© Torlarp larpjaroensook Alright Reserved  

Chiang Mai , Thailand , 50200

IN PROGRESS Richard Koh Fine Art , Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (2012)

In Progress

By pushing the doors and entering this gallery, visitors will be wondering at first if they are not making a mistake: maybe they got the date wrong. It looks like the exhibition is still being set up. A stepladder is still here, a white wooden stool and a blue plastic one are also there with items placed on them. White paint still seems fresh in the tray; the paint roller is still there. An electric sander is still plugged in; a hammer drill, screwdrivers, a toolbox and many other tools and objects are lying on the floor; a can of milk coffee and a polystyrene food box have not even been removed or thrown away; we expect to see the artist or one of his staff members come and properly finish installing the artifacts. It is not with intention to offend Donatello (1386-1466), Michelangelo (1475-1564) or even Rodin (1840-1917) than to borrow the Italian term "non finito" - normally reserved for sculpture - to qualify the work presented in his exhibition entitled “In Progress”.

            A native of Ayutthaya, Torlarp graduated from the Faculty of Fine Arts at Chiang Mai University. In his most recent years, Torlarp has used aged objects like old televisions or radios, damaged and unusable, as part of his artifacts. Playing with “trompe l‟oeil” effect, he has given them a new youth by incorporating them into functional artwork (most often it is a light or a lamp but there is also one artifact in which you can plug in your iPod). Torlarp has further developed his concept of functional art in the character of “Bestto Boy,” inviting us to share with him his everyday life. The atmosphere and the character created by Torlarp seems to plunge us into the world of the charismatic Mr. Hulot created by French filmmaker Jacques Tati. Since last year, Torlarp has led his art to new horizons. Can we then speak of a break between the past and the present or maturation of his art and his person? It is difficult to say… To answer this issue… let‟s get back to this exhibition.

             By pushing the doors and entering this gallery, visitors will be wondering at first if they are not making a mistake: maybe they got the date wrong. It looks like the exhibition is still being set up. A stepladder is still here, a white wooden stool and a blue plastic one are also there with items placed on them. White paint still seems fresh in the tray; the paint roller is still there. An electric sander is still plugged in; a hammer drill, screwdrivers, a toolbox and many other tools and objects are lying on the floor; a can of milk coffee and a polystyrene food box have not even been removed or thrown away; we expect to see the artist or one of his staff members come and properly finish installing the artifacts. It is not with intention to offend Donatello (1386-1466), Michelangelo (1475-1564) or even Rodin (1840-1917) than to borrow the Italian term "non finito" - normally reserved for sculpture - to qualify the work presented in his exhibition entitled “In Progress”.       

 

           

  Nevertheless, this way of acting is not only seen in Europe but there is also a tradition of it in Thailand. In fact, painters responsible for the representation of the Vessantara Jâtaka leave unfinished some detail of their compositions because overall, if they were perfectly completed, it would indicate that, as Jâtaka also applies to themselves, the cycle would be now complete and could, perhaps, result in some serious physical or psychological discomfort. As a nod to tradition, maybe Torlarp choose the title of the exhibition as a reference to unfinished artwork. Conscious or not of the artist's wishes, the visitors think that this presentation can be an allusion to past artwork of Rirkrit Tiravanija. In this particular case, Torlarp does not invite us to share his meal, but maybe he hired us to complete the installation of the exhibition with him. Moreover, advancing in the gallery and recognizing the book of the French curator Nicolas Bourriaud entitled “Relational Aesthetics”, the visitors will think that their hunches were right.

           Seeing all these tools and objects, visitors can also think that this is yet another tribute to Marcel Duchamp… once again Torlarp incorporates in his artifacts a biography of Marcel Duchamp in a slightly open parcel leading us to believe that we are on the right track... but NO! It is not just another Duchampian ready-made. Realizing that there is no ready-made in this particular case, the visitors ask themselves whether or not the artifacts are painted real objects such as those by French artist Bertrand Lavier (1949- ). The latter has painted on a fire extinguisher, a piano and a Canon camera using acrylic paint, and maintaining the original colors of each object… Not again! It is precisely when the visitors begin to think that they are on the way to understanding what is happening around them... that in fact they realize it is not the case. Indeed, all objects and tools in this exhibition are FAKES! Unbelievably, they do not reflect what they seem to be, but they are true artworks. Made of wood, canvas, acrylic, all the artifacts in this particular case keep the attributes of classic paintings. Showing both evolution and continuity, Torlarp, for the first time made an installation using artifacts or maybe better “specific objects” as theorized by Donald Judd in 1965. 

            Concerned to confuse us but not shock us, Torlarp has created artifacts that represent real objects in their original form because he has decided as in his previous exhibition „Bookshelf‟ on books, to keep the original dimensions of the represented objects. This is precisely what misleads visitors. Do not be tempted to include this work in the tradition of a tribute to “Ballantine Ale” and “Savarin Coffee” by Jasper Johns or “Brillo Box” by Andy Warhol. The aim of Torlarp is very different here. He seeks to create an extension between „specific objects‟ and paintings exposed here. Torlarp plays with depth and dimension; trying to lead us into another world: he proposes degrees of foregrounds and backgrounds from which to pause and ponder. Influenced by the doctrine of theosophy of Madame Blavatsky (1831-1891), Kazimir Malevich wanted his paintings to appear like mirrors that make us reflect on ourselves. Although not using the abstract or geometric shapes, Torlarp chooses the reverse process seeking that we project ourselves into another dimension using everyday objects. In his treatise Della pittura which was also known in Latin as De Pictura, Leon Battista Alberti (1404-1472) writes "First of all, on the surface which I am going to paint, I draw a rectangle of whatever size I want, which I regard as an open window through which the subject to be painted is seen." Torlarp placed himself in the continuity of this perspective by multiplyingthe windows and incorporating reality as the first of them. If Torlarp plays like that with the dimensions and reality, it is also a way for this Buddhist artist to remember the warning that exists on illusion in his religion. In this sense, he plays with the signification of the specific objects he has chosen to represent. His composition is not only in the painting but also outside. As a signature of the artist, the presence of milk coffee can be justified because Torlarp likes to drink several of them every day.

               On a more serious note, by incorporating the well-known book of the French curator Nicolas Bourriaud entitled “Relational Aesthetics” and also returning to the work of Rirkrit Tiravanija often cited by Bourriaud as exemplary of his conception of relational art, Torlarp wants us to think of this movement and the artists included in it. He wants us to debate about this subject.

                If a biography of Marcel Duchamp appears in one of his works, it is just to show that we must now move on... Yes, Duchamp's legacy remains pervasive, nevertheless, we have to stop idolizing the man and his works as "divinity"... even if Marcel Duchamp has always tried to take away the sacred aura of the work of art, he is now revered as much as what he denied. This is why Torlarp wanted - as a nod to Marcel Duchamp - a biography of him in this installation, but he wished him to remain in the package to show that now we must pack up and move on...

Hopefully, his message will be heard…

Sébastien Tayac