14 March - 10 May 2014
Storytellers of the Town is an exhibition of work by Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook spanning two decades. Araya is one of Thailand’s foremost contemporary artists, whose practice is concerned with the fundamental aspects of life and death, collective experiences of history and fate, and the configuring of self through the redeployment of everyday images and situations. Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook: Storytellers of the Town includes seminal installation and video works, a number of which have never been presented outside of Thailand.
The installation Has Girl Lost Her Memory (1994), which has been reconstructed for 4A, presents the artists negotiations with traditional roles for women in Thailand, recognising the restrictions placed on her mother and grandmother, as well as her own attempts to surpass these limitations. Further exploring the circumvented space of women in Thai society, Great Times Message, Storytellers of the Town, The Insane (2002) is a multi-channel video installation which sees the artist give voice to those women whose experience in contemporary Thai society remains un-representable. By interviewing female patients of an insane asylum, Araya offers her subjects the opportunity to narrate their own experiences, while also drawing into focus a collective understanding of femaleness and the trauma that often accompanies it.
Having lost her mother at an early age, Araya’s work also attempts to create a space for the representation of death and loss. In The Class (2005) the artist leads a tutorial to a classroom of six corpses which are shrouded in white sheets and arranged side-by-side on silver morgue trays. The Class negotiates both the diversity of cultural attitudes towards mortality and the seeming futility of communicating with those that have passed.
In her more recent works, such as Some unexpected events sometimes bring momentary happiness. Afterwards, regret rises in our memory even for bygone hardship (2009) and Treachery of the Moon (2012) the artist shifts beyond the overriding sense of melancholia, creating works which are precariously imbued with humour, charm and joy. Often steeped with a sense of impermanence, sadness and loss, these works nonetheless act as a counterpoint to the artist’s contemplation of the emotional and physical trauma of female experiences and death.
Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook: Storytellers of the Town presents the artist’s attempts to find a language to represent her experience as a woman; a Thai person; a daughter and granddaughter; a teacher and as an individual who has experienced extreme loss through the deaths of those close to her.
The exhibition has been curated by John Clark and Clare Veal.
Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook was born in Trad, Thailand, in 1957. After earning both a BFA and an MFA in graphic arts from Silpakorn University, Bangkok, she continued her studies in Germany at the Hochschule für Bildende Künste Braunschweig, receiving a diploma in 1990 and an MA in 1994. Radjarmrearnsook’s work has been installed in solo presentations at international institutions including the National Gallery, Bangkok (1987, 1992, 1994, 1995 and 2002); Tensta Konsthall, Stockholm (2003); Bass Museum of Art, Miami Beach (2012); Walters Art Museum, Baltimore (2012) and Denver Art Museum, Denver (2013). She has been included in a number of biennial and periodic exhibitions including the Biennale of Sydney (1996 and 2010), Istanbul Biennale (2003) and Documenta 13 (2012). The artist’s work has also been show in group exhibitions internationally, at venues including Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art, Helsinki (2001 an 2007); Fine Arts Museum, Berne, Switzerland (2006); National Art Gallery, Singapore (2010); National Museum of Art, Osaka (2011); Asian Art Museum of San Francisco (2012) and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (2013). Rasdjarmrearnsook, a lecturer at the Faculty of Fine Arts, Chiang Mai University, lives and works in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
John Clark is a specialist on modern Japanese and Chinese art as well as several other Asian countries. He retired from Professor of Asian Art History [Personal Chair] at the University of Sydney in October 2013, and is a Fellow of the Australia Academy of Humanities. He first visited Thailand in October 1976, and has been working on modern and contemporary Thai art since 1992. He recently published the first comparative study in English of two modern Asian art cultures, Asian Modernities: Chinese and Thai art of the 1980s and 1990s, Sydney, Power Publications, 2010 with a forewords by Yin Shuangxi and Apinan Poshyananda.
Clare Veal is a PhD candidate in the Department of Art History & Film Studies at the University of Sydney, where she is completing her thesis on the relationship between photography and Thai identity from 1950 to 2010. She has published in Trans Asia Photography Reviews, Modern Art Asia, and the Silpakorn Journal of Fine Arts, and is currently working as a sub-editor for Asian art for the Routledge Encyclopaedia of Modernism.Between 2012 and 2013 she was a researcher in residence at the Thai Art Archives, Bangkok and completed fieldwork in Thailand with funding from the Asia Institute, Melbourne and the Royal Thai Embassy.
Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook: Storytellers of the Town is produced by 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art in association with ANU Drill Hall Gallery and the University of Sydney and is supported by the Commonwealth through the Australia-Thailand Institute of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Gordon Darling Foundation and 100 Tonson Gallery, Bangkok.