Award-winning Thai artist, Wittawat Tongkeaw, who is currently pursuing a doctorate at Silpakorn University, built his early reputation on works featuring poignant land, sea, and skyscapes. But, he says, paintings of natural scenery caught in time and space are now behind him and he has moved on to the solemnity and symbolism of still life. In his latest series, titled Mythical Reality, he has matured with greater focus on the meanings and gravitas of each work. Still possessing incredible photorealism skills, he now questions surface beauty to get at the depth of human thoughts and beliefs.
What is the concept behind this new series of paintings?
My creative concept for this series centres on what we perceive as truth. It is a philosophical question based on how we search for understanding in our surroundings. We constantly seek answers from observation. We consider the world around us through many methods – hence I look for meaning in my paintings. Social contexts have becomes more and more complicated through time and so getting at the truth of something is not as easy as it used to be. Understanding or interpreting something becomes a matter of the individual’s frame of mind, experience and perspective, which is why the truth can be transformable and misconstrued.
So how do you yourself see ‘the truth’?
I have found that there are many myths circling in our society, created through the relationships between the individual’s beliefs and prejudices. These illusory entities support, encourage, and push us to certain behaviours and actions that we conduct both conscientiously and unconscientiously. These myths build up, attach themselves and take control of our minds, becoming beliefs. So trends have taken form in our ego and cover “the truth” in our minds.
How then do these paintings instruct the viewer?
I use my paintings to narrate and question the many myths and illusions that increasingly populate discourses in our society. These deceptions have been transformed into action. Take religious beliefs as an example; these are interpreted by each person based on their values and principles, but they are also repeated to the point where they become “core beliefs” in social discourse, never to be questioned. But one should be able to question the differences between form and content; between superficiality and core values; between true faith and superstition. The lines between these things have become blurred by post-modern ideas. However, the concept of individuality has become clearer and taken strong root.
What are the meanings of the key paintings?
In “Mythology (Surface No. 2),” the painting shows seamless combinations of fruits and vegetables. I ask what the truth is. Can you believe what appears in front of your eyes? Is it just an image or is it a myth that we have given meanings to according to our individual perspective?
With “The Monument of Crisis,” I try to show that we are slaves to knowledge. Knowledge brings on reasoning but this reasoning is perverted by a modern society that hangs on to preconceived, ;unshakable; truths. However, knowledge also comes with power in itself. It is ready to establish itself as the only truth.
“Mythology of Truth,” displays Rodin’s the Thinker among other statues. I try to pose the question that if all knowledge conforms to predisposed rules, should we then believe in it or not?
In “Mythology or Narrative,” I want to expose the dangers that religions have engendered – that core values get blurred by superficiality. Do the social myths
surrounding religion lead people toward enlightenment or toward darkness? Truth, mythology, discourse, contentment, blind faith, knowledge and ignorance surround us and are deeply rooted within us, so that it has become difficult to distinguish between them.
“Social 0°C,” peels an onion without losing its layers. It shows an onion frozen in ice and it allowed me to play with light and shades. I think that it is difficult to peel an onion to its core without shedding some tears. This is comparable to having doubts about something. The deeper one digs, the more dangerous our doubts become.
From November 15
Adler Subhashok Gallery
160/3 Sukhumvit Soi 39 | 02-662-0299
sacbangkok.com | Thu-Fri 10am-5pm, Sat-Sun 11am-6.30pm