Deity is a collaborative project between collector Subhashok Angsuvarnsiri and artist Vipoo Srivilasa. Their partnership began when Srivilasa was introduced to Mr Angsuvarnsiri’s private collection. One particular object captured Srivilasa imagination; an antique painter’s frame detailed intricately with wood carvings. The frame is hand carved with delicate flower patterns and is often used to hold religious paintings atop its altar.
Based on the original purpose of the frame, Srivilasa created 7 enigmatic and unspecified deities that merge within them. Each was uniquely designed to fit within the wooden framed shrine made by Mr Angsuvarnsiri’s team. The frame was adjusted to accommodate 3D aspects of ceramic sculptures and become an elaborate stage for each of Srivilasa’s Deities.
This exhibition “Red-Eared Slider” comes from a very common animal, the “red-eared slider turtle”, native to the United States and feral in countries across the globe. These countries include Thailand and Australia; known as the “Japanese Turtle” in Thailand because a Japanese trader was the first trader to sell them. Red- Eared slider turtles make their own way to adapt to the environment. Normally they are fed as pets and when their owners release them into the local waterways they will break the natural chain because they are very aggressive and bold. They are gradually becoming a big threat to the native freshwater Thai turtles, competing with them for food, nests and space. Another downside is that the native turtles have no immunity to parasites and diseases carried by red- eared sliders. All of this is affecting water quality by disrupting natural ecology. Even worse, turtles can live for a long time which means they will pose a threat for long-term effects as well.
For Thai-born artist Vipoo, who shares his life between Bangkok and Melbourne, the red-eared slider is the best symbol to represent the disregard humans have for their environment. This symbolism also deals with issues of cultural identity and alienation, which pose difficult problems for society that most of us cannot resolve. This is most evident in Vipoo’s choice to communicate through body language in lieu of adding mouths to his figures. The images dialogue through their composition and relationship to their space, invoking social commentary and ideas through the clay. His dynamic balance of astute social observation and personal imagination distinguishes his work in contemporary ceramics.
In 2011, the Census revealed that 1 in 4 Australians was born overseas. As a Thai born Australian, I am interested in culture shift and migration experience, how the migration affects native people.
Rabbits were introduced as part of a broad attempt by early colonists to make Australia as much like Europe as they possibly could. It was hoped that they would flourish so that the owners could hunt them. Rabbit may look cute and cuddly but they have been a persistent pest and invasive species in Australia for 150 years.
They causing millions of dollars of damage to crops, contribute to soil erosion and threaten native burrowing animals by competing for food. They have settle well in Australia, a new found home.
The inhabitants of Vipoo Srivilasa’s enigmatic porcelain kingdom have much to tell us. As contemporary figurines they communi- cate through gesture, pattern, colour and texture: their delicately configured messages are full of poetic insight into the human condition, carrying more than just a touch of wry humour.
Srivilasa’s newest cross-species characters embody a discussion of ‘settlement’. “Animals that are so cute you don’t know how bad they are – rabbits, feral cats – invaders”, thus setting up double-edged analogies with asylum seekers, the European appropriation of the Australian continent and his continuing investigation of the fluidity of borders between East and West.
Vipoo Srivilasa, taking his cue from 18th century, European examples, makes porcelain figurines. Interestingly, both the 18th century porcelain designers and Vipoo, use the idea of the exotic other. One looked to the East and saw monkey orchestras, pagodas and parasols while the other, Vipoo, looks to the West and sees St Sebastian, the Statue of Liberty and the Birth of Venus.
For his new exhibition, Vipoo Srivilasa has created a series of twelve, porcelain figurines. They are coloured blue and white with gold highlights. Each one depicts a single, human individual, without sex or facial features, standing or sitting, and in one instance riding on the back of a mythological monster. Running up behind the figures are small plants, branches, shells and other insignia. Some figures are encrusted with tiny flowers, others with thought bubbles, tattooing, a camera, books and, in Vipoo’s self-portrait, two cats are curled on his shoulder.
The array of cultural sources on view is not easily summarised. In the past, Vipoo has identified with drag queens and leather men. This time he assumes the role of an entrepreneur with Silicon Valley-like aspirations. Firstly, his goal is ‘to make a million before dinner’. To do this he has structured a Twelve Step program to success. Each step is personified in a famous work of art. Part of the fun of this work is in deciphering the clues that Vipoo inscribes in miniature on the figures. This astonishing detail requires that a curious viewer will linger and look closer. Is this a strategy calculated for a time of rapid consumerism? As he says of himself - ‘I have very little attention span. I stop work and look at Facebook.’
Will Vipoo make his million before dinner? His wildly exaggerated aim satirises the ubiquitous currency of social media, celebrity, reality TV and self-improvement regimes. Candid about his desire to succeed, Vipoo has ‘written’ an instruction manual on success, in the highly original form of ‘porcelain allegories’. He cunningly constructs an exhibition about contemporary desires through the skill of his unusually delicate craftsmanship.
Luang Phor - Luang Pi (Elder Monk - Novice Monk) series consists of nine works. It challenges and criticises ideas of social materialism through the interpretation of the beauty of Buddha status and its hidden meaning.
I build the Indigo Tomb to protect my creativity soul from self doubt, insecurity and jealousy. The tombs held sacred objects that I might need in the art world, including god of wealth statues and art colleague figurines.
My series Patience Flower (as it took a long time to produce one!) was inspired by an 18th century Meissen Snowball Blossoms Teapot that I saw in Germany. This teapot is decorated by hundreds of hand painted three-dimensional blossoms. I was most impressed by the amount of patience, concentration and skill that must have been required and it inspired me to create work with a similar resonance. I created this series during my residency in Jingdezhen in late 2010-12.
Indigo Kingdom tells a theatrical story of the contemporary human impact upon coral reefs. Using a traditional Thai narrative of an imagined kingdom as a foundation from which to create his own personal kingdom, Srivilasa turns ceramic sculpture into a storytelling device - in this exhibition the installation becomes the reinterpretation of an ancient Thai temple plan.
In the same vein, he uses his work to write his own biography. To guide us through the play of references in this complex commentary, Srivilasa calls upon the help of his mermaid alter-ego. The mermaid, like the coral, is the canary in the mine, an indicator of imminent threat. In all, Indigo Kingdom is as much high-camp globalist fantasy as it is a sober reminder of the environmental crisis of the present day.
Fortune Teller is my respond to the environmental issue. Using Thai traditional Palm Reading to present my ideas. The series focus on coral reef damage. The work include a series of blue and white, intricately decorated ceramic hands.
Visitors can also participate in the creation process by building their own pieces of coral from clay provided in the gallery. Those coral pieces will gradually come together to form a coral reef, growing larger as more people participate in the project.
Lai Krarm series are based on ancient Thai blue and white domestic ware. The works utilize ‘Cool Ice’, which is new Australian porcelain, as well as my own method of painting on unglazed clay surface.
The works explore my concerns about the modern world’s complex mixture of materialism, cross culture mingling, Buddhist philosophy and disposable culture. I also uses age-old techniques of hand-pinching and hand-painting to emphasize the intimacy of human touch over the modern mechanical world we find ourselves inhabiting.