UDOMSAK KRISANAMIS, Never Forget, 2007, acrylic, collage and noodles on cotton blanket, 120 × 90 cm. Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong.

Planet Caravan

Udomsak Krisanamis

Lehmann Maupin
Hong Kong

In the course of immigrating, there is more to acquiring a new language than meets the eye, and this proves certainly true for the Chicago-studied Thai artist Udomsak Krisanamis. His collage practice, in which he applies scraps of found objects onto his canvas, exemplifies the process of cultural assimilation. “Planet Caravan” at Lehmann Maupin, Hong Kong, is Krisanamis’s first major solo exhibition in the greater China region, featuring key works that span the past decade of his career.

Never Forget (2007) is a prime example of Krisanamis’s collage work. It is clear that the artist approaches the surface area of his material from all angles. A cotton blanket is covered in black, white and blue acrylic paint, and streaks of glossy orange appear to be falling upwards on the canvas, apparently having dried off while the painting was placed upside-down. Upon closer inspection, one sees that a separate yet strangely similar texture is created with noodles, which are affixed horizontally across the work. Most prominently, numerous cutouts of the numbers “8” and “0” are glued atop the painted surface in all directions. Subtly placed stacks of the two numbers come together to form a current—a cascade of teeming energy—that seemingly portrays a multitude of connotations, from “the void” (zero) to “infinity” (eight) to a sign of good fortune à la traditional Chinese culture. As such, Never Forget piques the viewer’s curiosity through its visual, material and iconographic dimensions.

Krisanamis is marked by his proclivity for using everyday objects: cutouts of numbers, noodles and mesh tape on top of cotton blankets. The artist does not insist on an underlying narrative behind his choice of items; rather, the impression is that his works integrates objects that are found in his studio, or in his quotidian settings. In a similar vein, Krisanamis incorporates music that he listens to into his art. Not only does the artist name his artworks with well-known song titles—such as “Freddie Freeloader” by Miles Davis and “Knock Three Times” by Tony Orlando and Dawnhe sees his spontaneous method of art production as being parallel to musical improvisation. Krisanamis gives seemingly incongruous elements—most conspicuously mesh tapes and noodles—a sense of rhythm and texture that blends into the artwork.

UDOMSAK KRISANAMIS, Will O’ The Wisp, 2014, oil, acrylic and fiberglass mesh tape on plywood, 152 × 249 × 5 cm. Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong.

UDOMSAK KRISANAMIS, Knock Three Times, 2014, acrylic, collage and engraving on plywood, 137 × 82 cm. Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong.

Installed in the main hall of the gallery are Krisanamis’s recent, abstract works. Pieces in this section are marked by layers of long, thin strokes of paint across a white surface. This practice originates from the artist’s experience of teaching himself the English language, where, as a new immigrant to the United States, he would read the local newspaper and blot out English words that he recognized. In this sense, a layer of ink represents his growing consciousness that fills up the blank canvas, and, in turn, the artwork a result of such accumulation.

Will O’ The Wisp (2014), a large-scale painting of approximately 150 centimeters by 250 centimeters, is a fascinating achievement created with a restricted set of colors. This visual “stream of consciousness” with swirls of blue strokes, alongside intervals of succulent azure and square patterns created by mesh tapes, is one that commands admiration from the viewer.

In Knock Three Times (2014), the artist ingeniously explores the theme of “crossing out” by taking the opposite approach. Instead of applying layers of paint onto a wooden canvas, he carves into the plywood and examines the already-existing sediment within—the tree grain. There is a strange serenity and profoundness that his engravings exude onto the gallery, as they evoke notions of history that a piece of wood—and its origin as a tree—might attest to.

In addition to the paintings, this exhibition presents a musical element—a vinyl record entitled Dynamic Duo (2014), which comprises Bach’s French Suites (1722–25). The classical piece recorded on the vinyl, performed by Canadian pianist Glenn Gould, is one that Krisanamis had been searching for a long time and stumbled upon by chance in Hong Kong. With the addition of this Baroque music, the exhibition is made all the more intimate and appreciable as an artistic presentation of Krisanamis’s cognizance.

Udomsak Krisanamis’s “Planet Caravan” is on view at Lehmann Maupin gallery, Hong Kong, until January 10, 2015.