Tawan Wattuya: Queen

Tawan Wattuya: Queen

2019 3.1-3.30

Opening Reception & catalogue “TAWAN WATTUYA” Launch Party: March 1st 18:00 – 20:00
The artist will be attending the opening reception.

"Miss Uganda", 2018, 57x38.5 cm, watercolor on paper ©Tawan Wattuya
Press Release

Venue: nca | nichido contemporary art
Exhibition schedule: March 1st (fri.) – March 30th (sat.)
Opening hours: Tue. ~ Sat. 11:00 – 19:00 (Closed on Sunday, Monday and National holidays)
Opening Reception & catalogue “TAWAN WATTUYA” Launch Party: March 1st 18:00 – 20:00
The artist will be attending the opening reception.

nca | nichido contemporary art is pleased to present Tawan Wattuya’s first solo show “Queen”. Wattuya has been drawing portraits of a variety of subjects, including animals, venturing for the last few years to work with watercolor, a very difficult media to control. His subjects are quite diverse, from people in uniforms, and images taken from the media, to politicians. Sometimes beautiful, sometimes imposing, the faces of Wattuya’s portraits, changing completely once we get closer, seem as if they are distorted due to watercolor’s characteristic gradation and blurred effect, and we can finally catch a glimpse of who is hiding behind those smiles. Through his portraits, Tawan delivers a sharp criticism towards those problems that have been affecting Thailand, such as the continuous political turmoil, the conflict between ethnic groups, the social hierarchy, the importance placed on physical appearance, and so forth, and questions the contradiction and stereotypes we carry nowadays.
For this exhibition, Wattuya presents his “Queen” portraits, result of his research of the many beauty pageants around the world.

Tawan Wattuya’s beauty pageants
Michiko Kasahara (Vice Director, Bridgestone Museum of Art, Ishibashi Foundation)

The dynamic and remarkable Thai contemporary art scene. Presenting his first solo exhibition at nca gallery is up-and-coming artist Tawan Wattuya.

Wattuya is known for his flamboyant watercolor portraits. His subjects range from world’s leaders, Trump, Putin, Kim Jong-un and so forth, to Thai students portrayed in their uniforms, soldiers, dogs, pigs, monkeys and other familiar animals. Based on images from mass media, his portraits are drawn on the same type of paper, not too big, unerringly capturing every singular feature of their subject, and they are systematically displayed in lines that spread in all directions. Sometimes the finished result looks like an easily-made portrait, sometimes it reminds us of a parody of an ID photo. Flamboyant and humorous, yet, pop and light, if we stare at them, they gradually become unnerving.
Isn’t it the negative aspects of modern societies that market economy, local communities and globalization generate in a still deep-rooted male-dominated society, what’s hiding in Wattuya’s works?

Beauty pageants is the theme of Wattuya’s new effort, also previously addressed in his series “Miss Thailand” where he represented the beauty pageant’s winners in a chronological order. In Thailand, where too much value is placed on appearances, this type of events are flourishing. While on that occasion Wattuya dealt with the problem of a hierarchy established according to the idea of female beauty within Thailand’s reality of local communities, his new works line up on the wall portraits of “international” beauty pageants’ winners. Voluptuous hair and oval slender faces, all wearing design-elaborated tiaras; many with the corners of their mouth turned up just as little as to show white teeth framed by red lipsticks, straight noses and bright eyes gently looking straight ahead. It is clear from their complexion, eyes, hair color and bone structure that each of them is representing a country: traits from Asia, US, Northern Europe, Latin countries, Anglo-Saxon and German ones, and so forth.

For sure beauty pageants are a subject that has been already extensively addressed. Restricted to unmarried women in some cases, undoubtedly, they are events that hierarchize women according to their look and symbolically embody the sex discrimination rooted in the fabric of a male-dominated society which is the mind behind them. Even if we put aside their structural problem, which is to say a still unconscious and thoughtless sexism where men prevail over women, promoters, participants and ordinary people as consumers must be aware of such structural discrimination that holds beauty pageants in place on different levels. However, as far as they produce wealth in terms of business being accepted by consumers, and the participants recognize the huge benefits they come with, whether as money or job opportunities, the reality is that beauty pageants will strenuously continue while making minor changes such as the elimination of the swimsuit competition.

