Surreal Times: Nok Charernsri’s ‘Love is the Reason’ Exhibit at Kata’s VR Gallery

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by Marque A. Rome

“Love in my perspective is not about loving human beings but about loving what I’m doing,” explained artist Luxsana ‘Nok’ Charernsri during an interview over the weekend. What she’s doing is art. “I translate my ideas from abstract to realistic.” Her remarks came during opening night at Mom Tri’s Villa Royale VR Gallery in Kata Beach for Nok’s exhibition called ‘Love is the Reason’.

Oil paintings and a large sculpture comprised Nok’s works in this showing, her second in Phuket; the first was called “Beautiful Darkness’ at the Vichen Art Gallery. The young artist is well-known for watercolours, and several attending that evening had been her students in learning watercolour painting.

Her compositions in that oeuvre are appealing but hardly ground-breaking — conventional still-lifes, landscapes and portraits.

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Her work in oils, on the other hand, is thought-provoking and unconventional, and so is her sculpture (in this exhibition, a kneeling, life-sized female nude, black, covered in black snowflakes, with a white shadow of powdered rock on a black floor cloth).

Nok, 33, hails from Singburi, a little-known province in Thailand’s Central Region. “It’s a province in the lower Northern Region,” explained a Thai newsman, normally expert in such matters, “that’s why she went to Chiang Mai University.” He was right about the university, where Nok compiled an enviable record, but wrong about the region. Even the Tourism Authority of Thailand seems to know nothing about Singburi — despite presence there of Bang Rachan, where eleven farmers famously held off the Burmese army — except that it has a fish festival in the last week of December every year.

Perhaps it is partly for this reason that Nok feels misunderstood: “I didn’t live with my parents much,” she said explaining the black backgrounds that predominate in her works at this exhibition. “They didn’t want me to study art, they didn’t support me in that, and that’s what makes my work so dark — because I was sad.” But, true to the tradition of her forebears at Bang Rachan, Nok has been a fighter, pursuing art as a career and developing a formidable impasto technique in the process.

In impastpo, the artist lays paint on so thickly it seems to be coming out of the canvas. Nok’s roses, for example, one might almost pick. Roses are a theme in many of her works, likewise ladders; and human figures with smoky clouds where their heads belong.

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Dark, indeed, and disturbing, in its surrealism echoing Rene Magritte.

While still a teenager, in 1999, she was runner-up in a watercolour contest put on by the Department of Education, and also in that year won a contest for realistic painting in which the theme was ‘The King’. Previously, she had been winner of an art contest on the topic of ‘The Science of Imagination”, also put on by the Department of Education.

Nok was a leading student in the Faculty of Fine Arts at Chiang Mai University in 2005 when the Thai Art Council, with support from the Ministry of Culture and National Culture Commission, selected her to attend an Art Museum and Curation field trip and art workshop in the US, and also awarded her money to put on an exhibition in Bangkok.

Upon return from study in California, eight years ago, she moved to Phuket, where she has painted and taught art in school. “I don’t have my own gallery,” she said.

Her themes are not those typical of Thai artists locally, whether they have their own gallery or not. She does not focus on Thai themes and eschews use of ‘lai Thai’ in her paintings, which, as a gallery owner in attendance noted, are “wholly Western in tradition.” They also appeal far more to intellect than to the exigencies of commerce, which might soil her otherwise purely artistic vision.

“Why did you name the exhibition ‘Love is the Reason’?” she was asked.

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“Because love is the reason for my art,” she replied, “it’s taken a long time to do these paintings.” A long time, surely, and, one surmises, a lonely time, because the work reflects not the happy-idiot pieces serving mass tourism but her individual self-expression.

Nok’s exhibition continues till 30th June. For information contact Mom Tri’s Villa Royale at 076-333-568 or info@villaroyalephuket.com

 

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