Regarded as a vanguard within Thai art, Inson Wongsam is mythologized both for the physical journey the artist took as a young man, and the 50 years of exploring the possibilities of abstract art. Today the 80-year-old’s sensitivity to materials as well as deliberations with form have distinguished him as a pioneering sculptor, acknowledged in the 100-plus sculptures, woodblock prints and paintings on view at the BACC.
In the early sixties, graduate Inson drove a Lambretta from Thailand through India and Pakistan, arriving in Europe before eventually heading to America. Using a stack of woodcut prints as barter for lodgings, he didn’t return to Thailand until some 13 years later. His worldly travels are legendary to younger artists, especially Navin Rawanchaikul, who created a life-size Perspex model of the artist riding his scooter in his 1999 series Fly with Me to Another World.
Prior to, and upon arriving in Europe, Inson’s art was grounded in realism, but in Paris of the 1960s abstraction was prevalent, and he became immersed in the momentum, which accelerated after his move to America. He regularly appropriated found objects in his creations.
One of Thailand’s most international modernist sculptors, Inson’s unrealized submerged installation, Under the Sea (1966-74), was an ambitious vision of more than 400 welded metal models. The full-scale versions were to be constructed as a large marine habitat, though a lack of funds meant his environmentally charged sunken monument never materialised.
Resettling to northern Thailand after his return in 1974, Inson connected with his vernacular heritage to create sensuously hewn polished teakwood sculptures from deforested stumps and logs. Drawing from traditional farm implements and furniture, the curvilinear forms evolved through sensitivity to the capability of the materials, and to a rural existence that became outmoded by the pace of modernity.
Until Nov 23