Saturday, November 3, 2012

I caught Prof. Khemrat's show on the last day.  I wish the state would purchase some of these wonderful installations for the permanent collection of the National Gallery. The artist kindly sent me a catalog, and I translated his article describing some of the works featured in the show. The photos come from the catalog.

The Way of Buddhist Philosophy in Sculptural Installation
A translation of an essay by Senior Artist and Associate Professor, Khemrat Kongsook,  from the catalog of the  Special Exhibition of his work at the National Gallery, 5 – 30 August, 2012.

About the creative work I am doing nowadays, you could say it is a period in which I feel much more freedom – in group sculptures, installations and in so many ways.   My interest in creating installations dates back to a 1980 group exhibition by Thai sculptors.  Since then I continued with ongoing studies of this approach to sculpture until 2006, when I did my ‘Sculpture of Life’ exhibition.

The principle creative themes in the Sculpture of Life show centered on how Buddhist philosophy relates to people, on ways of life which are in harmony with nature, and on learning to see the value of things which seem to be so very ordinary.  In works like ดิน (soil), the exhibition gave importance to the most basic sculptural materials.  A simple material like earth has a lot of meaning for me.  It is not just something for making sculpture.  It is profoundly significant, showing us how life finds completion in natural balance, utterly simple, but full of latent philosophy and faith.

I began these works with the sculptural group, อรุณรุง (At Dawn) – an image expressing the extraordinary feeling of living in a family well-ordered by Buddhist values.  Giving alms to monks on winter mornings reminds one of a philosophy of the beauty and simplicity of life.  One feels more strongly our relationships with local materials like earth. I went on using earth to create other works for the Sculpture of Life’ show in 2006.

I also did the พุทโธ (Put – Thoo) group – an installation of large, semi-abstract forms made of raw earth.  The form resembles someone sitting in meditation.  In the middle of the form an oval space has been hollowed out.  The figure is set in the middle of the exhibition room and is surrounded [on three sides] by diversely pierced and detailed rounded forms which express the state of meditation. 

 มิติแห่งรูปทรงและพื้นที่ว่าง(The Dimension of Form and Space) is an installation which seeks to express the state of my desires about making works of art.  Many times I wanted to be a painter, even while I was working as a sculptor.

 Another installation in this exhibition is จงกรม (Meditation).  The inspiration for this came from taking part in a procession round the ubosodt at a temple.  I use the forms of people walking and passing one another as they walk.  The forms have both positive and negative aspects, things which come in pairs like birth and extinction and express the spiritual circle of death and rebirth.

  That exhibition also included three more large works of fired clay – สภาวะแห่งความ
 ปรารถนา หมายเลข ๑,   สภาวะแห่งความปรารถนาหมายเลข ๒ and ทำบุญตักบาตร (Desire No.1, Desire No. 2 and The Boon Tuk Bart). 


These works originated in the forms of people doing sitting meditation.  To suggest the meditator’s need to attain a higher plane of consciousness, they are all pierced and perforated and joined by small forms derived from Buddhist symbols such as Chedi, monk’s alms bowls, and bowls for lustral water.  
 The work, สถาวะความอิสระแห่งรูปทรง (The Free Form), which presents the joined forms of two meditators, is pierced and scooped out, so that the formal elements can relate together, the small form and the big one.  The forms aim at expressing lightness and liberation.

The large work, กำหนดจิต (The Mind) portrays a person doing walking meditation.  The gesture suggests a peaceful pace. The surface of the lower part of the figure is roughly finished and coarse, but the texture becomes much smoother and finer on the upper part.   This expresses the forward progress of walking in meaningfulness, growing in maturity and the radiance of a pure and elevated soul.  

 The last work in the ‘Sculpture of Life’ show is ‘Sritanonchai.’  Made of fired clay, it derives from the shape of the human head; its origins lie in old Thai folktales.

I reached my official retirement age in the year 2007.  An exhibition was arranged by the Sculpture Department.  At that time, I suggested works within a theme of studying art, from the earliest days, up to and including the present period. 
ชั่วโมงที่ ๑(The First Classroom) uses the forms of anatomical figures cut in pieces and fixed on the wall.  These suggest the beginnings of the study of art in which [the student] learns correct anatomy.  


The next piece, ชั่วโมงเสรี (Free Classroom), brings drawings and plaster figures created by students as an installation.

 And also there is ความหลง(Infatuation). It is a larger than life sculpture in a realistic style which consists only of torso and groin, but with a gesture of in-your-face muscular braggadocio.   The installation includes a large smooth white sphere and a tiny twin figure fixed to the wall behind.  I wanted to portray persons who are prone to displays of power. 

The work entitled ความหวัง(Hope) is the last in this series.  It is an installation in a room which seems to be descending and leading [the viewer] through the figure of a person whose bisected body lies flat on the dry and broken ground.  It is a lonely, arid, and devastated hope.
For the วิถิ ชีวิต(The Way of Life) exhibition, I presented a set of three new works under the same name as the exhibition.  The ideas of these works originated in some portrait drawings made to tease friends.   My drawings began with dots and then lines, unfolding with abstract forms till they eventually became caricatures of the subject of the portrait.  This approach let me see some things that fit into my own life and creative work, truly abstract characteristics.  My later work was more realistic.  So I brought out examples from each period of my life and small sculptures which expressed the personality of my works from the beginning up to the present.  I set them up, one after another, in a continuous line on the wall to communicate the meaning of my changing feelings and thoughts

The second piece อนุสาวรีย์แห่งความหลง(The Infatuation Monument). This work followed ‘Infatuation’, the work which presents a human form which has been so dismembered that only a torso remains.  The [monument] is larger than life-size, as if in a state of flexing its muscles to show off its power.  The figure sits atop a sphere, which is like a globe.  There are actually outlines of continents on its surface just like a map of the world.  The figure expresses a narcissistic fascination with its own power.  This is the situation of people who lose themselves in lust for power. 

The last piece is เหวือโลก(Over the World), representing someone in meditation.  There are both negative and positive vertically arranged forms.  The emphasis is on flowing rhythms and atmosphere moving in, out and around all the forms.  The piece sits upon a spherical shape.  In this work I wanted to express a state of lightness and freedom from the oppressive cycle of death and rebirth. 

All the time I was working, I questioned my own work of making art. The questions concerned things in opposition: forms and space; interiors and exteriors; hardness and softness; spherical or rounded volumes and sharply cornered forms; geometric and natural forms.  I thought that these opposites actually assist and support each other.  This seems to be an authentic principle by which things in the world stay in balance.  I always bring this principle of opposites to use in creating my art.  I hope that the art I make will contribute to the balance of creative knowledge and will be useful to people who take an interest in art.

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