Monday, May 14, 2007

mixing things@Fah Thai Magazine

*Fah Thai Magazine is an English-language inflight magazine for Bangkok Airways:::

THROUGH THE CREATIVE WORK OF SIX EMERGING TALENTS, STIRLING SILLIPHANT INVESTIGATES WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A YOUNG THAI ARTIST TODAY. PORTRAITS BY CEDRIC ARNOLD

THE ESPRESSO MACHINES at Chiang Mai's 94 Co?ee are running full throttle when Angkrit Ajchariyasophon pulls up to our 9am appointment in a pick-up truck. I don't often associate conceptual artists with pick-ups - or morning meetings, for that matter - but just a few minutes into my conversation with Angkrit, it's obvious why he needs one. Loaded with sculptures that he aims to sell at the Night Bazaar after our meeting, the truck will get Angkrit back to his job managing his family's restaurant in Chiang Rai, 180km away.

That Angkrit's vehicle is as indispensable a tool as any element of his mixed palate says a lot about Thai artists of this generation, for whom balancing busy day-to-day schedules is the norm, for most emerging local artists are also full-time university lecturers or curators, or making money on the side selling T-shirts and stage-dressing events.

This multi-tasking is matched by an eagerness to engage new media. From Angkrit's "role-playing", to the "sound installations" of Sutthirat Supaparinya and 3-D putty paintings of Yuree Kensaku, contemporary Thai art - and its creators - are a mixed bag of forms and ideas. As Bangkok curator Th anavi Chotpradit explains, the new generation "are multi-disciplinary, can experiment and don't stick with one media - they're playful and more flexible".

Non-traditional media has a particularly warm glow to this group, often labelled "New Media" artists, a sub-genre of contemporary art defined by its willingness to incorporate non-traditional media such as video, digital and web.

"Young artists increasingly work on non-object-based art - not just because it's convenient (cheap, easy to carry or send), but it's also something about their mentalities," explains Thanavi.

It could well be a reflection of how vastly di?erent a cultural landscape these artists - who had come of age during the 1990s - grew up in, as compared to their predecessors, the thai modernists and neo-traditionalists.

It is certainly no surprise that such a wired, image-saturated place as Bangkok would produce creative minds fascinated by digital imaging, gadgetry and cyberspace.

However, one also has to look to the creative ferment in smaller cities like Chiang Mai, where a robust New Media department thrives at the city's university.

In the works of the six artists profiled here, one finds an ongoing dialogue with what it means to an artist; specifically, what it means to be a young, thai artist practising in the early 21st century.

Read on to discover their range of fascinating creations.

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