a bee farm in her backyard, noticing how air pollution affected the bees’ abilities to produce honey. Meanwhile, Supmanee is in the architecture field and has conducted research about air quality within and around buildings for more than a decade.

The artists hope that their exhibition would encourage visitors to discuss air quality and other issues.

“Thai people are so patient. We probably have strong lungs. [laugh]. We aren’t aware of many things. For instance, I measured carbon dioxide levels at an office and found it was extremely high, but the staff in the office wasn’t aware of it. And some department stores don’t even meet the ventilation requirements because they want to save power. I am surprised to know that health and safety issues aren’t a priority for many Thai people, so it was great when people started talking about air pollution. This exhibition must spark more discussions about how people feel about it,” Supmanee said.

Life spoke with two artists about their paintings and the air pollution crisis.

Supmanee Chaisansuk

Artwork: Take Care Of Yourself

Ever since Supmanee earned a Master of Architecture from Thammasat University, she has been interested in air quality. 

“People around the world have been concerned about air quality for a decade, but Thai people only became aware of air quality a few years ago due to the PM2.5 problem. I have been interested in air quality for years because I carried out research about healthy home environments and discovered that air quality was one of the most important factors. While we can control the air quality inside our homes by choosing the right materials and air conditioning systems, we can’t control the air outside,” said Supmanee.

A hard-to-find face mask during the mask shortage crisis.

A bee hive is used to portray the disappearance of bees.

upmanee Chaisansuk and her painting Take Care Of Yourself.

With this concern in mind, the 39-year-old artist painted her work, Take Care Of Yourself. The six-mix media artwork voices how she feels about the air pollution problem.

“Air pollution involves several factors such as industrial emissions, vehicle exhaust emissions, and the burning of crop stubble. The government should create regulations to enforce clean air and have a policy regarding forest plantations. Moreover, some buses release smog but they are still allowed to run on the roads which shows that the government can’t control all sources of PM2.5. While waiting for a policy or a measure (from the government) to solve a problem, we can do nothing except take care of ourselves,” the artist said. 

Supmanee’s inspiration for her work usually comes from her inner feelings toward nature and biology such as trees, herbs, fungus and small creatures. However, this collection is different.

“It is challenging because it isn’t about myself. I usually use acrylic with watercolours because I like its nature but Take Care Of Yourself was created using mixed media. I used charcoal crayon colours to give the feeling of dust and dirty air on a canvas. I also used the pen shading technique to represent air mass,” Supmanee said.

“The two paintings, Burning Crop And Forest and Industrial Emission portray human activities that cause pollution such as factory emissions and stubble burning. Meanwhile, Health Effect 01 To 03 represent the feeling that nobody can help us. Pollution damages our cells and it can even get through to our tissues even if we wear masks.”

On the wall, an N95 mask hangs along with other pieces. On the mask, a note reads: “Take Care Of Yourself”.

“Due to face mask shortages, a reasonably priced mask is difficult to get. Someone gave me this mask. I feel that we should get support from the department which is responsible for this matter but they don’t help us,” said the artist.

Sukonthip Pimparian

Artwork: Bee Safe

A native of Lamphun, Sukonthip is familiar with bee farms, which are run by her uncle and aunt in a backyard. The 25-year-old artist, who graduated from the Faculty of Fine Arts at Chiang Mai University, is familiar with the process of running a bee farm. Over the past years, Lamphun has been one of the northern provinces affected by crop burning. Sukonthip noticed that air pollution has caused bees to produce less honey.

“PM2.5 disrupts the bees. Air pollution affects their navigational skill to the point that they can’t return to their hives, which causes less honey production than usual. Unfortunately, there is nothing we can do to help them,” Sukonthip said.

Parts of abstract series Bee Safe.

Bee Safe by Sukonthip Pimparian shows how air pollution has an effect on honeybees.

The artist mentioned a quote from the theoretical physicist Albert Einstein who said “If the bee disappeared off the face of the Earth, man would only have four years left to live”.

“The quote tells us that bees are very important. I read and found that bees are responsible for pollinating 70% of the crops, which subsequently become agricultural products. Bees play a major role in pollinating flowers, fruits and vegetables. Bees also bring in the harvest to our environment and we count on them,” the artist said.     

Her eight abstract pieces are painted by acrylic and sand on canvas.

“The paintings, Bee Safe 01 To 08 represent the effectiveness of honeybees and how they are being hurt. A bee hive displayed at the exhibition is meant to represent how bees are vanishing. People can feel that there are no bees left,” Sukonthip explained.  

“For me, the title collection Bee Safe is a question as well as a suggestion about how we will be saved from this situation. Air pollution affects both humans and small creature like bees. We have to believe that we can count on ourselves and hope that there will be a policy to make us safe in the future.”

“NIMBY: Not In My Backyard” runs at Palette Artspace next to BTS Thong Lor until March 15. Admission is free. Visit facebook.com/palette.artspace or call 064-587-6788 for more information.

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