Vipoo Srivilasa: For the Future

By Ascroft, Michael | Ceramics Art & Perception, December 2008 | Go to article overview

Vipoo Srivilasa: For the Future


Ascroft, Michael, Ceramics Art & Perception


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PREVIOUSLY, VIPOO SRIVILASA'S CERAMIC WORKS HAVE veered from delicate blue and white porcelain to flamboyantly coloured vessels, each series a complete and separate commentary of various facets of the artist's life: the experience of being between Thai and Australian culture, of sexuality and identity, politics, a love for and wry criticism of pop culture and many other dualisms. In For the Future, Srivilasa follows on this already established pattern of social commentary but dives into new matter.

In this series, instead of or in addition to the ironic observation of his sociocultural landscape, the natural world comes to the fore. In a curiously matter-of-fact way, Srivilasa states that with the advance of global warming, the coral reefs, in which his mermaid alter-ego (developed in earlier series) makes its home, is disappearing. Although the hypothetical extinction of a mermaid alter-ego might be seen as a bad joke in the light of real-life extinction, especially in the world's oceans, it nonetheless points toward a crucial aspect of the global warming issue. That is it points towards the nexus of the human world of cultural symbols, traditions and histories and the natural environment from which this culture exists in--which it 'naturally' cannot do without--and therefore, to the way culture and nature are at once under threat.

Srivilasa explores this complex theme with characteristic humour and flair by mixing the imagery of global pop culture and the traditionally beautiful from Western and Eastern traditions. The pieces in this exhibition all began as a simple mould, the shape of which was inspired by ceramic statues of plump Chinese courtly ladies, with protrusions on their heads that resemble tentacles, coral or the antennae on a Teletubby. Each piece then takes on its own unique form. One large yellow and orange piece grows patterns of flowering coral over its body with a jewelled S&M collar, four eyes and a pair of fake red lips on its head and a clam with additional eye stalks for a crotch. Another wears a metal diving suit and helmet, another is covered in conical-shaped molluscs, eyes in the shape of glam sunglasses, and massive coral branches and mushrooms growing out of its head.

Looking closer, the pieces reveal another side to this undersea-disco imagery. Reflected in the triplet of eyes on one piece are the smokestacks of a power station, others wear gas masks; others have barcodes stamped on their foreheads. …

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