A scene from the video '10.00pm at the Erawan Brahma Shire, Bangkok 2016' by Orawan Arunrak. Photo courtesy of Surat Setseang
By Phatarawadee Phataranawik
Orawan Arunrak, recipient of a prestigious DAAD residency, shows her work before leaving for Germany
Travel has been very much part of Orawan Arunrak’s life over the last few years. The young artist has enjoyed residencies in Cambodia, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Okinawa, Japan and a few remote cities in Thailand and the experiences have, as one would expect, changed her outlook both on life and the way she expresses herself in her art.
The fruits of her artistic practice are currently on view in “Zones and Verbs”, a solo exhibition at new gallery Cartel in Narathiwas Soi 22.
“Zones and Verbs” features a video installation, a huge painting, a series of drawings and photography sets, each of which is displayed with her hand-written essays in Thai and English explaining the artistic process and her inspiration.
During her travels, Orawan, 31, frequently engaged with local communities in an attempt to merge art with non-art. She has crossed time zones and cultures and created new artistic dialogues through her exhibitions in Southeast Asia. Living in new environments and observing life around her have also encouraged the artist to learn more about herself through meditation.
The first work the visitor sees on walking into the small gallery is Orawan’s installation: three television monitors that document meditative practices, all in black and white. One screen depicts young novices at Wat Pa Don Nard in Maha Sarakham undertaking their early morning task of helping to prepare the monk’s robes, which she captured in 2014. The second, filmed in 2015, shows a boat transporting people in Ratchaburi from pier to temple to join the summer ordination.
The last one shows her current work – scenes from the video entitled “10.00pm at the Erawan Brahma Shire”, which depicts tourists with flowers and incense sticks in their hands paying homage to the shrine just as it is closing for the night. All around them cleaners throw discarded flowers and sticks into bins and clean the ground. The short video of this daily ritual has a meditative feel. For the artist, “cleaning praying” symbolises the process of cleansing.
Nearby is her meditative painting depicting the spiral turning around the pole. Orawan created this piece while on a retreat at the Buddhhadasa Indapanno Archive in Bangkok this June. The artist stuck to a strict schedule during her stay, performing the morning and evening chants at 7.30am and 5.30pm and painting from 10am to 4pm every day for 30 days.
One corner of the space is home to Orawan’s series of drawings “Keeping Waiting Hiding”, which depict landscapes in Japan and Sri Lanka, both of which she visited last year. The landscapes have a lonely feel. One shows Kathurugoda Viharaya, an ancient Buddhist temple in Chunnakam, Jaffna District, Sri Lanka. Another depicts Gin Ten Gai market without any people. Her notes explain that “Keeping Waiting Hiding” relates to waiting for the future and expecting something new while still yearning for the meaningful existence of the past.
The new construction sites in Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Sri Lanka are represented through the medium of photography on the theme “Growing Changing”. One shot depicts a mountain of sand on the way to Buddha Park in Vientiane, the capital of Laos. A similar sand mountain is spotted in front of one street in Sri Lanka’s Jaffna district and yet another at Diamond Island in Phnom Penh. In Vietnam, she captures the view from Thu Thiem Bridge in Ho Chi Minh City, juxtaposing a new construction site against the background of skyscrapers.
“Growing Changing represents the process of building and accumulating prosperity,” she notes.
After the show, Orwan is flying to Berlin where to take part in |a one-year residency through |a scholarship from the 2015 Berliner Kunstlerprogramm |des DAAD (Artists-in-Berlin Program of the German Academic Exchange Academic Exchange Service. After Chitti Kasemkit-vatana, Orawan is the second Thai visual artist to be awarded this prestigious scholarship.
More to see
- “Zone and Verbs” ends on Thursday at Cartel gallery. The compound in Narathiwas Soi 22, once a warehouse, is also home to Tentacles, an art space, studio, cafe and bar, and Ver Gallery.
- “Ten Places in Tokyo” by Sutthirat Supaparinya is showing at Ver Gallery until September 24.
- “Three Cornered World” by Pam Virada Banjurtrungkajorn is showing at Tentacles until September 4.
- Find out more at Facebook/vergallery and Facebook/tentaclesinc