Aug 07 - Oct 22, 2021
Under Pressure, 2021, Art performance with steamroller Variable size
A Disproportionate Burden #33, 2021, Installation with Cement Rod, Printing Ink on Canvas, 200 x 1000 cm / each
All images courtesy of SAC Gallery
With more than 30% of the workers in Thailand involved in agriculture, the Thai economy depends greatly on farming. Due to modernization, farms have undergone structural changes adding more mechanization, technology, and globalization, as they try to meet the demands of the global market. The number of pesticides that have been imported and used in Thailand has increased with each passing decade. Thai farmers have had to respond to the market demands for increasing crop yields and the need for greater productivity by not only expanding their tillable land but also using more and more chemicals in farming. As a developing nation, using pesticides is imperative in Thailand, however, the overuse and poor regulation of these chemicals pose health risks to farmers, their families, and the general population.
Bangkok-based artist Pichai Pongsasaovapark explores the health impact this has had on the people of Thailand. His artwork is known for addressing concerns around air pollution and contamination issues in society. This practice brought him to explore the health of the land and interview farmers firsthand, with special focus on the local people in the northern areas of Chiang Rai and Mae Hongson provinces.
A Disproportionate Burden #5, 2021, Botanicals and Oil on Mulberry Paper, 26.5 x 40 cm
A Disproportionate Burden #8, 2021, Botanicals and Oil on Mulberry Paper, 26.5 x 40 cm
A Disproportionate Burden #12, 2021, Botanicals and Acrylic on Mulberry Paper, 60 x 80 cm
A Disproportionate Burden #18, 2021, Mix Media on Mulberry Paper, 60 x 80 cm
He was moved by witnessing the pressure farmers are under to grow and produce the best and most beautiful product and to have shorter times between growing and selling, which is supposedly what the consumer wants. The widespread use of agri-chemicals, such as herbicides and pesticides, as well as the burning of their fields for faster turnover of the soil, are seen by farmers as necessary evils to be able to compete in the current market.
A Disproportionate Burden #13, 2021, Botanicals and Acrylic on Canvas, 103 x 195 cm
A Disproportionate Burden #15, 2021, Botanicals and Acrylic on Canvas, 108 x 195 cm
A Disproportionate Burden #14, 2021, Botanicals and Acrylic on Canvas, 108 x 195 cm
A Disproportionate Burden #25, 2021, Mix media collage with printing ink on newspaper, 84x100cm
A Disproportionate Burden #30, 2021, Mix media collage with printing ink on newspaper, 80x60cm
For this exhibition, A Disproportionate Burden, presented by SAC gallery, Pichai continues his approach of manipulating surface texture through using nontraditional artistic tools. His works capture in a tangible way the real and present danger that goes unseen by the naked eye, in effect, saying: “What you can't see, can hurt you.” While previously he used exhaust pipes for his series, Poison Flower and Deluge, for this series he used steamroller, to crush flowers, vegetables, coffee beans, and sugar canes. Steamrolling to flatten the beautiful and healthy produce grown by farmers for our benefit is an effort to give form to the dangers of the chemicals used in modern agricultural production. Pichai’s work captures visually the pressures that farmers feel to increase agricultural production. The steamrolling act of printing also is symbolic of the destruction of illegal and counterfeit goods, a way to demonstrate a resolve to protect imported foreign products. Additional works in this series utilize newspapers, another printing approach, through which Pichai highlights the stock pages of the newspaper, reflecting how the economy drives the overuse of these agri-chemicals.
Over his career, Pichai’s work has used acrylics, mixed media, and photography to create abstract and conceptual work. For this series, he also introduces the use of argi-chemicals into his process. The textures in these works convey the deepness of the pain inflicted on humans when they are exposed to the toxic chemicals. In order to draw attention to this point, Pichai exposed himself to the chemicals as he created the textures in his work. He desired to know the feeling and to understand the pain of those who are forced to use these things for the betterment of our society. Falling ill during the process, he realized that no one is safe and that the best of intentions can have unforeseen and harmful consequences. The dangers to both farmers and consumers lurk in the surface of the resulting artwork, and the usage of the 10-ton steel wheel of the steamroller evokes the pressure that farmers face to use agrichemicals to stay competitive and meet global market demands.
No part of society is completely safe from pesticides and their health effects, though a disproportionate burden is shouldered by the people of developing countries such as Thailand.
A Disproportionate Burden #24, 2021, Charcoal, Acrylic and Oil on Canvas, 110 x 150 cm
A Disproportionate Burden #32, 2021, Mix Media Collage with Printing Ink on Newspaper, 60 x 80 cm
Pichai Pongsasaovapark (Born Hat Yai, Thailand, 1963)
A Bangkok-based artist who uses acrylics, mixed media, and photography to create abstract and conceptual work. His work is in a number of public and private collections, including the Luciano Benetton Foundation (Milan, Italy), National Institutes of Health (Washington, DC), and the United Nations (Bangkok, Thailand), and included in the landmark volume, Thailand: Spiritual & Material – Contemporary Artists from Thailand (2015).