WHAT HAPPENS WHEN A BELIEF TAKES ON A PHYSICAL FORM? DO THE MEANINGS BEHIND BECOME OBSCURED AS THEIR MATERIALITY IS STRENGTHENED? art4d CAUGHT UP WITH SANITAS PRADITTASNEE TO LEARN MORE ABOUT HER RECENT EXHIBITION, ‘CAPTURING THE INTANGIBLE’ WHICH EXPLORES JUST SUCH…
Could you introduce the exhibition and core concept behind ‘Capturing the Intangible?’
SANITAS PRADITTASNEE: My work considers the shape and form of symbols in which beliefs reside. I try to capture belief in its various manifestations and transform what is intangible into an experience, which leads to the questioning of the core of belief and the truth of life.
We can see that long-accumulated values have turned into beliefs, which are then coded into symbols. They can be man-made objects such as statues and architecture or behaviors and rituals. The stronger the materiality of beliefs, the more obscure their true meanings become.
The exhibition Capturing the Intangible comprises ten sculptures and installations. A space has been constructed to explore life’s meaning and offers a journey from an outer layer to a core. The artworks reverse forms of belief and their assigned meanings, thus giving the audience an opportunity to look right through emptiness and see substance.
You described that, “The stronger the materiality of beliefs, the more obscure their true meanings become.” Could you elaborate on this idea and how the forms you’ve created seek to counteract that materiality?
SP: That’s a very good question. As we can see, when a certain belief takes a symbolic form, it becomes an object of worship that people pay respect to. Gradually, all that people see is that form, that object. They hardly recognize the true meaning inside that form anymore.
So, the works in the exhibition started with a question on the existence of belief and its physical form, which becomes the thing we hold on to. I explore different materials and conceptual thinking to capture and transform the intangible. Paradoxically, it’s the materials that lessen the materiality of these works.
For example, in Form of Belief I (Holding Emptiness), I play with the idea of what’s inside and outside, and the positive and negative space, to talk about the outer layer and the inner core value. So, the material I used allows for the audience to look right at and through the work from different angles, at positive and negative space. And so they see as much solidity as emptiness.
Or in Form of Belief IV (Under the Skin), the secure stupa form was peeled off to reveal what’s inside, which is unstable and wobbling in material, contrary to what a monument should be.
I’m curious about Form of Belief II (Intangible Theory) – did you choose a specific book in particular to cut the form from? Could you introduce this work?
SP: I chose only old books on Buddhism and science textbooks. Again, it’s about the existence of belief and about knowledge and practice. Is it possible to be enlightened with only knowledge but without practice? How can we capture knowledge through learning? And what are we all actually looking for in life?
I’m also curious about the technical process behind ‘Form of Belief V (Impermanence)’? Could you describe both your thought and the technical process behind this work?
SP: This work was originally created for a group show titled ‘R E P A P E R’ early this year. The curator invited creators from different fields—architects, designers, visual artists—as well as environmental educators to work with a recycled paper factory. So, I started researching the history of paper and recycled paper, which resulted in the comparison between the process of recycled paper and the cycle of life.
For Form of Belief V (Impermanence), dust combines into mass and is then turned into paper. The recycled paper will one day disintegrate and turn into dust again. Meanwhile, earth, water, wind and fire form life that goes on until disintegrating into ashes. It’s the cycle of nature. So, the work conveys this universal truth through the juxtaposition of “existence” and “decay.”
In representing existence and decay, the pagoda is made of ice and paper dust. In time, the ice pagoda gradually melts, leaving only paper dust and water.
You work across several disciplines – landscape architecture, installation and art. When approaching your creative practice, does one concept or idea often find its way across the different disciplines you work within simultaneously?
SP: My work, whether it’s landscape architecture, installation or art, speaks of the same thing. That is the constant change of all things and the coexistence of nature and the manmade urban environment. So, the philosophy I’m talking about now with regard to this exhibition can also be found in my landscape work.
I like observing nature and changes and I’m interested in history and human belief. So, there are always these natural and manmade elements in all my work. For my art practice, the character of ‘architecture’ is reduced while ‘nature’ that is always changing is highlighted. Still, my works provide ‘space’ for people to interact with and offer time for observing changes that constantly happen.
Lastly, you asked – “The identity of belief…when searching what’s inside breaks through the wall outside…What is the naked truth without any clothing? Or, is everything a mere illusion?” In your opinion, are the works realized in the exhibition aimed more so at providing answer… or eliciting further question?
SP: The works in the exhibition try to make a conversation with the audience and provoke their consciousness and self-questioning, but without using words.
Question is definitely the keyword as no direct answers are given here. When I reverse forms and their assigned meanings or values, this aims to raise questions. Even the choices of materials stimulate questions. Why the use of mirror? Why ice? What’s the balloon doing here and can it fly in the air throughout the whole exhibition period?
But as I’ve said before, I want to provide some space for people to explore life’s meaning. There’s also this large installation titled A Journey Within, which the audience can literally walk inside and through. So, I hope this work raises all sorts of questions within the audience as well.