BANGKOK – A crucified elephant-God Ganesha, and Buddha presiding over the table in Leonardo da Vinci’s renowned “The Last Supper,” are just a couple of examples of the controversial collages created by a Thai designer in collaboration with other local artists.
The exhibition, named “Sacrifice” after the act of taking an object out of its context to create the collages that fuse elements from Eastern and Western cultures, is open to the public at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC) until the end of this month.
“I show my perspective of Thai-ness, (it) may be different from the perspective of most Thai people” explains designer Nakrob Moonmanas, 26, at the BACC.
Over 15 works created by Nakrob with help from other artists such as Apiwat Sangumram – a muralist specializing in Thai classical painting – are on display at the gallery.
Visitors come face to face with classic works such as John Everett Millais’ “Ophelia,” that depicts the drowning of the homonymous character from the Shakespearean tragedy Hamlet.
But, alongside the noblewoman floating on the green waters, one will also find two golden Thai figures in the form of Prince Rama and his brother Lakhan, who fight the demon Ravana to rescue Princess Sita, characters from the Hindu epic poem known as Ramakien in Thailand.
Another piece shows Buddha and 13 monks in orange robes presiding over da Vinci’s The Last Supper; a crucified blue Ganesha offers an allegory of the “death of art” in a world increasingly dominated by commerce and advertising, according to Nakrob.
A more politically-charged piece has a cross printed on a blue flag with a photo of the pro-democracy protests against the military regime in 1973 in Bangkok.
The military junta governing Thailand since May 2014 is trying to impose conservative values of obedience and respect for hierarchy, besides promoting a form of nationalism based on the supremacy of the army and the monarchy.
In contrast to this conservative notion of Thai identity and culture, the designer advocates a more colorful and eclectic vision.
He admits he has received complaints over the use of religious symbols in his work and for including pictures of Queen Sirikit or the late monarch Bhumibol Adulyadej.
“I have no disrespect, I just show another perspective,” explains Nakrob, confessing that even the visitor’s book at the BACC contains criticism of his use of the Queen’s photo.
In Thailand, issues concerning the monarchy are nearly taboo, and any criticism tends to be classified as crimes of lèse-majesté, punishable with up to 15 years imprisonment.
Although he graduated in Thai literature from the University of Chulalongkorn in Bangkok four years ago, Nakrob had already developed a passion for art and design.
He currently works as a graphic designer at an advertising studio but it is his illustration work for magazines and collages reinterpreting the idiosyncrasies of Thailand that really get his creative juices flowing.