BEING A NEW FACE IN THE INDUSTRY, KEYSTONE STUDIO HAS FINALLY FOUND ITS PLACE IN THE REALM OF SPATIAL DESIGN. WITH DISTINCTIVE EXPERTISE IN ART HANDLING, THEIR CLIENTS RANGE FROM GALLERIES TO ESTABLISHED AND LARGE-SCALE ART INSTITUTIONS.
“I wasn’t directly trained or educated in the field of design. I graduated in fine art with a major in sculpture, but the knowledge I learned from school can be applied to the discipline – the craftsmanship skills, aesthetic and most importantly the language and thought process,” recalled Somphop Suwanwattanakul, one of the founders of Keystone, of the time before starting a career in spatial design following graduation from the Faculty of Fine Art, Bangkok University. Ekapoj Jirajaroenwiwat, his partner, shares a similar story being a Management Technology graduate from King Mongkut’s Institute of Technology Ladkrabang for whom the appeal of spatial design is derived mainly from personal interest.
Founded in 2012, Keystone Studio’s diverse track record encompasses projects ranging from commercial events, interior design, furniture design and graphic design to art handling. The latter, in particular, is considered quite a distinctive expertise compared to other types of projects in spatial design for the studio not only designs the installation/space but also takes part in the creative process along with the artist. Among Keystone’s art handling projects are “Painting with History in a Room Filled with People with Funny Names 3” by Korakrit Arunanondchai back in 2016 at BANGKOK CITY CITY GALLERY and “Fat House,” the work created as a part of the exhibition “The Philosophy of Instructions” by Erwin Wurm at BACC.
FOR SOME OF THE PROJECTS, THE ARTISTS COME UP WITH NEW IDEAS AND PRESENTATION METHODS SO OUR ROLE IS TO HELP THEM FIND POSSIBILITIES FOR HOW TO TURN IDEAS INTO REALITY AS WELL AS PROVIDE TECHNICAL SOLUTIONS.
“For some of the projects, the artists come up with new ideas and presentation methods so our role is to help them find possibilities for how to turn ideas into reality as well as provide technical solutions. For me, working with artists is more fun because there are so many more interesting perspectives to work with compared to large-scale projects that require collaborations with different parties.”
Being one of the few studios in Thailand with expertise in art handling, when asked about the most extreme project the team has encountered since the foundation of the studio, it appeared that Keystone interprets the word ‘extreme’ in relation to the collaboration with clients, scale of the work, timeline and complications from having to deal with other collaborators rather than the sophistication of content or details of the design. For Somphop, the work ‘Winter Fest/Sansiri Market Fest, a bridge structure that linked Habito Mall to On-nut Road, qualified as one of the studio’s most extreme and challenging projects, the reasons being the fact that the work was very large in scale and their responsibilities encompassed several aspects of the project from the design, production and onsite setup to operations. For Ekapoj, the work that encapsulated such notion of extreme was ‘The Monument,’ a condominium in the Sanam Pao district in which the brief given from Sansiri was that the team of Keystone had to redesign a new selling method. With that in mind, the studio interpreted the brief into a sale office/exhibition space with the given name of ‘The Monument Experience.’ The space displayed not only the mock-up rooms but also the installation of every material used for the project in the form of a small art exhibition. The presentation was executed using a video projection technique with materials being showcased as art objects. One of the marble tiles used with the project’s lobby was hung in the air as the tiles visually sprawled in number using a mapping technique that projects images on the adjacent wall. Sansiri’s salespersons were given the role of serving as the exhibition’s tour guides in the gallery-like atmosphere. “We worked on this project within such a limited timeframe. We began with the concept and then we jumped right into the production. There wasn’t any presentation of perspective images. Everything was built from the drawings, and the result was better than expected. There was also a project that was far less commercial such as “Essential Eames: Icons of 20th Century Design” with TCDC where we co-created shows for iconic designers whose works we have always admired. Another project included a collaboration with the TCDC team and designers from Herman Miller in Singapore.”
TAKE ART INSTALLATION FOR EXAMPLE, IT BEGINS WITH YOUR UNDERSTANDING OF THE WORK AND NOT JUST THE TECHNICALITY OF THE INSTALLATION.
With the number of projects in their hands reaching almost 50 a year, having a small team can be considered a shortcoming. The issue has always been something Keystone acknowledges for the limited number of staff means that less amount of time is spent on each project. The studio’s expansive scope of work is also one of the reasons that has driven Keystone to develop a more specific and stronger set of skills with the intention for their expertise to be better defined. “We don’t have any particular identity or clear picture of what the signature of our studio is. Perhaps it’s because we’ve worked with brands and organizations that are very diverse in personality. But not having a signature can be a good thing because it means that we are not confined by a certain style, pattern or identity. It allows for us to be whoever and whatever, and we’ll be able to work on something new and exciting all the time.”
In terms of the future of spatial design in Thailand, Keystone views the skills of Thai craftsmen and the professional standard as being among the top priorities that need further development. “In the big picture, spatial design in Thailand may appear to be growing with works by Thai designers making their way to international events, but there’s so much more than just an exotic display of ancient giant sculptures because there are more elements of craft that can be utilized and added to the work as well. Take art installation for example, it begins with your understanding of the work and not just the technicality of the installation.” While the growing number of projects and expansion of event businesses today are positive signs for more interesting spatial design projects in the future, quantity doesn’t always signify quality. When asked about the support from the government sector, Keystone simply replies, “We’d rather not talk about it.”
TEXT: NAPAT CHARITBUTRA AND PAPHOP KERDSUP