Sunday, October 7, 2012

Back to the Beijing Biennale for Kriangkrai Kongkhanun
Digby Watson

Kriangkrai Kongkhanun
The 5th Beijing Biennale marks the return to the Biennale for Kriangkrai Kongkhanun who previously had his work displayed there in 2008 when the Biennale coincided with the Beijing Olympics. This year, the Biennale proved no less eventful with 261 artists originating from 85 countries. So far, the Beijing Biennale has been held successively for four times in 2003, 2005, 2008 and 2010. The participating artists have totaled more than 2000 and the visitor numbers have reached an estimated one million during the past seven years. 

The National Art Museum of China

This year the Biennale is being held at the National Art Museum of China from the 28th of September to the 22nd of October and the theme for the exhibition is ‘Future and Reality’. The idea behind this premise is that mankind has been idealizing an abstract future for centuries. However, this vision needs to be grounded in reality in order for it to have any true sense of direction. If we take stock of the world around us, what can we predict for the potential of mankind? Today’s media is filled with natural disasters, impending crises and human conflicts. How does this impact our dreams for the future? In a sense, this is an appropriate theme for a Biennale held in the capital city of China. A capital that has been seeing remarkable growth during recent years as it reaches towards its aspirations for the future. 
Kriangkrai Kongkhanun, Whirlpool 1-3, Woodcut, 200x300 cm, 2010
Kriangkrai Kongkhanun, Beijing Biennale 2012 

Apart from the physical world which we inhabit, another aspect which directs us to our future is our spiritual strength. By understanding our inner core, we can determine the course of our lives. Lack of understanding can cause us to lose our way. Kriangkrai Kongkhanun’s work explores the idea that hell is within us. His work – woodcut prints – that was selected for the Biennale was exhibited in a series of three panels, each depicting aquatic scenes with amorphic, mutated versions of sea creatures. These brutal creatures of his imagination have fluid-like motion that seems to drag the viewer down - literally into the pits of hell. This feeling of the hell within us is a constant theme in Kriangkrai’s work as he is largely influenced by the Theravada strain of Buddhism, the predominant religion of his native country, Thailand. Even though this work is based on religion, the sensations depicted in the work – anger, confusion, helplessness – is a constant presence in most people’s lives. These emotions shape our reality and can define our future. If we become overwhelmed by our emotions, what does this mean for our personal future? Can we hope to attain our lofty goals when our own compass us fails due to our inner turmoil?

Digby Watson is a freelance writer based in Bangkok