his lifetime, Montien Boonma became one of Thailand's most respected
visual artists. His work blends the customary with the modern; even
though, in his own words, he preferred to use "primitive"
rooted in the traditional Thai way of life, and the Buddhist religion,
the exhibition of Boonma's work at the Asia-Pacific Triennial in
Brisbane provides a small glimpse into the artist's immense talent.
centrepiece is the mammoth Temple of the Mind (1996), a steel and
aluminium structure resembling a Thai temple. Inside the structure,
what looks like organic material hangs from its tip. These strange
structures seem to be lungs, suggesting a connection between the
temple and life itself. The work draws the viewer's attention to
the importance of the temple in Thai life. For non-Buddhists, the
piece seems a little didactic, but it illustrates clearly Boonma's
for the Mind (1995), like Temple of the Mind, invites the viewer
to enter the work itself. The salas (pavilions) sit on spindly legs,
allowing the viewer to enter the metal "pavilion" above.
Each has the question mark like symbol for the mantra Om cut in
rings around it, allowing the mantra to literally envelop the subject.
In a way, your "mind" (ie your head) can find "refuge"
inside there pavilions.
Altar (1995) comes out of a similar philosophy. The metal altar
sits on three points only, and has the Om symbol cut into itself
in rows. A nice touch is the addition of red iron oxide powder to
the piece. The dust is sprinkled in one corner, duplicating the
pattern of the mantra on the floor. Over time, it disappears; emphasising
the fragility of life (and, I suspect, the durability of religion).
final piece is the amazing Lotus Sound (1992). Rows of bells are
arranged in a semi-circle against a wall. Mounted on the wall above
is the gilded stem and petals of a lotus flower, seemingly showering
the (silent) bells with their own golden sounds. This extraordinarily
contemplative piece is a triumph of simple yet striking design.
the APT is showing only a small part of Boonma's work, it does provide
an insight into the artist's fundamental concerns. This certainly
isn't the flashiest exhibition in the Triennial, but it is one of
the most deeply thoughtful.
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