Q&A with Nakrob Moonmanas

The artist who’s made collage art cool again chats with Time Out about his new solo exhibition, Sacrifice, and the stories behind his pieces
Nakrob Moonmanas
Sereechai Puttes
By Gail Piyanan |
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Nakrob Moonmanas is a name that should not be forgotten if you’re making a list of rising
(on flash speed) Thai artists. Among the giant waves of pastel colors and minimalist drawings that seem to round up Thai contemporary art, his collage works, which feature unique East- meets-West concepts and intricate details, blow our mind. A winner of the
Fan Pan Tae TV show in the “Palaces Lover” category, the young artist has successfully combined his passion for world history, life in the royal courts, myths and the interconnection between cultures into a truly unique style that has proven collage art is more than just cut-and-paste stuff, and can be appreciated as much as other art genres.

 

 Credit: Nakrob Moonmanas

How did you become interested in history and the lives of the people living behind palace walls?

When I was a child, I discovered I enjoyed studying history and social sciences rather
than math. Math requires calculating and interpreting questions, while social sciences and history are more related to listening to stories. I later found books that matched my interests.

 

How did you become a collage artist?

Studying literature was like getting to learn stories to be able to retell them in my own way. Most of my friends tell stories through words, but I think I’m better at telling stories through visuals. Communicating through drawings and paintings weren’t for me, either. Then I came across collage art, which reminded me of my childhood, when I would cut and paste pictures to make greeting cards for special occasions— New Year, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. I found the fun in it. As well, studying literature got me to read old books with traditional Thai- style illustrations. So I started repurposing those visuals [in a collage form] to narrate stories.

 

Can you tell us how this exhibition came to fruition?
It started when BACC ran a program called People’s Gallery. Anyone could submit their portfolio and those who got selected will have the opportunity to exhibit their work at BACC for a month. I submitted mine two years ago.
My works during the early years [as an artist] involved two-dimensional collages, which I made with computer graphic programs. Given this chance to showcase, I thought of how I could take my art to another level to be deserving of a show at BACC. I did more research, and decided 
to create a collage reinterpretation of the principles of ancient Thai craftsmen using my collage practice.

 

Why did you title this solo exhibition Sacrifice?

When I create a collage, it all starts from cutting something off from one place to create something new. To me, it feels like you recall its past through its sacrifice, similar to how you make a sacrifice to worship past lives.

     My last exhibition [Tribute, shown at Habito] was created specifically to pay tribute to the late King Bhumibol and featured only print-out techniques. Sacrifice is a mixed-media show that involves numerous practices including 3D prints, embroidery, and gilding.

 

Do you think Thais underrate the art of collage?

A bit. Thais were taught that the value of an art piece depends on things like delicacy and skills, which, I think, is pretty old-fashioned. Perceiving art in the modern day is more about appreciating approaches and ideas. I used to receive comments that my works were easy
to make—just some cut-and-paste on the computer. I get insulted that my work is not as valued as those of other artists. But I think it’s not easy to inject ideas and something symbolic within elements in a picture.

 

How do you deal with copyright issues?

From what I’ve learned, there’s this thing called “public domain,” which applies to pictures
that have been drawn over
100 years ago, and according to universal law, belong to everyone. These can be reappropriated for any use. So I try to use old pictures from old printed materials and buy photos from photography websites. I also use photos of murals at Thai temples that I took myself, and from postcards.

 

Most of your work is about recalling, paying respect and faith.Are there any other topics that you’d like to work on in the future?
Most of my work is associated with those topics, but can be interpreted in many different ways. My works involve metaphors and symbolic elements of what I learned at school. For the future, I can’t think of any topic yet, but it should be something associated with art, culture and “Thainess.” I probably won’t jump over to far- reaching fields like science and technology, new world or robots. I’m still having fun doing research and learning about the good old things.

 

If you were not a collage artist, what media would you use to tell a story?
I would like to make movies. I want to tell stories through moving images. It would be fun! But I think my skills are not there yet.

 

Why should people come to see Sacrifice?
I would like people to ditch their way thinking with regards to “Thainess.” So please, come and see if I succeed.

 

Sacrifice is now showing at BACC until 30 July

 

 

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