How do Australian artists understand America’s silent colonization of other continents and cultures? While he can’t speak for everyone, Thai-born Australian artist, Vipoo Srivilasa appears to be talking about a lot more than arts and crafts regardless of the apparent playfulness of his colorful ceramic figurines.
Vipoo Srivilasa’s “Red-Eared Slider,” a solo exhibition at Subhashok Art Center in Bangkok, Thailand, fills the gallery with fragile but nearly indestructible sculptures that elegantly explore the boundary between Asian and Australian art-making processes. Porcelain, according to the artist, is the connecting link between the two cultures; and identity is stylishly fashioned in these finely crafted works quietly defining the blurred lines that bled out from global colonialism. Differing identities are perfectly cast and formed and a new visual language seems to stand up and whisper its own story.
Vipoo’s move from Thailand to Melbourne in 1997 set the artist on a journey toward his own origins; finding himself at an intersection of Australian, American and Asian cultures, oddly enough, he discovered that he was accompanied by the true tale of the “Red-eared slider turtle.” Native to the US and brought to Thailand by a Japanese trader, the turtle is an aggressor that rapidly unbalances local ecosystems. The metaphor is fairly plain to see and the “environmental pest” the artist is so intrigued by, rears its delicately glazed head – with a porcelain boot on its back – to echo a subtle poetry about the distorted global media pool where we find ourselves swimming.
With this new body of ceramic works, Vipoo is addressing the general disregard human beings have for their own environment. Since red-eared turtles are raised as pets and then released into the local waterways, these seemingly nice friendly turtles end up competing viciously with native turtles for food, nests and space, upending the ecosystem.
Vipoo, a contemporary master in small-scale ceramics, has a potent imagination and his beings – while hail from no single country, nor bear flags of any particular belief – easily stand in for everyone. The artist’s life-long dedication to ceramic creation is what makes his commentary so distinct.
The newest works are more severe in their coloration and glazes than the previous series, and in that, perhaps truer to their cross-cultural intentions. Vipoo uses drippings and expressionistic brushstrokes, but they are then covered by tiny, flawless renderings of floral motifs and hybrid creatures. The works are a kind of exquisite corpse of our uncomfortable relationship with the natural and cultural worlds.
The exhibition also includes a collaborative project, a series called “Deity,” with collector Subhashok Angsuvarnsiri. This partnership began when an antique painter’s frame in Angsuvarnsiri’s collection caught the attention of the artist due to its intricate wood carvings and its religious meanings; the frames were conceived to hold sacred images atop altars, so the artist created seven enigmatic and unspecified deities, each designed to be encased within Subhashok’s original flower patterned frames. The idea was to both reconnect with the traditions of the past and complete the work of his skillful predecessors.
The show will be on view at S.A.C. Subhashok The Arts Centre, from April 2nd to April 30th, 2016. For more info check the artist’s official website: http://vipoo.com
Writing by Deianira Tolema