Friday, November 13, 2009

Achara Nuansawat on Chamnan Sararakse in FINE ART magazine, 2005

Achara Nuansawat on Chamnan Sararakse in Exhibition Reviews
in FINE ART magazine, Dec. 2005.

สัญ – ชาต – ญาณ (๒) (‘symbol – birth – intuition’)
at the Museum of the National Gallery

From ancient times people have lived according to pleasure and displeasure. The two go on, side by side, just like art which can show either beauty or ugliness.

If the reader looks at the world, taking away all entertainment and pleasure, you will see the reality which bites the mind and heart, giving almost unbearable pain – like poison. The remains of nasty events personally experienced or witnessed in the news from all over the world; stories of inequities, exploitation, war-mongering, diseases and suffering and natural disasters all bear down upon humanity and leave only sadness among the survivors.

This second exhibition by Chamnan Sararakse brings together his works addressing social problems from the year 2000 up to the present. His role is to distill the various evil happenings in society and to show his feeling about them on canvas. We can call this ‘art for society.’

For example, when Chamnan expressed his thoughts at the opening of the exhibition:

“In the state of affairs like today, people live in the tense atmosphere of the economy, of society and politics with all the problems of disorder in contemporary life. People have to struggle to survive in society today, fighting with the materialism of the capitalist system; contending with the powers that be and the pressure of human lust and desire.”

Chamnan’s 2005 works address the evils of society. The artist tries to describe the ferocious and violent feelings and emotions of human beings, as in the picture, Chasing the Empire of the 21st and 22nd Centuries. It is a 117 x 246 cm oil painting on canvas (2005).

The picture shows the crises which arise out of the pursuit of empire. The artist describes the horrendous ugliness of human violence. The picture centers on a man on a motorcycle who appears to be in the act of copulating with a naked woman who rides with him. She wears a metal helmet with the horns of a bull. [Illuminated by] the headlamp of the motorcycle, we see many arms and hands outstretched, like Totsakan, the villain from the Ramakien.

The dark rider is dressed like a soldier. Each of his many hands holds a weapon - a machine gun, an ax, explosives, whips. And he carries mobile phones, symbols of Mercedes-Benz, and syringes. His many hands are extended in many directions like a halo of violence radiated from him. The lines shoot out from both sides toward other men and women in the picture. The others seem as if controlled, sucked dry of life and consciousness.

The mysterious, many-armed man hides his face. He represents all the power that humans desire. The other men in the picture seem to be his subordinates. They also cover their faces as they converge on the women around them. The men turn to face the central figure, suggesting agreement and support. The women seem dazed and willingly humiliated.

This picture reflects the central and inevitable story. The artist shows clearly what will happen when the rule of the empire descends. There is violence, immorality and lawlessness. The artist uses red, black and green to emphasize the barbarous danger. The colors reflect an unpleasant atmosphere. Though the people in the picture can still move, in this state of affairs there is no escape.

There are other canvasses in the exhibition presenting different subjects but the compositions are similar, as in the work Today’s Capitalist Man and Power of Lust. These two pictures put a man in the center of the composition, a man with many arms. He carries things in his hands; his head is a die (dice). The artist said that the die suggests how life is a game to be played.

In the picture, Today’s Capitalist Man, 117 x 171 cm., oil on canvas, the artist tries to communicate an image of a monster who has power and money, greed and lust. What the man has in his hands is what almost all people want. Though he has it all in his hands, he still stands in an insecure place, always in danger of falling. This may suggest that everything he has still cannot give him security. It may already be evaporating. And he has even lost himself already, for his face has become a die, covered with [symbols of] numbers.
The picture, Power of Lust, 300 x 600 cm, oil on canvas (2005), is a very large one. It presents a male with the head of a die, a very powerful body with many arms. The hands carry various weapons. This figure is in the act of inseminating a woman with a monstrous head. One of the hands holds the woman tenderly, but another stabs her in the back with a sword. She seems oblivious to the thrust of the blade.

This male figure seems to stand behind society. You can see images in the background – various buildings- as if this man is towers above the city. He can do whatever evil he pleases. He stands with a family under his feet (perhaps it is the artist’s family). They are unprotected, naked, and lifeless - insensible of the oppression. The father embraces his wife and child. They have nowhere to flee and must accept their fate. They are chained and imprisoned by one of the monstrous hands. The dominant figure may represent the pressures of society on families nowadays.

There are quite a number of pictures which I [the reviewer] have not mentioned here, but they are all very interesting, both in content and presentation. Mostly they express pent up emotion and great depression, very oppressive. The style abandons details of delicate beauty.

If you have ever known the work of Chamnan Sararakse, you will know that he used to make pictures that were predominantly beautiful, expressing faith in Buddhism and the Crown. They were beautiful and realistic. The feeling in this new set of his works is totally different.

The change may have come about as the artist has matured and sees things in society more clearly, giving rise to new kinds of expression. The form of his work has changed tremendously, however. It is a genuine step forward in artistic creativity, too, since the world really does consist of things that please, but also things that do not.

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