FEATURE: Life lessons in an artist’s haunting “3D” mosquito nets
Consider the humble mosquito net. They had them in ancient Egypt, apparently, protecting the pharaohs while they slept. It’s the cheapest and the most effective way to fend off malaria, after all. But what about mosquito netting as high art?
Artist Uttaporn Nimmalaikaew had a mosquito net in his studio while he was chasing his master’s degree at Silpakorn University. One day a few drops of paint landed on it and he was immediately struck by the effect that resulted. The net surface gave the paint a deep dimension.
What Uttaporn has done with this revelation is startling. He creates mosquito nets that still function as intended (frustrating mosquitoes, that is) – but they bear portraits of people that appear holographic. His images have turned heads around the planet. He’s earned a Sovereign Asian Art Prize, been named an Artist of Distinction at the National Exhibition of Art in Bangkok and won various medals.
An instructor at King Mongkut’s Institute of Technology Lat Krabang, Uttaporn prints life-size or oversize drawings on the carefully draped netting to form the base. Then oil paint is applied to layers of netting in the same way tulle fabric is painted, which involves a different way of recreating light and shadows realistically.
A top layer adds the details that make the optical illusion complete. Finally all the layers are connected with a line of transparent copolymer. The paintings appear to shift slightly depending on the distance and location from which they’re viewed.
Uttaporn regards his work as “an exploration into the essence of impermanence and the cycles of life”. There’s certainly a haunting nature to the finished pieces. “People have to see my work and experience it, not just see it in photographs,” he advises.
“I intentionally let the threads droop to suggest the flow of life, of ageing and physical degeneration. Everything is in a constant state of decay and fragility, but with death comes rebirth, and that’s a beautiful thing.
Family members are often the subjects of these portraits on net. “Seeing my loved ones gradually deteriorate, I become frightened by the bond of love I feel. I fear losing them, but the fact is that everyone has to be born and die.”
Uttaporn first felt this fear of loss in seeing his mother, to whom he’s particularly close, “growing older, getting weaker”.
“I knew she’d eventually be gone.” Ultimately all we can do, he says, is take good care of those we love while they’re still here, guarding them in their unavoidable fragility, protecting them like a mosquito net shields the dreamer.
Copyright: The Nation/ Asian News Network