Resilience | 韌

19 Sept - 9 Nov 2019

Just waking from a dream, in a room blanketed with soft light, everything is silent. Yet while treading through this dreamlike, illusory realm, a series of objects slowly begin to take shape; a diffused glow from the nearby window carves out a vase, a bowl, a table set for two.

This serene setting has been created by Thai artist Praween Piangchoompu, who inhabits Affinity Art this autumn with a solo exhibition titled, Resilience. Displaying a series of woodcut prints, the artist offers viewers a glimpse of his subconscious – what he calls his ‘sanctuary’ – where both memory and sentiment are visualised. In contrast to traditional woodcut printing, where lines and shapes are boldly and sharply defined, Praween’s prints are uniquely ethereal.

Presenting twenty-four works, the prints in this exhibition are not praised for their strong subject matter or narrative substance, but rather their remarkable subtlety.

The scenes and objects depicted momentarily root the viewer in a familiar interior. One sees everyday objects like a dish, a chair, a desk, but they are just out of reach, barely recognizable against their soft backgrounds. Inside the Soul No. 5, for example, depicts a small, puffy pillow propped up against a larger, faded one. Hardly visible against the pastel background, their softness invite viewers to nestle within them. Similarly, in Sanctuary Inside the Soul No. 29, two half-filled transparent glasses are set on a bare table, the glow from the nearby window casting their shadows in an otherwise empty scene. On closer inspection, the glasses oddly contain multiple layers of liquid. As the artist reflects:

"In my work, glasses represent bodies and water represents the mind. The different layers of water symbolise the different stages of consciousness in our mind."

While most entities in Piangchoompu's scenes are equally subtle, others are brought into the focal point using contrasting colours and well-defined edges. In Sanctuary Inside the Soul No. 26, a bright red bowl, another print cut from delicate rice paper, is glued atop the woodcut print using the technique of Chine-collé. This bold application adds an urgency to his work. By inserting such a bold pigment into the muted scenes shows an audacity that is otherwise undetectable. It is as if something has interrupted the artist’s meditative practice – a strong memory, perhaps – and fought its way to be the focus.

Still, despite these outbursts of colour, each piece is notably void of life. So quiet are Piangchoompu’s prints that one might miss the sole being in the exhibition: a pigeon perched in Middle of Nowhere No. 2. The work places the bird with its back to the viewers, watching as its companions fly freely outside. Of this the artist states:

“I want to talk about the median plane found between the inside and outside. It is a state that I see as strange. The pigeon symbolizes me, of course, and the universal connotation is freedom. I think everyone wants freedom, but at the same time, it is not always the answer. I choose to be in the middle, to find that perfect balance.”

To find this balance – be it between freedom and captivity, light and darkness or experience and dream – one must take their time and walk through realms uncertainty. Upon entering Resilience, viewers are cradled in the luminosity emanating from each of Piangchoompu’s work. It is like opening a window for the first time after a long storm. The bright light can be unsettling, but one thing is certain: one will always find a sense of calm after the tempest clears. It is in this state, Praween suggests, where the mind is most resilient.

Praween Piangchoompu (b. 1989, Thailand) has exhibited locally and internationally, including at The National Art Museum of China, Beijing (2019); The International Biennial Print Exhibition, Taiwan (2016) and Kruangthai Art Awards Exhibition, Thailand (2015) amongst others. Piangchoompu is the recipient of prestigious awards presented by the International Print Biennial, Lodz, Poland (2016); the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts (2016) ; the Tokyo International Mini Print Triennial (2015); the Guanlan Print Biennale, China (2015), 6th Indonesia International Triennale (2018), The Queen Sonja Print Award, Norway (2016) and recently the Gold Prize at the Ulsan International Print Biennale in South Korea (2019). He currently lives and works in Chiangmai, Thailand.

Affinity Art 呈獻泰國藝術家Praween Piangchoompu的香港首展《韌》,透過一系列的雕版印刷,把觀眾帶到一個存放着記憶和情感的虛擬空間。一張張看似平凡無奇的畫作背後其實充滿Piangchoompu的想法和故事,繁複的手動版畫印刷工序更是不可或缺。即使是同一色調,有時亦需要印上超過二十次,每次在色澤上作細微的變化以精緻及飄渺地展現物件的質感、空間、體態等。

一張枱、一盞燈、一張凳、窗外的光暈,Piangchoompu以微妙的光暗深淺勾劃出一個觀眾既熟悉又簡約的環境。雖然沒有直接描繪,卻於物件之間透露出生命的存在。尚有餘溫的枕頭、半空半滿的水杯、相顧無言的椅子,精心設計的構圖彷彿在暗示另一個平行時空中的對話,同時是一個心靈的庇難所。

Piangchoopu每張作品的創作過程需時幾個月,務求令印刷效果更上一層樓。傳統版畫印刷作品大概分別由一至六塊不同的雕版印製,大多界線分明。他卻一反傳統,一幅作品竟由二十五回印刷而成,花上無數時間和精力在木板上雕刻和打磨,然後塗上調教好的顏料,把雕版精準地對上紙張的界線,再推進印刷機中加壓,之後一絲不苟地清理雕版,待紙張上的顏料完全乾透後又再重複以上工序。重複的印刷過程雖然非常耗時又花功夫,卻成就了Piangchoompu作品獨有的視覺效果,這種微妙和諧的立體感正正是作品的精粹。

在作品《茫茫荒野之二》(Middle of Nowhere No.2) 中背對觀眾的白鴿在遠觀其他正在自由翱翔的白鴿,他說:

「我希望表達處於外界與內在之間的中庸⋯⋯白鴿代表我,沒錯,亦可理解為自由。我相信所有人都希望獲得自由,但同時,這並非一貫的出路。我選擇站在中間,尋找那理想的平衡。」

至於如何尋找這所謂的平衡,不論是有關自由與困境、光與暗、經歷與理想,都需於人生各種變數中受時間的洗禮方可領會。這份意志上的韌力就是Piangchoompu為觀眾送上的一碗心靈雞湯。

Praween Piangchoompu 生於1989,現居泰國清邁。他的作品在地區及國際的展覽中被廣泛轉出,當中包括中國美術館北京第八屆國際藝術雙年展(2019)、台灣的國際版畫雙年展(2016)、泰國的泰京藝術獎展覽(2015)。他更於國際間獲獎無數,包括波蘭羅茲國際版畫雙年展(2016)、國立台灣美術館(2016)、東京國際迷你版畫三年展(2015)、廣州觀瀾版畫雙年展(2015)、印尼第六街國際三年展(2018)、挪威的皇后平面藝術獎(2016)及最近於南韓釜山國際版畫雙年展獲得的金獎(2019)。