Critics’ Picks

Sakarin Krue-on, We Remain, 2008, wooden table, vases, flowers, dimensions variable.

Sakarin Krue-on, We Remain, 2008, wooden table, vases, flowers, dimensions variable.

Bangkok

Sakarin Krue-on

H Gallery
201 Sathorn Soi 12
October 25–November 30, 2008

Sakarin Krue-on’s gentle interventions in the colonial-style architecture of this gallery immediately evoke a sense of nostalgia. A painting transcribed from a family-portrait photograph is the most conspicuous artwork; its faint rendering of a group of figures in old-fashioned garb signals times past and raises issues of memory. A conventional aquarium containing a lone fish is positioned alongside the painting. Otherwise, Krue-on largely allows the nineteenth-century building to speak for itself: The artist illuminates an existing ceiling fan to cast a large shadow on one wall, installs an antique table supporting two vases—each containing a flower—in an upstairs room, and stencils ONCE UPON A TIME . . . AND THEY LIVED HAPPILY EVER AFTER in white powder on the floor of another area.

Titled “h,” the exhibition nearly seamlessly engages the environs of the space, foregrounding the edifice itself. Curious facts about the gallery, mentioned in the curator’s statement, enrich the visitor’s experience of the show: The property’s original owner was a Thai-English man who chose to build his family home in what was the Christian quarter of Bangkok, and later the site became an orphanage where a lovesick teenager committed suicide. However, rather than seeking a thorough archaeological excavation of this building’s history, Krue-on’s work evinces a more general concern with time and memory. Saint Augustine’s musings on the nature of time are reportedly inscribed on the rapidly revolving fan blades. The curator and owner regularly replace the flowers, while text on the floor references instances when memory becomes bound up with myth. That the fish is a flowerhorn cichlid requires consideration: The breed, developed in Malaysia during the 1990s, is notoriously aggressive. Countering the inescapable risk of sentimentality present in the other works, Krue-on here at least hints at aspects of history’s construction that invite criticism. Subtlety, however, is the show’s defining feature. The viewer’s initial sense of nostalgia persists because the architecture of H Gallery, as played up by Krue-on’s interventions, can be understood as a quaint relic in the context of modern, metropolitan Bangkok.