The exhibition has two distinct but interrelated parts. The Vessels comprises the first overview of more than twenty years of Pinaree’s works on paper, culminating in a new series of drawings, In the Jars. Exhibited for the first time, the installation The Mats and The Pillows was conceived in conjunction with The Roof, a large-scale, hanging fabric installation, commissioned by Arts Brookfield, that will be on view concurrently at the Brookfield Place Winter Garden in New York City’s Financial District (April 19 – July 5, 2017).
Pinaree is one of the most compelling and respected Thai artists of her generation, and her work can be counted among the most powerful explorations of women’s experience in all of Southeast Asia. Her primary inspiration over the past twenty-five years has been the female body, distilled to its most basic forms and imbued with an ethereal spirituality. Her work is informed by a quiet minimalism that reflects her training in Japan. Often called a feminist or Buddhist artist, she resists such easy categorizations, preferring to let her work speak to each viewer directly, to the heart and soul, with the most basic language of form, color, and texture. Pinaree works in a wide variety of media – ranging from painting, sculpture, installation, textiles, ceramics, and glass, to performance and culinary arts – but some of her most intimate, subtle work is done on paper, often small in scale. The exhibition presents a selection of works on paper that traces the evolution of the body and vessel motifs in her work, particularly the abstracted female torso and breast. For many years, and certainly since the birth of her son in 1993, a central focus of her work has been the female breast, which she relates both to imagery from the natural world, such as clouds and plants, and to the iconic forms of the Buddhist stupa (shrine) and offering bowl. Other vessel motifs allude to traditional Thai forms, such as the water storage pots that inspired the delicate graphite drawings of In the Jars.
This selection of works on paper, with their bodies and vessels, is in dialogue with The Mats and The Pillows, an installation in which visitors are invited to sit on a collaged array of traditional reed mats and pillows, incorporating their own bodies into the artwork, grounded and at rest. Pinaree relates that the installation “takes off from a Thai expression, ‘one mat one pillow,’ referring to immigrants, mainly Chinese, coming to the country with nothing and hoping to pursue a new life. My ancestors also came to Thailand this way.” Pinaree gathered mats from different parts of Thailand, along with one from her own home. “I lay them out as a site to share, to pause, to stay, to exchange. There should always be space for all, for hope and opportunities.” The installation evokes a sense of home, a nurturing, secure, intimate space. The Roof, its counterpart across town, also creates a sense of comfort and solace. A composition of translucent fabric canopies collaged among the towering palm trees in the Winter Garden, it inserts a “roof over the head,” providing a temporary sanctuary in a public space. “Being above or under or viewed from afar,” Pinaree explains, “I hope The Roof creates a living movement performance of ‘bodies.’ A shared ‘roof.’”
Pinaree’s work has been featured in numerous museum exhibitions around the world, as well as in the Sydney Biennale (2012), Busan Biennale (2008), Fukuoka Triennale (2002), and Asia Pacific Triennial (1999). Recent solo exhibitions include: Anything Can Break, Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo, Ohio (2015); Collection+: Pinaree Sanpitak, Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation, Sydney, Australia (2014); and Hanging by a Thread, Los Angeles County Museum of Art (2013). Group shows in 2017 include: All Matterings of Mind: Transcendent Imagery from the Contemporary Collection, Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University; Converging Voices: Gender and Identity, Hofstra University Museum; and Sugar Spin: You, Me, Art and Everything, Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane, Australia.