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Watercolour on bamboo paper
Dimensions: 97cm (H) x 200cm (W) x 1cm (D) / 38.2" (H) x 78.7" (W) x 0.4" (D)
Note: Actual colours may vary due to photography & computer settings.
AMNESIA by Tawan Wattuya
Just a few decades ago, Thai art remained dormant in the shadow of two main themes: “Pastoralism” and “Buddhism” seemed to be the horizon of creativity. But the recent social and political turmoil swept all certainties and oblivious tranquility away and left Thai people on an unfamiliar terrain. But with chaos came a movement, a new force and different perspectives that have animated art in this country in an unprecedented unique way.
As a renowned contemporary artist, Tawan stands on the crest of this new wave. His paintings are closely entwined in and inspired by controversial socio-political issues. In this series, Amnesia, he squarely confronts the chronic political violence in Thailand. His portraits represent persons who were the victims of or were affected by the suppression of political protests in April-May 2010, in which more than one hundred people died.
Lives lost in Thai political massacres tend to be lost twice in Thai history. Lives are reduced to only numbers and even these numbers remain ambiguous. Their names and their faces rapidly fade from collective memory. On the other hand, those who are directly or indirectly involved in instigating the violence hold prestigious places in Thai history. “The Lost Decade(s)” is the phrase used widely to refer to this latest and lasting political impasse, but what is really lost may not only be progress or economic wealth. The most traumatic loss for Thais may be their memory.
This exhibition of Tawan’s virtuoso in watercolour appears under the name Amnesia, but his work is instead the revival of memories. Looking deeply into his portraits, we see real humans. We see human lives. These paintings portray the identities and characteristics of distinct individuals. They had their own selves, their pasts and they should have had their presents. Although the pieces in this series are few, diversity in terms of age, class, gender, and ethnicity are present. Each piece contains a different emotion: calmness, determination, desperation, and pain. They are in contrast to the harsh, icy and identical nature of the images of metal weapons that are on the opposite wall.
The paintings also reflect Tawan as an artist. We comprehend him as simultaneously an “outsider” and an “insider.” His work is endowed with both a sense of distance as if viewing the events from outside and a sense of being unsettled and disturbed in a way that exceeds that of an observer. This double and contradictory point of view draws the audience into a mysterious in-between state. A state of being at once estranged and closely-involved. A state induced for introspection and contemplation on the predicament of existence.
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Based in: Bangkok
Tawan Wattuya (b. 1973) is a contemporary artist based in Bangkok. Tawan explores Thai social identities. He is interested in the situation of Thai society and the state of its fabric. His watercolour painting style is subtle and brash at the same time, both aesthetic and shocking. The artist’s interests across a variety of fields from subcultures, politics to fashion and depict animals, humans as well as popular objects. He often draws inspiration from public images and current issues that he critically and provocatively engages. In his portraits, Tawan sharply criticises problems that have been affecting Thailand and is known for choosing often politically relevant, sometimes controversial subject matter. His works reflect his vision of humanity losing its aspirations and ethics.
Tawan’s works have been extensively exhibited across Asia in China, Japan, Thailand, Taiwan, Malaysia as well as in Singapore. In Europe his works were shown in France, Denmark, Switzerland, Italy and the UK. Other notable exhibitions took place in the United States in New York and in Australia. His works were shown at distinguished galleries such as Tang Contemporary in Bangkok, Gallery Yang in Beijing, The Lodge Gallery New York, Toot Yung Art Center in Chiang Mai, NCA Nichido Contemporary Art Gallery, Tokyo, Artist+Run Gallery, Bangkok, Sundaram Gallery, New York, Saatchi Gallery, London and Numthong Gallery in Bangkok. Tawan’s paintings are held in many collections. He graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Silapakorn University.
“...Hailed as one of Thailand's most unique and engaged painters, Tawan's acute perceptiveness of global contemporary society infuses his work with a latent brutality exquisitely balanced with his masterful watercolour technique on soft bamboo paper...” – Bangkok Post
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