Gongkan's one-of-a-kind art spans from commercial to subversive.
On a recent Saturday, I stopped into Over the Influence, a gallery in the Downtown L.A. Arts District. It's a small space dedicated to showcasing contemporary art and is one of my favorite galleries in Los Angeles.
In this gallery, I've seen the work of artists such as Cleon Peterson and Nobuyoshi Araki. I was very taken by the work of the artist who is currently on exhibition.
He's a Thai artist named Kantapon Metheekul, or "Gongkan," and is considered by many as the leader of the young Thai art movement. This show is not only Gongkan's U.S. debut, but it's also the first time the work of a Thai artist has been exhibited at L.A.’s Over the Influence Gallery.
Perhaps this is why I liked Gongkan's work so much. It was different than anything I'd ever seen there (or anywhere) before.
Gongkan achieved fame in New York City as a graffiti artist.
Gongkan first made a name for himself after moving to New York City following his graduation from the School of Arts at Silpakorn University in Bangkok, Thailand. In New York, he worked in the creative departments of three different design agencies. In his spare time, he began to create art on the streets.
The graffiti often showed people emerging from or into black holes. Gongkan was digging deep into his own sense of homesickness as if through these black holes, or portals, he himself could be transported through time and space back to his homeland.
His exhibition at Over the Influence Gallery, The Tip of the Iceberg, features the same themes of portals, only this time it's in the form of pools of water.
The paintings depict people moving out of or back into pools of water. These portals appeared to lead through time rather than transporting from one place to another.
Gongkan's paintings depict young people who seem to be on the precipice of change. Their whole lives are ahead of them--or in the case of these paintings, below them.
Along with their futures that have yet to be revealed are also society's expectations as well as its ills.
Gongkan explains the work in this exhibition like this:
“Bangkok means the City of Angels. However, the truth is far from what the name suggests. Many issues of the city and country remain buried, lying beneath the surface of false beauty projected in society. In Thailand, the true power exists with only 0.1% of the people, and another 0.9% with the wealthiest in the country. The remaining 90% are faced with great challenges financially and socially.”
In a sense, these pools--or portals--also lead to everything in our society that we don't want to acknowledge. Just below the surface lie the realities that are too often kept hidden.
Gongkan seeks to reveal these realities through his work.
The Tip of the Iceberg is on display through June 13. Reservations are not required.