10 Chancery Lane Gallery presents “Reversed Reality”, an exhibition of recent work by prominent Thai artist Sutee Kunavichayanont, curated by Iola Lenzi, from October 31 – November 25. The exhibition opening will be held during Hong Kong Art Week – Autumn Edition (27 October – 6 November) organized by the Hong Kong Art Gallery Association.
Thailand’s Sutee Kunavichayanont (b. 1965) is known for his formally engaging and conceptually sophisticated oeuvre about power and politics in the world today. Predominantly installation-based, Sutee’s practice combines cerebral tactics, an aesthetic command of materials and techniques, and participation-inducing strategies that playfully enlist viewers in dialogues about freedom and civic responsibility. Though his perspective is initially nurtured in the context of Thailand, Sutee’s pieces transcend local specifics to speak to global audiences about democratic values and the thinking, contributing role of the citizen in society.
In this new body of work, “Reversed Reality”, produced for exhibition at 10 Chancery Lane Gallery, Hong Kong, Sutee Kunavichayanont casts his gaze on populism and power in today’s unstable global political environment. Though using his own Thailand’s current volatile and polarised political context as a tangible starting point—in which context the artist himself has been the subject of recent factional political persecution—Sutee expands beyond Thai borders. Through the prism of Siam’s and Asia’s colonial past, as well as via the trope of China’s Cultural Revolution, and before that the Salem Witch-hunt, Sutee investigates the connections between history and tensions pitting the individual against the anonymous, lynching crowd that purports to represent democracy.
In works such as the 2016 blackboard painting In the Name of Civilization, the artist returns to his signature monochrome white chalk narrations on blackboard to tell the story of imperialisms over time and geography. Picturing a world map, and through references to modern colonial history, the grandiose painting portrays the age-old human attraction to the domination of fellow-man and territorial land-grab, all in the name of “civilization”. Developed in the 1990s, Sutee’s blackboard pictures are pictorially seductive for their delicate chalk monochrome white on black, as well as semantically compelling due to their reference to the familiar school-room and its promise of monolithic truth.
“Truth”, like history, is a shifting, elusive entity. Scrutinising the slippery nature of “truth” as disseminated via Twitter sound-bites, on Facebook, and in televised political debates involving future world leaders, is Sutee’s 2016 “Reversed Reality” signage series, the second major work of this exhibition. This set of three signs, designed to be handled by viewers in the 10 Chancery Lane Gallery space, pairs duos of words, one of the duo written in reverse so that it can only be deciphered when the sign is held up to a mirror: imperialism/civilization; hero/fascist; democracy/tyranny. Through this playful visual device proposing polar opposite concepts conveyed through reversed writing, Sutee suggests that nothing is what it seems, that sense can easily be distorted into nonsense, and conversely, that nonsense can be made to seem rational by looking at it in the mirror. A series of prints produced from the carved signs also feature in the exhibition.