Enter Optimism is Ridiculous: The Altarpieces, a travelling exhibition by Natee Utarit that finds a new home in the intimate space of The Private Museum from 24 January to 11 March 2018.
The exhibition features seven pieces from the series, a part of Utarit’s satirical critique of Western modernism. Paying homage to classical religious paintings with elaborate frames and settings, the works are adorned with multiple panels forming diptychs, triptychs, and polyptychs. Each piece is stunningly grand – both in terms of sheer size and context – and invites viewers to decipher the rich, suggestive undertones held in each painting.
The works are heavily based on works during the Renaissance. Excavating olden adages into a contemporary landscape, Utarit signposts the times we are in are strange and trying. He subtly interjects Asia’s political and social landscape in his works. Traces of external culture – mainly Buddhist imagery and samplings of modern art reference are apparent – if not consequential to the meaning of his work.
The paintings almost seem to draw upon a meta-narrative of being self-aware – where the subjects are almost seem befuddled by the oddities presented in their circumstance. His conjunctions are undoubtedly jarring to both viewer and subject. In one piece, a naked Eve is juxtaposed next to a Duchamp wheel; almost as if to convey the perplexity and divergence of her psyche and the times. In another, animals that appear to be meerkats intriguingly observing the assemblage of incongruity that is a meeting between a monkey and men – of which one is playing the accordion.
Fascinatingly, unlike the Renaissance pieces the series is based on – which traditionally places fervour on a clear, singular focus (such as The Birth of Venus and Danaë with Nursemaid) – the pieces are heavily eclectic, juggling layers of wide-ranging metaphors through dense visual imagery. If anything, Utarit’s compositions are closer to puzzles rather than icons.
It is uprightly unreasonable to expect to fully cognise the many layers of allusion, of each piece, but a riveting experience is surely guaranteed. To quote Utarit in one of his works, “All things are preceded by the mind, led by the mind, created by the mind.”
Refreshingly stirring, the exhibition forces persistence upon viewers, coaxing them towards patience in a bid to uncover the subliminal messages within – a quality increasingly scarce in today’s media age.
Exhibition Details & Book Signing
Optimism is Ridiculous: The Altarpieces runs from 24 January – Sunday, 11 March 2018.
- Venue: The Private Museum, 51 Waterloo Street #02-06 Singapore 1879691
- Opening Hours: 10am – 7pm (Monday – Friday) | 11am – 5pm (Saturday & Sunday)
- *Public Holidays and other timings by appointment only.
Artist Talk and Book Signing takes place on 27 January 2018, 2pm at The Private Museum. Natee Utarit will discuss his art practice as a contemporary Thai visual artist and the themes presented in this series of work.