Lives and Works: Bangkok
Tada Hengsapkul is a photographer based in Bangkok, Thailand. Born in 1987, he grew up in the city of Korat in the northeastern region commonly known as Isaan. Hengsapkul graduated from Poh-Chang Academy of Arts in Bangkok, one of country’s first art schools that dates from the early 20th century, and has exhibited regularly in recent years with group shows in Australia, China and New York. Hengsapkul’s local solo exhibitions have garnished much media attention due to the artist’s provocations to social mores and the flux of Thai politics. Nudity, humorously absurd scenarios, the skewering of sacrosanct symbols and a critical foolishness plays out across the rural terrain of his hometown. A 2014 exhibition at Toot Yung Gallery in Bangkok was titled Ying Chod Chai Chua, meaning ‘bad girl/bad boy’, and captured a brazen, oppositional quality amongst his youthful milieu as defiance of their continuing disenfranchisement within the class schisms of Thai political culture. In a series titled Disintegrated Landscape (2013- ) shadowy detritus cloud our view of landscapes of Isaan as future remnants of areas scheduled for re-development. The ghosts of histories, myth and an animist reality are a persistent presence in Hengsapkul’s photographs, whether in the strange ritualized relationships between human bodies and elements of the natural world or his enigmatically lit landscapes. This presence distinguishes him in relation to a variety of precedents in contemporary photography such as Wolfgang Tillmans’ documentation of an era of youth culture, Nan Goldin’s intimate view of social relationships or Jack Pierson’s and Ryan McGinley’s hyper-consciousness about literary and mass media codes in their imaging of friends and seemingly happenstance events. Hengsapkul’s photographs are haunted by a local sensibility and remain critically compelling.