Bangkok Post reviews
Retracing creative steps
- Writer: Bangkok Post Editorial
- Published: March 20, 2013 at 8:17 am
A collection of Somboon Hormtientong's work reveals the development of one of Thailand's best artists
The show is on the 9th floor of the Bangkok Art and Cultural Centre.
Somboon Hormtientong, 64, is recognised as one of the pioneers in Thai abstract art who has worked extensively both in the Kingdom and abroad. A collection of his work dating back to 1965 is now on show at the Bangkok Art and Cultural Centre, including his latest project in collaboration with Thai comic artist Raj Loesuang.
Featuring paintings, sculptures, drawings, comic strips and installation pieces, this is an exhibition that will give visitors an insight into the development of modern Thai art through the work of one of our unique visual artists.
For this exhibition, titled "Raj Loesuang And The Boy Somboon Hormtientong", Somboon has carefully selected pieces since the beginning of his career as we're invited to explore the way his intellectual aesthetics have grown.
Going back to his childhood, Somboon recalls the strong passion he felt towards a 1960s cartoon character called Singha Dam ("Black Lion"), drawn by cartoonist Raj Loesuang who studied with master Chang Saetang. The collaboration between Raj and Somboon _ as the show title suggests _ is a highlight. "The Boy Somboon" retrieves his boyhood fascination with Raj's work and, for this, he invited his childhood idol to retrace the journey of creative thinking in a new context of contemporary art. It's a rebirth of both Singha Dam and its creator _ decades after Somboon found them.
Interpreting Raj's work, Somboon also created a series of abstract paintings and arranged them in a comic book layout, each panel a freeform drawing as if he's in communication with Raj's style. In addition, real comic books of both Somboon and Raj Loesuang are presented in the middle of the room.
Departure, an installation piece from 2011, shows a herd of teak elephant figurines with tags featuring the names of the world's famous cities. Last year, I had an opportunity to talk with the artist and he expressed his "deep hurt" when he saw wooden elephants being sold like cheap-quality souvenirs to tourists when he went to the North of Thailand. That was his original conceptualisation of the installation.
The artist believes that the elephant figurines contain cultural, historical and spiritual angles. In this exhibition, he recreated a chaotic situation in an international airport departure gate and put the elephants there in order to interlink his notion of cultural export.
Another installation piece is a group of freeform sculptures called Untitled from 1974, made from plaster. The piece was exhibited across Europe when Somboon lived and studied in Germany.
Three series of horse, elephant and teddy bear paintings have been prominent in Somboon's works in the last two years. The artist reveals a process of deconstructing form _ from realism to something else. Especially the teddy bear, which is his daughter's doll that he sees every day. The essential point of his study is to examine the relationship between "form" and "object" _ both tangibly and intangibly through various artistic elements.
His paintings of the Mekong river and other gigantic images are calling for the interpretative capacity of viewers to share and discover the beauty that lays deep in Somboon's journey.
It's interesting to note that in order to avoid lavish explanation, Somboon prefers to use "untitled" as titles of his pieces, perhaps to stir alternative interpretation and aesthetic investigation. Access to non-representational art is to rely on the experience, sensitivity and the perspicacity of each individual viewer, as rightly noted Professor Chetana Nagavajara in the exhibition's note.
And there's no need for clear titles when the feeling you get from his works speaks directly to you.
"Raj Loesuang And The Boy Somboon Hormtientong" is on show on the 9th floor of Bangkok Art and Cultural Centre until May 12.
Raj Loesuang Singha Dam (2013).