“Ars longa, vita brevis” is the aphorism Silpa Bhirasri, founder of Thailand's famed Silpakorn University, held close to his heart. Born in Florence under the name Corrado Feroci, Silpa was invited by the Ministry of Palace Affairs's Thai Fine Arts Department to come to Thailand to teach western sculpture. Under political turmoil he changed his name to Silpa Bhirasri and became a Thai citizen in 1944.
For his eventual contributions to Thai modern art, Silpa became known at the "father of modern art in Thailand”. Out of many iconic pieces he created for Thailand, Victory Monument and the Democracy Monument are the two most well known. Silpa's other most important legacy which he left behind is of course Silpakorn University, Thailand's most prestigious arts school.
Passing on Silpa's flame to the next generations of great Thai artists, the Silpa Bhirasri Creativity Grant was established to help fund the careers of standout local artists yearly. As this year marks the 18th edition of the grants, here are pieces from eight artists who have been selected this year under the theme of "The Best of Thailand Meets the Best of the World”.
For the theme “The Best of Thailand Meets the Best of the World”, Pradit Saengkrai chose to highlight a traditional Thai musical sub-genre known as krao nai in an audio installation. Under the broader genre of na part, krao nai is music that is played exclusively as accompaniment to the appearance of giants, or ogres, in Thai theatre.
From the Buddhist point of view, humans perceive experience through two different dimensions: experience-self and memory-self. The experiencing itself happens only in matter of seconds while the memory echoes. This reveals the impermanence of existence. However, memories have crucial effect on how we live our lives. Our decisions and stories are made through memory. Taweewit uses graphics and video as the medium to narrate the experience and memories of Uncle Yaw, a marginalised nomad from the northeast residing in Bae Tong District in the far south.
Representing human’s insanity, self-destruction and never-ending war, Pongdej made this interactive puzzle with the faces of global leaders. The audience is free to add pictures such as bombs, slaughter and corpses in juxtaposition with the faces of the leaders.
Traces of the State of Mind, Worawit Kaewsrinoum
A long-time sufferer of mental instability and depression, the artist has decided to narrate his journey through his work. There has never been a worst social climate for mental health than today. Technology and materialism have pulled people away from spiritual and mental wellness. Realising this, Worawit resorted to Buddhist Anapanasati meditation to remedy his mental state. The breathing practice which incorporates the the Buddhist virtue of mindfulness brings tranquility back to the individual despite the surrounding turmoil.
Sira’s sculpture is a rumination on the Buddhist concepts of impermanence and Trilaksana. Having to go through the devastation of a collapsed family, the artist reflects on the Trilaksana, or the three nature of existence—impermanence, suffering and the non-self. Once these three characteristics of existence are realised, the individual's suffering will cease to exist.
Greater Land of Rice, Sujin Sangwanmaneenet
Inspired by his hometown, Sujin has realised through this piece the endangered status of ancient art and techonologies that have been passed down for many generations. Specifically, the artist wants to portray the importance barns have to farmers. The installation explores the folk technology, modern technology, customs, belief and rituals involved in agriculture.
Subconscious Intelligence of E-san Ancient Paintings, Anurot Chanphosri
Anurot's piece comes in a form of traditional Isaan paa wed cloth. Paa wed is a muraled cloth. Anurot presents layers upon layers of dilapidated paa wed, put one on top of another to reflect Trilaksana (impermanence, suffering and the non-self). The layering of the fabric represents the refinement of the body and soul, which will ultimately lead to the awakening of the subconscious mind.
The Journey of Thai Craftsman, Opas Charoensuk
Opas Charoensuk guides us through the developement of Thai architecture with his piece, The Journey of Thai Craftsman. Inspired by the weathered wooden surfaces and silhouettes of traditional Thai houses, the artist has integrated different aspects of folk beliefs into his work. Various mediums and techniques of the past are used to fabricate this representative three-dimensional piece.
All pieces of this year's Silpa Bhirasri Creativity Grants are up for viewing at The Art Centre, Silpakorn University (Wangthapra) from January 10 until February 2. Viewing hours are 9am-7pm Monday to Friday and 9am-4pm on Saturday. Visit art-centre.su.ac.th.