The walls between us
I stepped into the STPI Gallery recently, expecting to be greeted by the “breast-stupa” motif. The image is an iconic element in works by well-known Thai artist Pinaree Sanpitak. She is holding a solo show, Fragmented Bodies: The Personal and The Public, at the gallery.
Instead, I found myself face-to-face with suspended panels of handmade paper in earth tones ranging from nude to deep brown. The walls of paper are arranged in such a way that the central gallery it occupies is transformed into a maze-like space.
Titled The Walls, the large-scale installation is made up of 100 paper works created during Sanpitak’s residency at the STPI Creative Workshop last year. The work is part of her enduring exploration of what it means to be human, such as through shared experiences and how people interact with one another.
Rather than feel suffocated by the walls of paper, I found myself drawn into the labyrinth, winding and weaving my way through the panels. It felt as if I was doing a dance of sorts, dodging the gently swaying skin-like sheets whilst getting as close to them as possible to marvel their mesmerising texture.
The “breast-stupa” motifs appear in other works in the exhibition. Rendered with simple lines, the image resembles vessels, mounds of earth and what looks to me like a menstrual cup. They remind me of how the artist views the body as a vessel of experience and perception, as well as one that goes through transitions.
Some of her works feature the use of gold leaf, perhaps influenced by her artistic training in Japan. Gold leaf is also commonly used in Thai temples as offerings to Buddha. Her gold-leaf “breast-stupa” images therefore, struck me as a poignant gesture of honouring the life-giving role of women.
The muted palette in most of her works give way to fiery red and rich tones in her new Breast Works Red Alert! series. The colour red is often associated with politics in Thailand, as well as with the blood of the people and the land. As a fellow Thai, the works in this series reminded me of the 2010 clashes in Thailand. The limitless references embodied by the simple motif is perhaps what makes this show so personal and captivating.
Details on Fragmented Bodies: The Personal and The Public here.