Gallery: Axel Vervoordt Gallery
Artist(s): Ryuji Tanaka
Opening / Event Date: 19 Oct, 2019
Closing / End Date: 1 Feb, 2020
An artist’s work is very often the product of inner contemplation and meditative ritual. This concept, specifically when applied to abstraction, is profound, relying on the focused attempt to move beyond conditioned thinking into deeper states of awareness. This ‘movement’ – or journey, rather – is an artist’s process, his quest to manifest memory. But what does that path, which is above all a private one, look like? What happens when artists follow those trails of thought? Where do they bring us and what should we expect to see at the end?
These questions are prompted by Somyot Hananuntasuk in his latest solo exhibition, Intangible Journeys, at Affinity Art Gallery. Having spent the last 40 years in Munich, Germany, the Thai artist has found himself at a moment of pause, lending his solo exhibition an air of intensely personal introspection. Like a photograph captures a singular event, each of Hananuntasuk’s canvases captures moments of inner reflection and bearing instinctive insignia of lived moments and emotions. Here they are strung together so the artist’s oeuvre can be read as a thorough, albeit elusive, timeline of experience.
Central to Hananuntasuk’s work is the instinct-driven process of creation itself: it is critical that one’s senses take over while premeditated form, objective and calculated intent are absent. The artist strives to capture the ‘unseen’, stating, “every time I work it’s like a new journey and the destination is unknown. My senses and my experiences serve me as my guide.” Hananuntasuk has long suggested that artists dwell within their own worlds, acting as archaeologists who must excavate layers of lived sensation. Each work bears the instinctive insignia of the artist’s subterranean, or rather, subconscious, explorations.
Ranging in size, the paintings in Intangible Journeys can be energetic, analytical, spiritual or full of tenderness. Often revealing organic shapes and round, sensual impressions, these are perhaps referencing his earlier, hyper-realist depictions of human forms. Sweeping swaths of pigments are laid as soothing colour fields and juxtaposed with somewhat hurried strokes – the earlier born of lengthier pensive episodes whilst the latter mirrors a mere snippet of experience. Yet there persists a rhythmic give and take between them that allows viewers to piece together Hananuntasuk’s myriad musings, and further, to consider what form their own odysseys towards self-understanding might take.
While Hananuntasuk is not interested in spirituality as a social idea or abstraction as a historical category, he recognizes that these classifications share a real belief in the metaphysical and meditative properties of work, materials, process and practice, a kind of secular faith in the possibilities of non-objective image-making and world-building. Maintaining a daily meditation ritual and regular attendance at silent retreats, the artist’s passive, thoughtful nature is exemplified in each brushstroke. It becomes apparent that his desire is not for transcendence through abstraction, but for a greater embeddedness in the world – a deeper understanding of his own memory and intuition through practice and process.
In this light, the work presented in Intangible Journeys abandons reason, giving way to something that has never before existed: the option to systematically pursue a track leading to abstraction, a track implicit, be it said, in its very indeterminism. Hananuntasuk reminds us, “if the journey is interrupted, I simply make a new path and a new plan. I adjust anything and everything until I reach the final destination. In the end, what people experience from my paintings is the journey itself”.
Born in 1949, Somyot Hananuntasuk studied fine art at Bangkok’s Silpakorn University before receiving attending Munich’s Kunstakademie on a scholarship. He furthered his studies in the faculty of painting and sculpture at Koenigliche Kunstakademie in Copenhagen, prompting the start of extensive regional and international exhibitions early in his career. Hananuntasuk’s works are included in notable public collections such as the Schmidtbank in Nuremberg and Museum Würth in Künzelsau, Germany. He now lives and works between Munich and Bangkok.