Richard Thomas
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::: THARNRARK ::: "Reshaping Realities and Representation" ::: Silpakorn University, Bangkok, Thailand ::: August 2003 :::


The garden and adjacent pavilion at Silkaporn University were once used for performances for the Thai Crown Prince and is now a space of intense social activity. This history was referenced by using shapes from the pavilion fretwork as templates for a series of 'digs' in the garden which would express the cultural and natural forms and energies of the site. Tree roots were revealed some of which were stained red like blood vessels. Assistants were invited to place small models and figures in the excavated spaces to create microcosms of city and jungle like landscapes, in what became an archeology of fantasy and fact.

In addition a work was created in the nearby gallery using earth from the excavation to form a hypothetical root system. A seedling of the tree species in the garden was placed unde the table as a further marker. As this work was realised during the rainy season the natural processes of erosion slowly dissolved the excavated shapes and the site was gradually returned to its original state (Earth from this installation was also returned to the garden after the exhibition period).

Tharnrark (the Thai word for roots or foundations) was a collaborative work created with Thai artist Kamol Phaosavasdi in an enclosed garden at Silpakorn University as part of an International workshop/symposium. Both artists have long been making works relating to ecology, environment, agriculture, and nature etc. The project was initiated by New York based curator, Karen Lim (Singapore) to address issues of cultural hybridity, mapping and the convergence of art, architecture and archaeology, botany and history.

"Tharnrark reflected the artists’ personal philosophy with regards to nature, environment and space. Time, patience and intricate handwork were needed to perform the excavation of the site. The presence of the roots was allowed to naturally form a visual language that revealed depth and layering, in a kind of reversal of the constructive process of painting and sculpture. Each dig revealed the idea of re-mapped sites - once lost and now rediscovered, once reminisced and now fantasized. The process by which Tharnrark was constructed is equally important to the appearance of the final work. The life of the space and its energy were central to its unfolding as the artists and assistants enacted a kind of community performance. The process throughout was informal and organic, with resolution of material and conceptual concerns through negotiation and dialogue. The artists remained flexible and were not working towards a pre-conceived outcome"

Karen Lim, Curator

© Richard Thomas 2008