Healing power of nature

Unable to travel due to Covid-19, veteran artist Morakot Ketklao turned to her natural surroundings for inspiration

Artist Morakot Ketklao with her cat Peemai.

Veteran artist Morakot Ketklao's solo exhibition titled "False Scenery" mirrors the need to appreciate nature and its therapeutic benefits as people live through Covid-19, a crippling pandemic that has brought the world to its knees.

Destruction of nature is as big a threat to humanity as climate change, which threatens the survival of a million species -- and our own future -- as we struggle to coexist in these bizarre times of sickness and disease.

Morakot explores the innate dynamics between humans and nature in such unparalleled moments.

The 50-year-old showcases how people interact with nature when it is the only thing to keep them company amid a pandemic in which the new normal calls for social distancing and work from home, which restricts human contact like never before.

Blessed to have a home in scenic Chiang Mai province, Morakot, who also teaches painting at Chiang Mai University, explores the aberration in her otherwise active daily life with 10 pieces depicting a time where she was made to become a recluse.

Her work, most of which is acrylic paintings, resonates with hope amid uncertainty. The breathtaking landscapes overlooking her studio offer respite from the mundane and sedentary lifestyle Covid-19 has enforced on people not just in Thailand but around the world.

Nature has played a leading role in most of Morakot's work in the past two decades because of its intrinsic relationship with humanity. Her artwork also stays within these lines, experimenting with the friction detected between organic and synthetic materials, all in the confines of her sprawling home which she shares with her six cats and five dogs.

Blue Night. (Photos: La Lanta Fine Art)

Morakot, who also works with mixed techniques (collage and eco print), takes us through a viewfinder where we get to see through her eyes the synthetic materials of glass windows, metal fences and iron gates framing the pristine natural views.

Despite some interference in the form of decorative patterns, they create visible tension for the audience. There is an overwhelming sense of ubiquitous man-made structures obstructing something from occurring. The audience gets to decipher what that is.

As her art is open to interpretation, Morakot hopes audiences will enjoy decoding her work.

"My desire is for viewers to see the context of conflicting beauty, including the perspective of valuing nature.

"There is an atmosphere of clarity and ambiguity that alternates in each piece. This technique presents a conflict with the boundaries of shapes and space. Some of the work consists of four small frames in one painting, creating additional borders and boundaries within the pieces."

Grey Rain. 

As she takes us into her private space, we find the pandemic has brought about isolation never experienced before. It is the breathtaking views she gets to savour that help brighten her otherwise mundane existence.

Morakot, who grew up in a rural environment, feels that because of this experience, her interaction with nature is one of appreciation.

A woman of many talents, the Sukhothai-born artist has shown a keen interest in exploring connections between the personal and the shared experience of global climate change.

The constant theme in her body of work combines landscape elements with structural geometry to create fractured architectural landscapes that explore the ever-encroaching presence of humanity in life.

Over the years, she has developed an emotive visual language that expresses her concern about the loss of the natural world while exploring themes of compassion, empathy and friendship, all united by our collective mourning of nature in the Anthropocene age.

In "False Scenery", she states that being confined to her home became the biggest struggle in developing a concept.

Herb@Home. 

"Travelling was restricted, so my search for new perspectives hit a snag. This is when I internalised and found new scenery from within the confines of my home. I tried to work within my limitations during this period by being in the same place and performing routine daily tasks, many of which were online.

"Adapting to the new normal came with its challenges. I do not deny the pressure and tension that made me question how global environmental issues impact our daily lives. From the various ideas floating in my mind, I decided to concentrate on my surroundings and the architectural structures framing the natural landscapes."

Morakot considers herself lucky for residing in one of Chiang Mai's lush green areas where her mother grows plants for sale.

Areas that encompass her home are intact with awe-inspiring landscapes. Her abode is an artist's delight, with plants in the garden surrounding the house seen through window panels, a door, bay window and a wrought-iron fence.

"I found this scenario rather creative. The frames are a barrier to the outside world or this is how it seemed. I decided to utilise these architectural interactions with nature, not as a hindrance, but more as a way of developing the theme. I sought inspiration largely from my surroundings; everything from food and plants to herbs and natural colours collectively helped me with my ideas. I found that the little things in nature had more value than I had placed on them before.

"Activities such as collecting leaves, flowers and experimenting with eco-prints made me explore and learn more about plants and the habitat surrounding my house. The pandemic has led to a need to understand nature and its benefits as it has become a crucial part of our life today. People residing in condominiums find it equally important to have plants and flowers as do the rest of us that have lived our entire life in a rural setting. This is all because being close to nature helps us drop our guard and take life at a slower pace."

"False Scenery" is on display at the La Lanta Fine Art gallery until Oct 20, and online indefinitely. The exhibition can also be viewed at lalanta.com.

Leaf Not Leave. 

Schlafzimmer. 

Escape To The Unknown. 

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