About THAI PAVILION 2017
Artist : Somboon Hormtientong
Curator : Numthong Sae Tang
The 57th International Art Exhibition is a platform that opens up opportunities for artists around the world to participate in the showcasing of contemporary art, as a worldwide exchange of knowledge, experience, and ideas.
Furthermore, the Office of Contemporary Art and Culture (OCAC) recognizes the importance of supporting Thai artists to get a chance to exhibit their work in an international stage. Such support will further affirm, in a global scale, the potential of Thai contemporary artists as well as Thai art professionals. It will provide an opportunity for the selected artist to present perspectives about Thailand in new dimensions, thus enabling contemporary art to be a medium of communication in promoting Thailand both directly and indirectly, and fostering the Thai culture.
Thai contemporary art has been active and continuously developing in terms of concept, presentation format, and movements. Somboon Hormtientong is one of the artists who has exceptionally developed the creative process and established a unique individualistic style, formed by his worldviews, ideas, experimentation, and an accumulation of his work experience.
Throughout the past years, Hormtientong’s work were mostly abstract. Highly educated and having been part of the German art circle for over 24 years, Hormtientong’s experienced, orderly, and disciplined practice resulted in a thoughtful and masterful works of art, with powerful lines and colors, and of unique compositions and narratives. With the reflected quality of both his art skills and aesthetic experience, his work opens up for the viewer’s contemplation and freedom in interpretation.
The artist enjoys experimenting with art techniques and finding new modes of artistic expression. For example, he experiments with matching realistic and abstract images, to see the effect when both narratives collide and juxtaposed with one another. For “On the Way” exhibition, 2014, Hormtientong traveled on his favorite motorcycle and took photographs of the scenes he was impressed by or felt connected to. He then created abstract images from these photographs in response to the realistic scenes. Likewise, in “Fervently Yours: 504 Years of Friendship” exhibition, 2015, the artist presented images made up of his signature abstract lines as a result of his journey and cultural experience in Portugal, where he was invited to by the Portuguese Embassy.
Moreover, the artist Hormtientong does not only adhere to two-dimensional plane abstraction. He also chooses three-dimensional found objects as a medium. These objects range from a table, a trunk, and a wooden dresser to common things such as metal wire, to name but a few. They are symbolically used in his art installation to represent the narratives. The work, in the end, yields Hormtientong’s individualistic style through a unique and finesse composition.
For the exhibition at the “57th International Art Exhibition,” Somboon Hormtientong seeks to focus on the city of Bangkok as the main theme. Not only that Bangkok is the capital city of Thailand with economic, societal, and cultural growth, but it is also a multicultural hub, full of history, and has diverse ways of life. Thus, Hormtientong would like to present through contemporary art the stories of Bangkok, a colorful and lively city with such sublime beauty that can be seen on ordinary streets, alleys, and Sois, where national arts and cultural integrity are preserved amidst the looming changes from technological developments, through Hormtientong’s viewpoint. This presentation in Venice will simulate Bangkok and offer a chance for the international audience to be imbued with Bangkok cultural happenings in a new perspective that is different from what they have seen on the internet or tourism brochures.
For the exhibition “กรุงเทพฯ Bangkok,” the artist intends to let the audience freely witness the image of Bangkok, to think of Bangkok, using their own imagination. This concept also relates to the main concept by Christine Macel, the curator of the “57th International Art Exhibition,” which is “Viva Arte Viva.” The “กรุงเทพฯ Bangkok” exhibition will be created by the artist, for the artist himself, in accordance to Hormtientong’s intention to express his feelings and thoughts towards Bangkok as well as to develop the work format he has planned.
“กรุงเทพฯ Bangkok” exhibition will help promote the positive image of Bangkok, the capital city of Thailand, to the international audience, who will be able to see Bangkok in a new perspective. It will showcase the potential of Thai contemporary art as well as the conceptual processes and development in the arts, building a strong foundation to encourage criticism, analysis, and interpretation of Bangkok with freedom.
Bangkok is a city with an ongoing cultural process, its traditional way of life has been passed on from generations to generations, while alongside is the adaptation of other harmonious cultures into its own. Despite the small size of the city, Bangkok today is rich with cultures, full of life and diversity. If one were to journey through the city, by looking at objects and architectural elements on the street, he or she will witness both the simple life of the past and the complexity and colorful way of life of today. One will notice how Bangkok remains its originality and how Thainess in a Bangkokian way is hidden in every city’s corner.
