(14 OCTOBER, 2016) HONG KONG-
10 Chancery Lane Gallery is pleased to present Reversed Reality, an exhibition of recent work by prominent Thai artist Sutee Kunavichayanont, curated by Iola Lenzi, from October 31 – November 25. The exhibition opening will be held during Hong Kong Art Week – Autumn Edition (27 October – 6 November) organized by the Hong Kong Art Gallery Association.
Thailand’s Sutee Kunavichayanont (b. 1965) is known for his formally engaging and conceptually sophisticated oeuvre about power and politics in the world today. Predominantly installation-based, Sutee’s practice combines cerebral tactics, an aesthetic command of materials and techniques, and participation-inducing strategies that playfully enlist viewers in dialogues about freedom and civic responsibility. Though his perspective is initially nurtured in the context of Thailand, Sutee’s pieces transcend local specifics to speak to global audiences about democratic values and the thinking, contributing role of the citizen in society.
In this new body of work, Reversed Reality, produced for exhibition at 10 Chancery Lane Gallery, Hong Kong, Sutee Kunavichayanont casts his gaze on populism and power in today’s unstable global political environment. Though using his own Thailand’s current volatile and polarised political context as a tangible starting point—in which context the artist himself has been the subject of recent factional political persecution—Sutee expands beyond Thai borders. Through the prism of Siam’s and Asia’s colonial past, as well as via the trope of China’s Cultural Revolution, and before that the Salem Witch-hunt, Sutee investigates the connections between history and tensions pitting the individual against the anonymous, lynching crowd that purports to represent democracy.
In works such as the 2016 blackboard painting In the Name of Civilization, the artist returns to his signature monochrome white chalk narrations on blackboard to tell the story of imperialisms over time and geography. Picturing a world map, and through references to modern colonial history, the grandiose painting portrays the age-old human attraction to the domination of fellow-man and territorial land-grab, all in the name of “civilization”. Developed in the 1990s, Sutee’s blackboard pictures are pictorially seductive for their delicate chalk monochrome white on black, as well as semantically compelling due to their reference to the familiar school-room and its promise of monolithic truth.
“Truth”, like history, is a shifting, elusive entity. Scrutinising the slippery nature of “truth” as disseminated via Twitter sound-bites, on Facebook, and in televised political debates involving future world leaders, is Sutee’s 2016 Reversed Reality signage series, the second major work of this exhibition. This set of three signs, designed to be handled by viewers in the 10 Chancery Lane Gallery space, pairs duos of words, one of the duo written in reverse so that it can only be deciphered when the sign is held up to a mirror: IMPERIALISM/CIVILIZATION; HERO/FASCIST; DEMOCRACY/TYRANNY. Through this playful visual device proposing polar opposite concepts conveyed through reversed writing, Sutee suggests that nothing is what it seems, that sense can easily be distorted into nonsense, and conversely, that nonsense can be made to seem rational by looking at it in the mirror. A series of prints produced from the carved signs also feature in the exhibition.
About the artist
Sutee Kunavichayanont, extensively exhibited for nearly two decades, is one of Thailand’s and Southeast Asia’s most critically recognised and influential pioneer contemporary artists. Among his seminal installations, Sutee’s participative History Class children’s desk installation (2000 onwards) has become a classic of the Southeast Asian contemporary art canon, along with the The Eternal Banality and Inflation/Deflation blow-up silicon/latex series of the late 1990s. Sutee’s installations are characterized by their capacity to engage publics on complex philosophical questions through interactive, participatory play and their display in the urban space, outside the institutional setting. Sutee’s work is represented in the collections of the Singapore Art Museum, The Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, Fukuoka, Japan, The Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane, Australia, the Vehbi Koc Foundation, Istanbul, and the Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, Japan, amongst other distinguished institutions.
About the curator
Iola Lenzi is a Singapore-based art historian and curator of contemporary Southeast Asian art. Also trained in law, she has curated numerous institutional exhibitions in Asia and Europe focusing on Southeast Asian art engaging critically with the region's social, cultural, and political landscape. She teaches 'Society and Politics in Asian Art' in the Asian Art Histories MA Programme of Singapore’s Lasalle-Goldsmiths College of the Arts, is the author of two books, and the editor/author of exhibition anthologies centering on themes of Southeast Asian art history.
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About Hong Kong Art Week – Autumn Edition
Each November brings Hong Kong Art Week – Autumn Edition (previously known as Hong Kong Art Gallery Week) (October 27 – November 6), a week-long Arts Festival of Talks, Tours, Studio Visits, Art LATES as well as a Family Art Day. Organised by the Hong Kong Art Gallery Association, this festival, in addition to other gallery events, fosters a culture of gallery-hopping to familiar and new audiences in one of Asia’s most dynamic cities! Highlights of this year’s expanded programme include The Gallery Walk for Charity (3 November), an Art Treasure Hunt, and a two-day Art Symposium at the Asia Society (28-29 October), among many other exciting events! For further details on the events being held during Hong Kong Art Week – Autumn Edition, please visit www.hk-aha.org. Tickets can be purchased from www.ticketflap.com