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Sutee Kunavichayanont
From April 20th 2001 to May 26th 2001

The "Elephants" work series can be traced back to 1994. I had then visited many ancient sites and sanctuaries in Sukhothai province, in the North of Thailand, and found debris of stuccoed elephants whose trunks and heads someone had tried to rearrange in a presumably correct position as if to give them new life. It reminded me of chicken, duck and pork served in restaurants which, although cut into disparate parts, are arranged in a living posture when presented at the table.

Elephants have always been part of Thai culture, as evidenced in the numerous legends and Buddha stories. The white elephant has been regarded as a propitious animal and appeared on the Siamese flag. But elephants in Thailand are now threatened with extinction. They are endangered regardless of their great dimensions and strength.

Since 1995 I have worked with many mediums, in works dealing with elephants. Most of them are ambiguous and fragmented. They have never been perfect — perhaps, because I am presenting something which is becoming blurred and vanishing.

Breath Donation

With the "Elephants" series, I found myself interested in the state of "declining," especially the process of "disappearing." The series "Inflation-Depletion," started since 1997, has fully responded to that interest. Participation from viewers is required to experience the series. Through breath donation (blowing inflatable silicone elephants), the viewer’s focus is placed on the fulfilment of something that is missing — an attempt of sorts to extend life to the dead, depletion as well as inflation. A life-size adult white elephant requires the participation of more than one person to "reanimate".

April 10, 2001
Artist's talk in collaboration with the University of Québec in Montréal
Pavillon Judith-Jasmin
Local J -5320

Optica wishes to thank Ginette Bouchard, professor at Université Laval, who initiated this exhibition and collaborative project with the Galerie des arts visuels of Université Laval in Québec City, Stephen Schofield of Université du Québec à Montréal and the Student Association of the École des arts visuels et médiatiques for Sutee Kunavichayanont’s public talk in the context of its guest artists program.

At Silpakorn University, Sutee Kunavichayanont completed undergraduate studies in printmaking, specialising in silk-screen. He spent three years in graduate printmaking at Sydney University. Since 1986, he has participated in many group exhibitions and international shows and staged solo shows in Thailand, Japan, Korea, Singapore, Germany, Bulgaria and Australia.

"The White Elephant of Siam" was shown in 1995 at the Art Gallery of the Silpakorn University in Bangkok. Kunavichayanont focused on the dwindling number of elephants in the Thai Kingdom and since then, elephant-related issues have been in the forefront of the works he has exhibited in several group shows. In 1998 the artist took a satirical look at Thai customs and the bleak perspective for some endangered animals (elephant, tiger, buffalo) with "Rain Drops — Pig’s Shit Running" at Tadu Contemporary Art, Bangkok. In 2000 he presented "4 Days, Elephant Breath Donation and History Class" at the Silpakorn University Art Gallery, Bangkok, and in 2001, "Inflatable Nostalgia", Atelier Frank & Lee, Singapore. Among group shows, he has participated in "8 Artistes thaïs à Paris" at the Maison des arts Europe-Asie, Paris (1998); "Trace," Liverpool Biennial of Contemporary Arts, Liverpool, UK; "10 Asian Artists in Residence", Mattress Factory, Pittsburgh, (1999); "keep your distance," Tadu Contemporary Arts, Bangkok, Plastique Kinetic Worms, Singapore, and the National Art Gallery, Kuala Lumpur; "The Global Scents of Thailand," Edsvik konst och kultur, Sweden; and "Euro Visions," Bangkok (2000).

- Crévier, Lyne, «Mémoire d'éléphant», Ici, 3-9 mai 2001.
- Lehmann, Henry, «Elephant 'skin' depicts a fallen giant», The Gazette, 12 mai 2001, p.16 & en couverture.
- Mavrikakis, Nicolas, «La planète en voie de disparition», Voir, 17-25 mai 2001, p.59.
- «Fast Forward», Canadian Art, printemps 2001, p.18.