A solo exhibition featuring works by local street artist Alex Face (Patcharapol Tangruen) is underway at Bangkok CityCity Gallery through Dec. 27. The show includes new still life paintings created during Thailand’s recent lockdown, as well as two large-scale sculptures cast in bronze.
As with “Alive,” his 2016 exhibition of impressionist oil paintings inspired by Claude Monet’s water lily landscapes, “Monument of Hope” draws upon painterly traditions to give us his poetic reading—cute on the surface yet imbued with a withering seriousness—of the present.
During the stay-at-home decree, he and his 11-year-old daughter turned to still life painting to pass the time. Soon his wife was ordering flowers as he made works that drew upon both his street art skills and the classic compositions of the 17th-century Dutch painters he has long admired. Stuck at home, unable to venture out to paint on empty lots and abandoned sites, Alex Face found himself drawn to the humble artistry and allegorical symbolism of the medium, and began using it to still his mind and say something about this wretched annus horribilis full of challenges both unforeseen and all-too-predictable.
The main gallery mimics the hushed, contemplative viewing experience of Europe’s national galleries. Against the dark and crepuscular backgrounds of large paintings, luminous flowers burst from the pot-like head of Alex Face’s moody child. Flowers are age-old memento mori, but these compositions also hint at glorious human potential in the here and now.
Accompanied by butterflies of kaleidoscopic hues, each teeming bouquet is evocative of more than simply life’s transience: Are they new ideas or transformative strains of thought, perhaps, flourishing in the fertile minds of Thailand’s young generation? Upon such a reading, the downcast look of Alex Face’s signature character—rendered with skilled realism on pots of concrete, brass, gleaming bronze, and veined Carrara marble—suggests this potential will, if not nurtured and cross-pollinated, soon wilt.
Visitors enter through a vestibule-like chamber where a bronze sculpture invites them closer. Resonating in the bright anteroom is the ephemerality of life and all its earthly trappings, even those that appear most enduring: our art, our precious materials, our icons. But as well as tapping into his growing midlife angst over his own mortality, Alex Face also alludes to our political condition.
His three-eyed, bunny-eared character sits, glumly pondering its predicament, on the edge of a stolid plinth built to last. This despondent figure could be waiting for change, or a chance to shine, or could be about to walk away in dismay and disillusionment, to give up on the idea of monuments altogether. In matching paintings, a pale butterfly bearing the brilliant nectar of youth flutters in the distance. At a time when statues are unceremoniously disappearing and falling, the pensive 39-year-old artist asks: Where are the heroes we deserve? Through his more hopeful forays into still life, he also gestures at where we might, one day, find them.
“Monument of Hope” by Alex Face runs at Bangkok CityCity Gallery (Sathorn Soi 1– near MRT Lumpini station-parking at 123 Parking) from Oct. 31 to Dec. 27. The gallery is open from Wednesday to Sunday, 1pm to 7pm. For more information, please contact [email protected] or +66830872725