Binbin Narkprasert has a personal chat with her brother, Pan Pan Narkprasert, a young artist whose work lures observers into a twisted yet whimsical world.
I often forget that Pan Pan Narkprasert is an artist, sculptor, curator at Eat Me restaurant as well as a serious hip-hop dancer. To me, he will always just be my elder brother.
After a recent trip to Shanghai, he has yet to tell me about his exhibition there. Instead, he shares his excitement about his upcoming exhibition 'Gagasmicism',which will take place at the BACC (Bangkok Art Cultural Centre) on 11 September. The interview was conducted in his room, on the same comfy leather couch where he and I often divulge concerns or share good news. He wears the same stained white V-neck T-shirt I’ve long identified him with and which he stubbornly refuses to throw away. Everything seems ordinary, except for the fact that this time on the couch I ask serious questions about his being an artist.
Pan Pan is someone who can be described as ‘loud and proud’, and an unapologetically bold and confident tone emerges from his work. His upcoming Gagasmicism exhibition centres on an extraction of inner anima that happens to have the persona of Lady Gaga. Pan Pan meets face to face with his uncontrollable alter-ego from the unconscious while at once commenting on religion and pop culture. The work makes the point that in this era, we are weapons of materialism and consumerism. We buy divine objects like ‘nang kwak’ in order to obtain more objects. A vicious and self-contradicting cycle indeed.
In Pan Pan’s first exhibition, ‘Kiss My Reers’ at H Gallery, he created a multi-media exhibition that materialized imaginary friends conceived from the union of a gay rabbit and a lesbian deer, thus a ‘reer’. This creature that resulted from societal oppression was now allowed to roam free amid the reality in which we live. I remember cringing at the idea of such a controversial gender topic. As a realist, I warned him of the risks and tried to steer him to a safer path. Would it not be easier to make something aesthetically pleasing? The last thing I wanted was for him to end marginalised because of his art.
On this he enlightens me. ‘I’m an artist and art is my psychological outlet and my exhibition gives a preview of my warped mind. My work is never to please others. It’s all about having a personal experience with the piece which was truly created for me and if someone appreciates it, then thank Gaga!’
That’s the reason he got a tattoo last year. ‘Strive’ is etched on his left chest and is a constant reminder of the inability to give up in this profession, and that success as an artist should not be measured monetarily. ‘This way no matter where I go, I will never forget that!’ He reveals it’s scary to even call himself an artist because of the enormous pressure and his idea of what that word represents. Since his first exhibition, he noticed a change in himself as an artist: ‘I’ve definitely become more self-aware in my work and now my goal is to connect to people through my work, while still creating them for myself. I also enjoy what I do more now.’
Growing up, Pan Pan was more a teacher to me than an artist. He taught me many valuable things, like learning to ride the bicycle without training wheels, and he taught me patience when he borrowed my toys and returned them later than I hoped. What I remember vividly is that his most valuable possession was a black notebook that he carried around everywhere we went. He was one of those lucky ones who had innate talent in drawing, and he loved it more than anything else. The book was full of sketches of animals from penguins to bears in different motions and positions and in their biological habitats in herds or groups. ‘Run free!,’ he would say. Quite often, he would draw extinct species such as sammun, dodos or even mythical creatures like the Loch Ness monster or unicorns. I still struggle today to draw things unless they are physically in front of my eyes, let alone visualize things in three dimensions and fabricate them in a creative form. I began to better understand Pan Pan when I realised that just as fish take naturally to water, Pan Pan naturally draws.
I know a great deal about my brother. For instance, you want to get him super hyper? Give him two cups of coffee and he’ll be more active than a bee on horse steroids. What I didn’t know until this interview was the turning point that sparked his interest in art occurred when was little. It was in 4th grade and he was behind in school; he ranked 52nd out of 56 kids in tests. He found mathematics a chore but would come alive and excel in art classes. ‘I just had this instinctual desire to create. I was simply happier doing it than anything else.’
Animals are another passion of Pan Pan’s. We had eight generations of rabbits, saltwater fish, turtles, fighting fish, parrots, hamsters (which he hid from our parents), dogs and even freshwater eels. Neighbours thought we were running an illegal farm! The first time I watched Miss Potter with Renée Zellweger, I burst out laughing in the theatres because to me, Pan Pan is Beatrix Potter. He’s a crazier male version circa now with an American accent who finds inspiration and comfort from pets and draws beautiful illustrations of them.
I dug a little deeper. Why were animals so inspiring? He says it’s all about the eyes. Take soi dogs, you can see the purity and their untainted basic desires in life like hunger, shelter and reproduction. Animals by instinct are pure and naïve, unlike humans who gradually become more cunning and deadly. When animals kill, it’s for survival, but when humans kill there are thousands of possible motives.
He says he’s keeping his eyes as open as possible. Nowadays he gets ideas from new places, good music and dance, and the people around him.
He credits his success to professors from UCLA and the influence of people he’s lucky to have met and remains in touch with. Just yesterday, Pan Pan hosted a dinner party for one of his professors, Steven Simons from UCLA, who was stopping by Bangkok and had a show at Bangkok University.
When I ask about a mentor, without hesitating he declares Jakkai Siributr. ‘He’s inspiring to me not just an artist but even more as a person.’ He goes on for five minutes on Jakkai’s talent, admirable career and how his work affects the Thai art scene. Pan Pan also says close friends help to filter his ideas, and he notes there’s an explosion of fantastical ideas every time he sees Elizabeth Preggers, a fellow UCLA classmate.
Pan Pan prefers to focus on the present and not think too far ahead. Branching out to international markets is definitely in the books, but his dream is to succeed in New York. He was astonished by the scene in Shanghai, especially a gallery called Shanghai Studio. ‘Everything was underground. You meet unique characters you don’t meet anywhere else, clustered in a dungeon-like labyrinths hidden underground. It felt like I went down the rabbit hole of Alice in Wonderland to an edgier world. He plans to return to China in the near future.
As for the Thai art scene, he hopes that art will have a more prominent role in society and that people attend art exhibitions for the right reasons, if any at all, and that they question how they think in order to broaden their minds. ‘We have so many talented Thai artists who choose an alternative career path because it’s safer to do so, and that’s a real shame.’ He regards his curatorial work at Eat Me restaurant as a privilege that gives him the opportunity to pick talented Thai artists who have not been exposed to the public yet.
My last request was for him to describe his art in three words. After deliberation, he carefully chooses ‘whimsical’, ‘vulnerable’ and ‘twisted’. Whimsical for the style of the illustrations, vulnerable for completely exposing his identity and expressing his opinions through his work, and twisted for the perverted dark elements that blend in with his practice. These three elements woven together create a truly unique and complex outcome which provokes thought. He tells me, ‘I appreciate work that is intelligent, which not only informs the audience of the artist’s ideas but conjures up something within them, sometimes even making them feel uncomfortable. But it serves its purpose.’
As soon as I tell him I’ve finished all my questions, he cranks up the volume of ‘He Won’t Go’ by Adele, and I immediately get up to take a piece of his dark chocolate with raspberry fillings from the fridge which he’s been raving about. Even before I reached the fridge, he’s back to being my big brother.
Make room on your schedule for 11 September to attend the opening night of Gagasmisicm at BACC (3rd floor).The work will be displayed until 11 October.
For VIP tickets, send your mailing address to firstname.lastname@example.org . For more information in Thai, visit http://thailandexhibition.com/Event-76/Event-76-Detail.php?id=2953.
01/09/2011 - 14:30