Hormtientong’s Bangkok is different from Bangkok in the views of tourists or those who have never experienced the city themselves. The artist does not see Bangkok only for its stereotypical images such as its urbanized neighborhoods, skyscrapers, or the cultural heritages such as temples and royal palaces, but he looks deeper and ponders upon the beauty in the narratives and context of ordinary people. The artist also contemplates on different life forms through objects, which all have different functions and history. Hormtientong’s impression of the city is the story’s protagonist, who walks us from the morning to the evening of everyday. The truism that time always moves forward sees Hormtientong lament on the disappearance of certain things of the past, either by being substituted, mixed up, or swallowed by new images that happen in Bangkok over time.
The inspiration for choosing Bangkok as a subject for this exhibition came from the artist’s journey on foot around the city, on the streets and through small alleys, Sois, and communities. These include places the artist has been or the area he is familiar with or used to reside in, such as the Princess Mother Memorial Park area. Hormtientong has a special sense for recording, capturing the image of what he encounters, filling the picturesque story into a square frame. As his eyes signal the visuals to his brain to trigger his finger on the the camera’s shutter, Hormtientong record stories in which he gets to choose the composition of the objects interacting with and based on his feelings and aesthetics experience. He put these impressions into square frames, from objects like colorful plastic containers or appliances, and piled up boxes near shophouse stores, in which Hormtientong sees the beauty in the rhythm of their arrangement. These colorful compositions illustrate very well the characteristics of Bangkok, and persuade the viewer to feel and imagine the relationship between these objects, the store owners, the store workers, and passersby.
In one instance, even just the form of a house gate, a black straight oblique shape resembling a cage, stopped him from walking. It urged him to look through the fence, to find out what is behind and how these objects would interact with him.
Another instance, while Hormtientong was walking around the area of Pantip Plaza department store just before the closing hour, he noticed the colorful fabrics the shopkeepers used to cover the glass display cabinet, and recognized right away the beauty as another day of people making a living comes to an end. Hormtientong’s observation also spans other periods of time, such as the time before a group of people from the same society begin their daily activities in certain places. Be it in an office, a household kitchen, or on a storefront, the artist notices serenity and beauty dispersed in mundane objects and appliances no matter scattered or neat. These objects could range from something placed in a room corner to someone’s notebook and pen on an office desk. Hormtientong believes objects hold the stories of certain groups of people in the society. They inspire him to think and react with what is in front of him. And this is another example of a story of Bangkok in Hormtientong’s view.
The beautiful and serene images of Bangkok in Hormtientong’s vision came directly from his feelings. With his art experience, and having practiced over several decades, Hormtientong tells the stories in his own version through contemporary art, different from those who lack training and experience in aesthetics sensing, as they may not acknowledge the importance and beauty in the narratives of common objects and surroundings, which “can be seen only when observed.”
With the “กรุงเทพฯ Bangkok” exhibition, which will take place at the Thai Pavilion, the artist hopes to create an artistic dimension in the space that was not originally designed for art installation, by juxtaposing the composition of the space. The visitors would find it hard to recognize that it was once a site for a busy restaurant with high foot traffic or a space unintended for art from the beginning. Hormtientong will take over the exhibition area inside the Thai Pavilion, which has certain spatial limitations, to produce the serenity that he hopes would bring visitors to find aesthetics in their own ways, through the interactions between them and his work, the serenity of which is in clash with the chaotic surroundings outside the Pavilion. Once the visitors get to experience Hormtientong’s work and start to question what is going on in their minds about the work before them, they will begin to find peace. Their brains would come to work, processing, analyzing, and interpreting the content in the exhibited objects carefully curated by the artist, and finally arrive at their own answers.
The story of Bangkok is a story that Hormtientong brings up as an example to reflect on a universal subject. Because no matter which society one comes from, one always has a different way of living in his or her daily life, in different spaces, workplaces, or even one’s private room. There is usually a time of peace in such spaces before people start to interact with them or start their activities everyday. It is in such peacefulness that the artist found deep aesthetic values about culture and the way people live through objects, furniture and utensils. At the same time, these objects that were carefully picked to be exhibited in the exhibition are mundane appliances that we see in Bangkok’s daily life, which has the ability to connect and convey the story and cultural values to those who are culturally familiar with them.
Additionally, the visitors to the Thai Pavilion will feel like they are standing in today’s Bangkok, experiencing the visuals and atmosphere of the city through the artist’s viewpoint, through the juxtaposition, and installation of his collected items, and other found mundane objects familiar to Bangkokians, objects that have changed their original functions, all of which arranged as part of the art installation.
With Hormtientong’s special sense of selecting and placing found objects, combined with the planned dexterous presentation, and its openness for the visitors to freely engage, imagine, analyze, and interpret the stories through the objects, this exhibition will provide an opportunity for the visitors to heighten their individual aesthetics experience while relate to each object in their own emotional and spiritual capacity, and looking at Bangkok through contemporary art in Somboon Hormtientong’s version