Pink, Black & Blue by Manit Sriwanichpoom
Reading time: about 7 minutes
About this series
As human beings we always have been influenced by color and what each color means, how it relates to us. Color is something that we not only just see, we feel it, they are the mother tongue of the subconscious.
Pink, Black & Blue by Thai artist Manit Sriwanichpoom makes use of color like a designer carefully would chose a certain tone for a specific message. The color-Tryptich can be seen in a way as a retrospective about his body of work.
Black, a series of black and white photographs, was Manit's first work while studying at Srinakharinwirot University. At the age of 20 he wanted to challenge the rules and frameworks set by society. Leading to questions of life, death, body and sexuality, resulting in a powerful monochrome series.
Manit Sriwanichpoom had the opportunity to photograph people, places, and moments he encountered while traveling to international art exhibitions. “I Saw A Blue Wing serves as a travel journal until I’m able to create a picture book series,” states Srwianichpoom. Images of people of various nationalities, religions, and cultures from various angles and colors, reflecting freedom of living in any aspect of the world.
Pink and the journey of the Pink Man began in 1997, performed by performance artist Sompong Thawee. The Pink Man is considered to be the icon of consumerism, while the color is generally seen by Thai people as tastelessness and vulgarity, commonly worn by night-life girls and comedians. “No one person inspired the character. He was born from the vibes I felt all around me; he is the embodied spirit of contemporary Thailand - the greed, the hunger for globalization, the need to be accepted on international level,” with all its atrocious influences.
To start, can you talk a bit about your background as photographer? How did you start your photo gallery and how did it evolve over the years?
In 1980 at university I was lucky to have the photo artist Pramuan Burusphat as my art professor. He'd just graduated from the US. His photography looked like painting with a lot of technique in the darkroom. It inspired me and opened my mind to the possibilities and potential of photography as a medium of artistic expression. In the meantime, my interest in art has been wide-ranging. Although I studied visual art, I involved myself in literature, drama and film activities. I believe we can learn from and be inspired by different disciplines. We shouldn’t limit ourselves to just one artistic area. The experience I got has freed me from any rule or norm of artistic practice.
Having a ‘space’ is an important strategy to fight for what you believe in. Like religious priests of the past, who needed to build churches to propagate their god. I didn’t open Kathmandu Photo Gallery just for selling my artwork, but I need a space where I can promote ‘creative ideas’ through photography. I can launch my idea about the ‘visual history’ such as ‘Rediscovering Thai Masters of Photography’ of the past who have been neglected by photography historians locally and internationally. I can create a dialogue with a challenge to Euro & American - centric western overview of photography history.
Whether you call it ‘lens-based’ media, or photography, or visual storytelling – there are so many ways to express oneself in a 21st-century world — how did your personal style of photography become your choice of expression?Photography is known as a representation of reality of subjects in front of the camera and we, including courtrooms, still believe in it even though we know that photographs can lie. This is why I still enjoy playing with this perception. I can convince or challenge viewers about what they're looking at when they see my work.
From the three colors pink, black and blue the tone pink and its related conceptual photographs are the ones that accompany you since 1997. Though they are separated series, but do you think that the black and blue photographs led to pink?
Absolutely, my early photographs from '80 to '90 they're in black and white. Like most inexperienced young artists who romanticized that black is the color of their world. I used to believe that before and when I got older my mind changed to be more open to the world of colors. No matter what color I use, I always put it to extremes to provoke viewers' sense of perception.
Can you provide some background or context why you chose to show the three color series in one show at HOP gallery?
HOP (Hub of Photography) is a photography space supported and part of Seacon Square Shopping Mall. It was opened in June 2021 with the ambition to attract audiences, especially young people, to be surrounded by photographic environments such as photo exhibitions, workshops, photo studio including photo market. Having Pink Man artwork shown in a shopping mall is one of my ideas of reaching out to bigger target audiences.
Entering the exhibition we first see pink, then black, blue and pink again. Is it because you see the Pink Man as your most important work?
Unfortunately, people know Pink Man more than other series and because it's much easier to start something that they get used to. Viewers will gradually see how I first started off my artistic career with a dark tone before a bright colour of pink.
I noticed that the sculptural work has always been part of your concept. In the centre of the exhibition you show three sculptures of the Pink Man. The flashy shopping cart is addicted by consumerism and can’t live without it, it needs always fresh input. Do you think that we as society can one day wake up and be free from the burden of hunting for the new or is it simply in our genes?
This is a good question. I keep asking myself everyday whether humans of today would be able to find out the solution apart from consumerism. Thailand is a buddhist country. It is supposed to consume less and less, in contrast the government is pushing its people to spend more money to support capitalism. Maybe we just have to let our civilization end by itself like in the past. The world would start all over again.
I know you have a huge interest in the past generation of Thai photographers. Currently you are working on a project to showcase the forgotten work of a Thai photographer from the 1920s and to display his stereographs. Can you already tell more about this?
Currently I’m working on a research on glass negatives by Prince Kamphaengphet (1881-1936). The stereoscopic photos taken between 1916-1919 from his extensive travels (he was the pioneering director of State Railways he surveyed and built the tracks) had never been shown or seen by the public before. I hope there will be an exhibition for it. This is going to be the first time and audiences will be able to experience the early 3D imagery of a century ago.
Pink, Black & Blue Exhibition
A Solo Photographic Exhibition By Manit Sriwanichpoom
Curated by Akkara Naktamna
11 February - 9 April 2023
HOP PHOTO GALLERY, 3rd floor, MUNx2, Seacon Square Srinakarin
Manit Sriwanichpoom is one of the pioneers of Thailand’s contemporary photography. His social and political works have been exhibited worldwide including important photo and art festivals such as Jimei x Arles International Photo Festival (China, 2022), RAY Fotografieprojekte (Frankfurt, 2012), the 6th Asia Pacific Triennial (Australia, 2009), Photoquai (Paris, 2007), Gwangju Biennale (Korea, 2006), the Venice Biennale (2003), Photo Espana (2001), Pingyao International Photography Festival (China, 2001), International Photography Biennale (Mexico, 1999), and also collected by major museums including the Maison Europeenne de la Photographie (Paris), the DG Bank (Germany), the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco (USA), the Queensland Art Gallery (Australia), the National Gallery of Australia, the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum (Japan), the National Gallery Singapore, the Singapore Art Museum and well-known private collectors. In 2002 he was picked as one of the world’s 100 most interesting emerging photographers by Phaidon Press in their book BLINK. In 2007 he was awarded the Higashikawa Overseas Photographer Prize from Japan and in 2014 the Chevalier des Arts et Lettres by French Ministry of Culture & Communication. Lately in 2020 his photo book ‘Bangkok in Technicolor’ was awarded the Asia Prize by Photo City Sagamihara, Japan. Currently, he is a member of executive committee of Bangkok Art & Culture Centre (BACC). He also runs two art spaces; ‘Kathmandu Photo Gallery’ and ‘Foundation Cinema Oasis’, and teaches photography at the faculty of Communication Arts, Chulalongkorn University.
Photographer: Manit Sriwanichpoom
Photos copyright Manit Sriwanichpoom
DRAWLIGHTS | 1/1 – one post/one photographer, weekly. Off-chain and on-chain. By Peter Nitsch, lens-based artist, a member of Jenny Metaverse and lifetime Member of the Royal Photographic Society of Thailand.