Charoen Krung area has for some time now established itself as "the creative district", and no one can argue with that. Take "Galleries' Night" last month, when the entire neighbourhood was taken over by art, from NACC and Cloud near Hua Lamphong train terminus to Speedy Grandma, Soy Sauce Factory, Serindia Gallery and Atta Gallery at O.P. Garden and Bridge Art Space, near BTS Saphan Taksin.
The recently opened Tars Gallery, founded by French artist Pierre Béchon, however, could be the start of a change in momentum on the other side of town. After all, the once dinghy neighbourhood around Sukhumvit 67, 69 and 71 already boast of Hof Art Space at W District, Goja Gallery, Naiipa Art Complex and Rebel Art Space.
But to create new art quarters isn't just a matter of numbers. The sheer size of Hof Art Space should have managed to do that but it does take some curatorial effort for each show to not end up being just another "Hof Art Space show".
In Tars Gallery's debut group show "Untitled 1", however, it doesn't feel like the diverse types of works -- Alexandre Lavet, David Delgado, Elissa Rae Ecker, Natanel Gluska, New-Territories mindmachinemakingmyths, Peerawayt Krasaesom and Thomas Merret -- is being limited to just one vision, be it the curator's or the gallery's.
"I opened this art space out of the sense of dissatisfaction from being a freelance curator. The budget limitations didn't fit my ambition and this led me to find a space of my own," said Béchon, who has created artworks and curated shows in Bangkok for the past two years.
After studying at Ecole Supérieure d'Art de Clermont-Ferrand in Clermont-Ferrand, France, Béchon went on to study business in art at Oklahoma University, US. It was there that he initiated an experimental project with a space in which his works and other artists' were produced and shown. That was when he gained an interest in curatorship.
Once in Bangkok, he attended as many art shows as possible and was inspired by young Thai artists' creativity and the hybrid of Thai roots and Western influence.
"For this debut show, I play a gallerist role," said Béchon. "This is going to be a complete change of the statue of the place because the entire space will be transformed. It's not going to be an exhibition in a classical sense, the function of the space will be completely different."
In "Untitled 1", he plays a safe gallerist as the group show avoids making any bold statements. On the ground floor, there are two paintings by Peerawayt Kraseasorn, whose vibrant colours are reminiscent of his solo show at Brownstone Studio in May. This time, he abandons abstraction for still life. While one is of flowers, fashioned after Vincent Van Gogh's, the other is of a mortar and pestle, crab and other ingredients ready for some som tum.
While Ecker's sculptures of hair wigs are enigmatic in their function and shape, Merret's single shot of the sea is a play with reality and an imaginary, mythical past. Using GPS, he travelled to a spot in the Mediterranean Sea which, according to a 1953 topographic he found, is the end of a frontier. Of course, he found no such thing, it was an endless span of sea meeting the horizon.
My favourite is Lavet's two series The Void and The Forgotten. While The Void comprises three photographs of random exhibition spaces Lavet found online, but Photoshopped the artworks and paintings out, The Forgotten is a satire on how little attention we actually pay when we're viewing an exhibition.
Next to the toilet door on the first floor there's a fake light switch, up the stairs, there is a trail of paint drops, which are made of porcelain. High above Merret's photograph of the sea, there is a pair of wall plugs stuck unused on the wall.
The highlight, and the most demanding part, of the show is a series of short videos by a collective of two French architects called New-Territories mindmachinemakingmyths. Set in Thailand and abroad, the shorts films, whose storylines are difficult to pin down, recreate the complexity of our minds' interiors and the outside world.
"Untitled 1" is on display until Jan 8 at Tars Gallery, Sukhumvit 67.
Photograph by Thomas Merret.