“Destination: Still Unknown”: Thai photographer Pramuan Burusphat’s retrospective at BACC – in pictures

Thai photographer Pramuan Burusphat holds retrospective show at BACC.

New Zealand-based Thai photographer Pramuan Burusphat enjoys a retrospective survey at Bangkok Art and Cultural Center until 26 February 2017. Art Radar takes a look at the exhibition and talks to Pramuan Burusphat about the roots of conceptual photography in Thailand.

(On right): Pramuan Burusphat, 'Photo-Reconstruction Series', 1978. Hand-painted Gelatin Silver Prints. Installation view "Destination: Still Unknown: Pramuan Burusphat: A Retrospective" at Bangkok Art & Culture Centre, 2017. Image courtesy the artist.

Pramuan Burusphat, ‘Photo-Reconstruction Series’, 1978, hand-painted gelatin silver prints. Installation view at Bangkok Art & Culture Centre, 2017. Image courtesy the artist.

In Bangkok Art and Cultural Centre‘s fourth floor studio room is an exhibition of New Zealand-based Thai photographer Pramuan Burusphat’s work. Since Pramuan Burusphat’s first solo exhibition in 1982 at British Council Gallery, Bangkok, the photographer has been making work at the borders of documentary, conceptual art and photography. The current exhibition at BACC entitled “Destination: Still Unknown” presents a retrospective survey of the photographer’s work, with the aim of highlighting some of the threads in his artistic practice as well as Pramuan Burusphat’s impact on Thai contemporary art.

(On right): Pramuan Burusphat, 'Ideal Symmetrical System Series', 1978. Gelatin Silver Prints. Installation view "Destination: Still Unknown: Pramuan Burusphat: A Retrospective" at Bangkok Art & Culture Centre, 2017. Image courtesy the artist.

Pramuan Burusphat, ‘Ideal Symmetrical System Series’, 1978, gelatin silver prints. Image courtesy the artist.

Autobiographical Images Series #1, 1978. Vintage Kwik-Print

Pramuan Burusphat, ‘Autobiographical Images Series #1’, 1978, vintage kwik-print. Image courtesy the artist.

(On right): Pramuan Burusphat, 'Interior Project, Bangkok', 1979-80. Gelatin Silver Prints (made from 1979-80’s negatives in 2016). Installation view "Destination: Still Unknown: Pramuan Burusphat: A Retrospective" at Bangkok Art & Culture Centre, 2017. Image courtesy the artist.

Pramuan Burusphat, ‘Interior Project, Bangkok’, 1979-80, gelatin silver prints (made from 1979-80’s negatives in 2016). Image courtesy the artist.

Art photography in Thailand began with Burusphat, asserts Manit Sriwanichpoom, one of Thailand’s leading photographers and co-curators with Zhuang Wubin of the exhibition at BAAC. The first section of the exhibition is dedicated to Burusphat’s early work. Many of his images, such as Interior Project (Self-Portrait), are the results of his experiments with long exposure. While this may be a tired departure point for experimental photography work in 2017, the images were relatively innovative at the time and place of inception: the early 1970s in Thailand.

(On right): Pramuan Burusphat, 'Flash 3', 1979. Vintage Hand-painted Gelatin Silver Prints. Installation view "Destination: Still Unknown: Pramuan Burusphat: A Retrospective" at Bangkok Art & Culture Centre, 2017. Image courtesy the artist.

Pramuan Burusphat, ‘Flash 3’, 1979, vintage hand-painted gelatin silver prints. Image courtesy the artist.

Pramuan Burusphat, 'Recycled Images Series, 1997/2001. Hand-painted gelatine silver print. Installation view "Destination: Still Unknown: Pramuan Burusphat: A Retrospective" at Bangkok Art & Culture Centre, 2017. Image courtesy the artist.

Pramuan Burusphat, ‘Recycled Images Series’, 1997/2001, hand-painted gelatine silver print. Image courtesy the artist.

Walking (1977) is a series that captures the artist’s foot movement, a work inspired by a lecture by US conceptual photographer Duane Michals. Landscape Project (1979) also comprises a series of photographs put together as a gesture towards a narrative. The experimentation with the “series” and thus the fragmentation of the “single shot” was untrodden territory at the time.  Recycled Images (1997-2002) reflects on Burusphat’s more recent explorations into the role of the artist in waste production and consumption cycles. In the images he mixes layers of drawings, paintings and found objects.

Pramuan Burusphat, 'Photo-Reconstruction #1', 1978. Image courtesy the artist.

Pramuan Burusphat, ‘Photo-Reconstruction #1’, 1978. Image courtesy the artist.

