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"A place where no one belongs"
16/02/2023 - by Lanlalit Samanuhat
As a nature enthusiast, Pichaya Khunnawat, a Thai artist based in Bangkok explores the roles of nature along with human phenomenon under the concept of “a place where no one belongs”.
Can you tell us about your practice? What concepts have shaped your artworks?
I started working in the art industry right after my Master Degree. In 2018, I had a solo exhibition titled “OFF-CROSSED” at Case Space Revolution, Bangkok. It was expressionism art that had something to do with capitalism which is something my practice has been focusing on until today. However, with the new body of work, there were ideas from different areas that have shaped it, for instance, anthropology, sociology, history and anthropocene. And since I started growing trees again, I tried to learn more about the ecosystem. Knowledge about earthworms also made me understand the nature and the whole ecosystem better. At the same time, I tried to dig into the history of how nature is related to humans, like how rare plants are exhibited in museums in order to show human's power and uplift humanity.
You seem to be interested in nature. How did nature inspire your work?
Gardening has been my thing for 10 years now. I really enjoy growing cactus, succulents and rainforest trees. I feel like the color green has a lot of effects on human emotions. When I got a chance to spend time in rainforests and in national parks, I noticed that I was more calm. Then I began to paint landscapes, just went outside and painted when I felt exhausted, same as old impressionists. But then I thought to myself, what if one day green is tired of being gentle? What if it is no longer willing to cool us down? What green is perceived by the impressionists is another story. These days, this color is used as something that leads humans to the future, yet, directed by green ideology.
Basically, the process of my work started off with emotions. Nature is like a therapist who cures our souls. It's something that enlightens me. Being in the parks made me realize that those places are not entirely public spaces. We don't really own them or have controls over them. There's always an entity behind it, an entity that truly owns those "public" spaces. There's something hidden and they're "spaces where no one belongs". That’s simply my observation on landscapes and thoughts on the possessory rights.
Pichaya Khunnawat. Photo credits the artist.
Besides that, how did nature enlighten you and give directions for your current project?
Spending time in nature also got me thinking about nature in terms of human evolution. People have been using nature to explore oneself and find the answer to humanity. Nowadays, people get back to spiritual practices, they try to connect with the divine, connect with mother nature and cure themselves through experience of hallucinations. Though these spiritual practices are seen as something liberal, they somehow became commercial. And this shows that it is just a part of capitalism.
My current project is a continuation of "a place where no one belongs". It's an interpretation of "a place". With my works, the audience will travel in a time machine and reflect on how power in different historical contexts has shaped humans and what its relation with nature is.
What are you planning to work on for the new body of work that will be exclusive to TARS Gallery?
Within the frame of an interpretation of "a place", this body of work will be a series of paintings that tell a story in search of the definition of the future. These paintings are like pastries mixed with flavors. They're more like fantasy landscapes showing capitalist spaces.
It's to point out that humans are conditioned by time. Humans own the time and we humans can do anything through certain periods of time. It has something to do with the past, the present and the future.
2023, oil on canvas . Photo credits Pichaya Khunnawat
It will challenge the audience to think about what humans are, what humans are made of. Are we simply creatures like ants or fish? The truth might not be the truth, same as the history that we learn, it might not be true either. Could that be because of the time? Anyway, I want to let people think and let them be the judge of what humans are. When they see my work, they can choose to turn left or right. Nothing is right or wrong.