When confronted with a grouping of large- and medium-scale art works in an equally massive exhibition hall, one becomes more attuned to space and the way it frames the experience of viewing. One can also become acutely aware of the need to look closely, pay attention to works that do not share the qualities of mass or visual weight as the rest. Such was the case when I viewed works by the graduating Fine Arts class at Chiang Mai University last March. I was inevitably drawn to the works that required close attention, through gestures that included peering into, crouching under, looking over; pieces that let me move through them because of intimate and compelling detail.
Modernity’s Sprawl: Sikarin’s Village
Tucked in a corner of the main exhibition hall was Sikarin’s Village by Sikarin Loompaiboon. Atop slender white tables were the configurations that make a village, small, dainty scale models in white, encompassing traditional village structures to modern-day block housing. Sikarin’s Village mapped encroaching modernity into the segmented spaces of a local village or perhaps a place she once knew. Through pristine, elegant crafting, Lompaiboon dispersed the large scale and the wide ranging into segmented pockets of place, making everything appear fragile and small: the rendition of the once-familiar becoming strange.
Passing streets near where I stay in Chiang Mai, promotion tarpaulins for new condominiums in the city conspicuously litter corners and road junctures, a symptom of how radically changed this city will be in a year or two.
Slow Rot: Mind Touch
Janlada Khaopong’s works were the most impressive among the second floor grouping. Inside vitrines and hanging delicately from strands of hair were dessicated fruits, halved, parsed and threaded together by hair. Her pieces spoke of decay, inevitable but merciful in its pervasiveness. They spoke of the slow assault of age, a deep loneliness to do with time we can never salvage or perhaps, chances we let pass. Yet the manner the objects was presented conveyed a languid, lulling movement, as if time were in slow motion, and the decay happening before our eyes was indeed aborted.
Traces: Line Serenity
Hidden under the stair case was an octagonal assembly of white frames, with stitch lines in concentric patterns. Line Serenity by Thipmanee Thongklang was near meditative in presentation and form. Pity it was not well lighted. Needlework forms an interesting parallel to mindfulness, especially when done by hand. Thipmanee assembled for us small grounds with white stitch work on equally stark white ground. To look closely cues our attention to the varied patterns which at surface appears the same yet not exactly, and to the even subtler gradations of white on white.