Pramuan Burusphat, 'Photo-Reconstruction #1', 1978. Image courtesy the artist.

Pramuan Burusphat, ‘Photo-Reconstruction #4’, 1978. Image courtesy the artist.

Pramuan Burusphat, 'Photo-Reconstruction #1', 1978. Image courtesy the artist.

Pramuan Burusphat, ‘Photo-Reconstruction #1’, 1978. Image courtesy the artist.

Speaking to Art Radar about the processes that lie behind his 1978 work Photo-reconstruction Series, Pramuan Burusphat stated:

the series is about recording and expressing something else which lay beneath the surface of the so-called reality.  In my traditional darkroom I would print in a straight forward manner first, then I would flip the negative and made a reversed prints. I then proceeded to mount 2 or 4 prints together on a matte board.  In the final stage of the production of each work I would selectively apply Marshall Photo-Oils on to the mounted prints.

Pramuan Burusphat, 'Autobiographical Images' #11, 1978. Kwik-Print © 1997 by Pramuan Burusphat. Image courtesy the artist.

Pramuan Burusphat, ‘Autobiographical Images’ #11, 1978, kwik-print.
© 1997 by Pramuan Burusphat. Image courtesy the artist.

Pramuan Burusphat, 'Autobiographical Images #10', 1978. Kwik-Print. Image courtesy the artist.

Pramuan Burusphat, ‘Autobiographical Images #10’, 1978, kwik-print.
Image courtesy the artist.

Pramuan Burusphat, 'Autobiographical Images #10', 1978. Kwik-Print. Image courtesy the artist.

Pramuan Burusphat, ‘Autobiographical Images #30’, 1978, kwik-print.
Image courtesy the artist.

For the curators, the shift from Pramuan Burusphat as photographer to Pramuan Burusphat as artist occurs with the work Autobiographical Images Series, in which the artist presents a series of experimental self-portraits using a collage method that permits the inclusion of other material: letters, images and writing. The colours of these works have been achieved with different experiments with chemicals added to the images in development. Speaking to Art Radar about the production process behind this series, Pramuan Buruspat states:

Autobiographical Images Series was created by using an alternative photographic process called Kwik-Print (sold by Light Impressions Inc., NY in the late 70s).  For each of these Kwik-Print works, I had to made from 3 to 4 – 8×10” or 11×14” high contrast negative/positive films for printing each colour layer of the work on to a piece of receptive polyester sheet of the same size as the film.  At the final stage of production I also painted, scratched and wrote something on the work.

Curator Zhuang Wubin writes in the exhibition catalogue of this work:

In other words, his identity as an artist surfaced experientially through the making of the Autobiographical Images Series. Pramuan uses his art-making to probe the unknown.

Pramuan Burusphat, 'Bangkok Chronicle', 2000. Hand-painted gelatine silver print. Installation view "Destination: Still Unknown: Pramuan Burusphat: A Retrospective" at Bangkok Art & Culture Centre, 2017. Image courtesy the artist.

Pramuan Burusphat, ‘Bangkok Chronicle’, 2000, hand-painted gelatine silver print. Image courtesy the artist.

Pramuan Burusphat, "Destination: Still Unknown: Pramuan Burusphat: A Retrospective" at Bangkok Art & Culture Centre, 2017. Image courtesy the artist.

Pramuan Burusphat, “Destination: Still Unknown: Pramuan Burusphat: A Retrospective” at Bangkok Art & Culture Centre, 2017. Image courtesy the artist.

(On right): Pramuan Burusphat, 'Autobiographical Images Series', 1978. Vintage Kwik-Prints. Installation view "Destination: Still Unknown: Pramuan Burusphat: A Retrospective" at Bangkok Art & Culture Centre, 2017. Image courtesy the artist.

(On right): Pramuan Burusphat, ‘Autobiographical Images Series’, 1978, vintage kwik-prints. Image courtesy the artist.

The exhibition, showing works made as early as the 1970s, offers one of the possible origin stories of conceptual photography in Thailand. Speaking to Art Radar about the exhibition and the status of photography in Thailand, the artist stated:

Nearly forty years on, I see these images as a reflection of the path that I’ve taken from Bangkok to Texas, from Texas back to Bangkok, and later from Bangkok to Auckland, New Zealand.  Hopefully, they say or convey something positive about my passion about art and life.  Photography itself has changed a lot and recently it has become very popular hobby in Thailand.  Unfortunately, the status of the medium as an art form has remained the same as it was forty years ago.  Photography still has no place in major national art competitions in Thailand.

Rebecca Close

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Related Topics: Thai artistsfilmvideo artinstallationphotographymuseum showsgallery shows, events in Bangkok

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