Sunday, September 22, 2019

A toast to Hem

Aug 28. 2018
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By The Nation

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Based on the illustrations by the late master Hem Vejakorn, photographer Pattana Chuenmana is presenting seven large format photographs showing his interpretations of Hem’s works in a modern context for the show “After Hem Vejakorn” at Richard Koh Projects (RK Projects) in Bangkok until September 22.


Considered one of the most influential illustrators and artists in the modern history of Thailand, Hem was affectionately referred to as Kru Hem (teacher Hem) by many top artists and was popular for his illustrations for the cover of 10-satang pulp novels. 

Hem lived in a period when electricity was not widely accessible and Thai society was generally agricultural. Farmers’ nights were lit mostly by torches and lamps. The fear of darkness is closely tied with superstitious beliefs and urban legends of the time, which allowed the society to imagine and view things in a different perspective. This, in a way, obstructed logical perception, in which rationality and reason were replaced with ghosts and demons. 

Translating this to contemporary life, Pattana discovered that in modern day Bangkok, there are still corners in the city hidden behind the shadows created by light from electricity and neon lamps. These dark corners inspire one’s imagination in a different manner but Pattana could still sense the mysterious aura from Hem’s illustrations in these real life environments. 

In an attempt to capture the essence of Hem's drawings of everyday life, he recontextualises these compositions and translates them into scenarios where our lives are lit by electronics and gadgets instead. Reconstructing these scenes with friends and actors, the artist would play the role of a protagonist. 

Pattana’s previous series of works explored notions of beauty through destruction as showcased in his 2014 solo exhibition, “The Overlapping of Beauty and Truth” shown at Richard Koh Fine Art, Singapore. He graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Art Silpakorn University, Bangkok, Thailand in 2005. 

Richard Koh Projects is a pop-up space set-up this year under Richard Koh Fine Art, which has been in operation since 2005 and is regarded as a pioneer in introducing Asian contemporary art to Malaysia and the region. Promoting an adventurous roster of emerging and established artists, the gallery regularly mounts exhibitions locally and abroad. 

Richard Koh Projects is at Unit A, third floor of N22 Art Warehouse on Narathiwas Rajanakarin Road Soi 22, Bangkok.

For details, call (02) 037 6944 or visit


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