My first art dispatch from Chiang Mai:
These are works from the exhibition of artist Prajak Supantee which opened at Gallery Seescape last 28th February 2014. There were four elements in the exhibition, most notable was a giant golden fist aboard a loading cart. It was surrounded by photographs, inverted road markers and a series of smaller fists that metamorphose into pouches or a ‘speed bag’, a training tool for boxers.
The closed fist appears like a fallen corpse, much like the toppled monuments of strongmen after a mass revolt. It is a tense, compact form, demanding, withholding yet it lies prone on the cart, the burdened carcass of some ideology or belief. Its gilded finish negates all we know about clenched fists and what they represent. Yet gold also speaks to what is sacred and revered. Curiously enough, the position of the fist on the cart mimics a reclining form on a platform, but the cart is close to ground, tracing marks on earth as it plied the streets of Bangkok.
The photographs showing the fist being carted along Bangkok is an interesting counterpoint to the massive presence of the sculpture in the center of the room. While the fist is three-dimensional and arresting to vision because of sheer mass, the photographs while flat takes us afar to the spaces of Bangkok, where the piece intervenes in public space. It passes through side streets and main avenues, photographed before the Democracy Monument, beside an overturned vehicle, unruly and strange presence in quotidian and equally chaotic space.
Supantee navigates the path of an impromptu procession, seemingly mimicking the grand ceremonies that take place in the streets of the capital, whether in ancient or contemporary times. But he might as well be calling attention to the long drawn out protests in Bangkok. And the black inverted signposts may well signify a stalemate or deadlock. No clear path, like the fist’s random routes as he dragged it along the roads of the city.
Finally, the gargantuan fist is translated into smaller pieces, aligned in a series on one of the gallery walls. The pouches extend into gesturing hands but remain impenetrable, indecipherable, because of their solidity and glaring brightness.
This uncertainty is echoed in the way Prajak Supantee approaches sculpture with ambiguity, given the exacting demands of its traditional materials and form. The artist emphasizes amorphous intention, the element of surprise and the extent to which they can be conveyed through volume, surface, presence and mass.
The exhibition was on view until 14th March 2014.