Bangkok artist Thidarat “Mariem” Chantachua has always believed that art can change the world. In her solo exhibition, “Invisible Town”, Mariem is out to prove it.
The exhibition is where familiar threads entwine with unexpected materials. Stitched from the air she breathes, this embroidery whispers the story of haze-wreathed landscapes, a silent testament to Thailand's air pollution crisis.
Bangkok, a tapestry of smoke and steel, bears the brunt of this invisible threat, unveiling a transformative shift in her artistic language. The exhibition marks Mariem's departure from familiar paths, venturing into uncharted artistic territory, inviting viewers into a dialogue woven with personal reflection and potent whispers of diverse cultures and societal realities.
"Invisible Town" marks a new chapter in Mariem's artistic journey. Using waste and recycled materials, she explores the use of common objects such as cans, mosquito meshes and wrought iron. The seemingly ordinary transformed into embroidery on tie-dye fabric, embroidery on paintings, painting on roof panels, mixed media works of medium to large sizes. Through delicate strokes of needle and brush, Mariem reveals hidden truths, subtly intertwining the personal and the universal.
Her explorations traverse environmental concerns, cultural reflections, and societal critiques, each creation emitting a compelling yet hushed resonance. These captivating pieces invite us to ponder the concealed challenges lurking beneath the city's surface, urging us to see both the beauty and the vulnerability that lie unseen.
Amidst the blinding neon and bustling crowds of Bangkok, Mariem invites viewers to step beyond the postcard-perfect facade and delve into the city's unseen depths. Rapid urbanisation and unplanned urban planning have led to chaotic development in some parts of Bangkok, and the neighbourhood where Mariam lives is one example.
"Invisible Town" is not just a showcase of artistic prowess, it's a raw, unflinching portrait of the metropolis, painted not with oil on canvas, but with threads of lived experience, cultural tapestry and a fierce determination to unveil the hidden narratives that pulse beneath the urban skin. In the shadows of towering skyscrapers and sprawling marketplaces, Mariem unearths the "Invisible Town", those marginalised communities tucked away in alleyways and overlooked corners, often deemed undesirable by the gleaming eyes of tourism.
Mariem sees these as the heartbeats of Bangkok. Her own home, nestled beside a gargantuan waste dump, becomes the muse for her earlier works, where the stark darkness of black fabric mirrors the environmental struggles that shadow the city. But even in the face of pollution and neglect, Mariem finds beauty.
Her needle dances across the cloth, conjuring vibrant scenes of life amidst the refuse, reminding us that resilience and hope blossom even in the most unlikely corners. In "Invisible Town", her artistic vision evolves, as do her colours. The black fades into a kaleidoscope of hues, like embers rekindled into a vibrant flame, reflecting a shift in focus. While environmental concerns remain embedded in the fabric of her art, they become intertwined with threads of personal identity and cultural heritage. The once-hidden artist emerges, proudly proclaiming her Muslim roots through intricate geometric patterns and locally-inspired motifs, like the swirling arabesques dancing across a mosque's walls.
"Invisible Town" is a testament to the power of art as a bridge between worlds. It's a conversation starter, a catalyst for empathy and a celebration of the unseen beauty that thrives amidst the chaos of urban life. Mariem's art is not a passive observation, it's a call to action, urging us to confront our collective challenges, celebrate cultural diversity and work towards a future where the "Invisible Town'' find their rightful place in the vibrant tapestry of human experience.
"Invisible Town” is on display at SAC Gallery until March 23. Join the conversation.