Relationship Between Growing Cities and Arts: Bangkok-based Artist Eiji Sumi.

Eiji Sumi

Eiji Sumi, a Japanese artist who now lives in Bangkok, Thailand, moved to and stayed in New York in 1994 and developed installations in urban spaces by applying optical and multimedia artwork, and took part in collaborations with architectural and design fields. The exhibition in Bangkok by the Japan Foundation in 2012 led to the creation and presentation of his works in Thailand as an instructor at the Department of Communication and Design, Faculty of Architecture, National Chulalongkorn University. His scope of activities has now expanded beyond Thailand to neighboring countries. This time, we asked him about his own activities, and the attractiveness and uniqueness of Thai contemporary art.

Raising Problems in Bangkok's Urban Space

'Densen/Plus α' presented at the exhibition in 2012 was an installation piece in which electric cables were installed in an indoor space. Looking at Bangkok's urban environment where distorted cables span everywhere in modern townscapes, this work raises the issue of cables, which are 'interruptions' that cannot normally exist indoors as materials, and it can be said to be a work that promotes sublimation of urban issues into art.

A person in charge of the Thai government's project for underground electric cables visited this exhibition, and at that time, there was no cable processing in progress at all. However, now, underground electrical cable work has been gradually implemented, and it seems to have become an opportunity to feel the effects of art on society.

'Awareness of the problem becomes art', this idea led him to a major reason for moving his base to Bangkok.

About the Appeal of Thai contemporary art

"Immature environments have a positive effect on art".

Around 2012, when Eiji Sumi moved his base to Thailand, there were numerous problems there, including political factional clashes and underdeveloped infrastructure. Thailand is now becoming increasingly urbanized, and Bangkok in particular has become one of the largest cities in Southeast Asia. 'The immature environment' that he felt existed in Thailand was at first reflected in his great appeal for art and its growth and development.

Suppression Acts as an Anti-Vector

"Thai people usually feel that they do not assert themselves strongly enough, but in addition to frustration with society, Buddhist discipline and teaching acts as an anti-vector, creating strong expressions. This anti-vector is probably the reason why Thailand produces so many artists who are full of energy and strong assertiveness."

Thai people, who have a quiet demeanor but at the same time, an open-minded one, seem to have the impression that they reflect their awareness of problems in a stronger way in their work, compared to Japanese people.

Creation of Conceptual Works

Sumi-Eiji, who had been engaged in art activities in New York, said that artists in Thailand are creating surprisingly conceptual works, compared to the art scene in New York which has a more 'entertaining' aspect.

"The fundamentals of art which can lead to the advanced art scene may have existed in Thailand's ideology since the beginning."

He cites as an example a work of hands-on art that uses a color in cooking to represent political factions, and that can be chosen by participants without explanation. He also points out that the art that comes from the boldness of chaotic ideas manifested in a strong form and the broadness as a national characteristic is unique, unlike that of Europe and the United States.

Thai Art Production Environment

What are the advantages in the environment when producing art in Thailand? He then gave me the following points:

・Materials are available cheaply.
 ・ Regulations on danger are still loose, making it easy to take bold challenges.
・Things are flexible.

In this way, the high degree of freedom that Japan does not have seems to be attractive.
In addition, each year in Thailand, recognition of art is rising, and we expect the market to expand.

Eiji Sumi's Future Activities

With the theme of 'around the time of play', he is envisioning a product that combines play, the posing of problem, and science.

'Play(e) scape' (2018) is a work in line with this theme; an amusement park as a 'shelter' from reality -what kind of reality do we escape from? It poses questions about the political aspects and the way of life of the people living there by using photographic works and installations that combine physics and art. These can be played with by all ages from children to adults using a deformed seesaws.

'Vacant Lot'

By following how vacant lots changes, it expresses our proposals for urban environmental problems in art.

In addition to cultivating young Thai artists, the future activities of Eiji Sumi as an artist will attract considerable attention.

Exhibition History

Art Science Museum-Singapore 2018-2019
Nobel Prize Laureate Physicist Richard Feynman's 'All Possible Path' Exhibition
Group Exhibition: Quark I/ Installation

Global Hostel Museum, Hefei, China 2016 / Group Exhibition: Landscape
Vacant Lot/ Photography + Lighting Sculpture- Hotel Asia /Landscape Exhibition

Christies Auction House Hong Kong, 2016
Group Exhibition: Sovereign Asian Art Prize Finalist Exhibition
Sinusoid I/ Sculpture

The Art Center Chulalongkorn University, 2016/ Group Exhibition: Oscillation
Quark IV/Installation

Public Art BTS Skywalk Bangkok Bangkok Illumination Exhibition 2016
BTS Skywalk Bangkok 2016 / Group Exhibition- Bangkok Illumination
Time /Installation

LP art Space Chongqing China/ Bangkok University Gallery / Gallery Soap Kitakyushu, Japan, 2015
Group Exhibition: Real Estate, Canvas of life / VR art

Great artist of tomorrow will go underground Exhibition, 2015
Bangkok Art and Cultural Center, Bangkok, Thailand
Group Exhibition: Countless Measure /Interactive Installation

H gallery at Hspace / Bangkok, 2014
Solo Exhibition: Quark/Installation

hpgrp Gallery New York, 2014
Solo Exhibition: Transverse/Installation

Jim Thompson Art Center 'Art on Farm' Exhibition, 2013
Group Exhibition: Cocoon / Installation

The Space Bangkok / Bangkok, 2013
Group Exhibition: Monitor Sinusoid / Installation

WTF Gallery / Bangkok, 2012
Solo Exhibition: Under-construction / Installation / Painting

Koi Art Gallery / Bangkok, 2012
Solo Exhibition: Densen Plus α / Installatoin / Painting

Nuit Blanche New York / Bring to light art festival, Brooklyn, New York, 2011
Group exhibition: Diaphaspectrum / Installation

Invisible Dog Art Center, Brooklyn, New York, 2011
Group exhibition: Speed of life / Installation

Nuit Blanche New York / Bring to light art festival, Brooklyn, New York, 2010
Group exhibition: Chimera of meteoshower / Installation

Salomon Arts Gallery, Tribeca, New York, 2010
Limited Editions Unlimited Design Exhibition : Group exhibition - Installation /Lighting Design / Video/ Photograph Designer's exhibition

Salomon Arts Gallery Tribeca New York, 2009
Group Exhibition : Light it up - Installation/Lighting Design

Toast Tribeca Festival / Salomon Arts Gallery Tribeca New York, 2009
Painting - Group exhibition

Onishi Gallery/ Chelsea New York, 2007
Group Exhibition: Land(e)scape- Drawing

Williamsburg Public House / Williamsburg New York, 2003

Editor: neu