Wattuya’s works show us through images the sense of uncertainty and incongruity we feel when actually watching beauty pageants. The contestants, who should represent the unique beauty of the different regions and countries in the world, seem surprisingly alike. Even if they differ for complexion, eye and hair color, bone structure, and sometimes wear typical accessories of their ethnicity, there is some sort of homogenization among them, from their expression, style, hair-do, and smile, up to their makeup, and, so to speak, they are the personification of American beauty standards strenuously set by Hollywood. It goes without saying that these beauty standards come from heterosexual Caucasian men. And that uniformity does not show only in their appearance. Just last year, while the highly-discussed participation of a transgender contestant in “Miss Universe 2018”, held in Bangkok, marked a step forward for sexual diversity, on the other side a scandal exploded when Miss USA mocked via SNS the English skills of Vietnam’s and Cambodia’s contestant. Such a childish remark, probably deemed as a careless mistake by its author, may have just revealed the true face of that reality where American standards set the tone.

Wattuya’s works convey both the fatuity and sadness of these young girls, who, whether on an unconscious level or not, are about to gamble on a small opportunity, desperately adhering to standards that do not belong to them. Furthermore, they caricature beauty pageants’ structural issues which are caused by the greed and hideousness of consumers posing as idle spectators, and their complicity with those who ingeniously manipulate these girls and lure them into these big events. These problems do not concern a beauty pageant only; they actually show a miniature of the world where issues such as the ones symbolized by beauty pageants are still deeply rooted.

Tawan Wattuya
1973, Born in Bangkok (Thailand). Currently lives in Bangkok.
B.F.A. in Painting, Silpakorn University, Bangkok, Thailand
Main Solo Exhibitions “MENAGERIE” SUNY ONEONTA University, Oneonta, New York (2019) / “Rogues Gallery: Monsters, Villains & Hellbent Politicians” The Lodge Gallery, New York (2018) / “Out of The Frying Pan, into The Fire” ARTIST+RUN, Bangkok (2018) / “The Insignificant War” Diginner gallery workshop, Tokyo (2018/2017) / “Reckless” Toot Yung Art Center, Mae Rim, Chiang Mai (2018) / “When water Beats” ART&PLUS, Paris (2015) / “Like a Virgin” Alliance Francaise de Brisbane, Brisbane (2014) / “ Dek Oey Dek Dee” Toot Yung Art Center, Bangkok (2014) / “Tii Tai Krua” The Art Center Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok (2013) / “Fading Nostalgia” Gallery Yang, 798 art zone, Beijing (2012) / “Superheroes and the Unreachable Fantasies”, DCA Gallery Brussels (2011)
Main Group exhibitions:“Crossover Pattani” Pattani art space & Eh gallery , Pattani, Tai (2019) / “AFTER EDEN” Harrick Gallery, London (2018)
“The Blog of Choice” Associazione Culturale Art’ A.V.A. Taranto, Italia (2018) / “galerie nichido Taipei Winter Group Show” galerie nichido Taipei, Taipei (2018) / “small works: an endless journey” nca | nichido contemporary art , Tokyo (2018) / “Farewell : The art Center’s Acknowledgment” The Art Center Chula, Bangkok (2017) / “Jet’ aime… moi non plus” nca | nichido contemporary art , Tokyo (2017) / “Funayama collection” Fuma Contemporary Tokyo (2017) / “A Journey Far From Home” Galerie Nichido Taipei, Taipei (2017) / “Jura- Okinawa” Galerie Du Sauvage , Jura, Swiss (2017) / “Totem” Saatchi Gallery, London (2017) / “Head or Tails?” Sundaram Tagore Gallery, New York (2017) / “PRUDENTIAL EYE AWARD” Contemporary Asian Art, ArtScience Museum, Singapore (2016) / “Bare” Hof art Bangkok (2016) / “a peculiar nature” The Lodge gallery, New York (2016) / “Tracing the past” nca | nichido contemporary art, Tokyo (2016) / “Crossover” Rycom Anthropology, Koza, Okinawa (2016), and others.

©2009 nca | nichido contemporary art. All Rights Reserved.