The Act of Questioning, LA-based Multidisciplinary Artist Saun Santipreecha

Saun Santipreecha is a multidisciplinary artist from Thailand who works in both visual and sound/music art. His artistic route in both disciplines began simultaneously, studying privately with two Thai Silpathorn Award recipients for Thai contemporary artists, visual artist Chalermchai Kositpipat and classical pianist/composer Nat Yontararak amongst other tutors and mentors. In 2008 he moved to Los Angeles where he pursued a career working in music composition for film and collaborating with artists from multiple disciplines including fashion and video games while also creating solo music/sound projects including the recent Dandelye, before returning to visual art in 2022. 

His compositional work in film, TV, and fashion has been screened in over thirty film festivals worldwide including the Cannes Film Festival as well as in New York, Paris and LA Fashion Weeks. He has also worked in numerous capacities in the music department for a number of composers including John Debney, Danny Elfman, The Newton Brothers and Abel Korzeniowski.

Three Elegies (Triptych). (96 x 60 inches each) Oil, acrylic, watercolor, charcoal, ash, cement, cheesecloth, drop cloth, shredded paper on canvas. 2023. Install view for Dandely—or, Beneath this River’s Tempo’d Time We Walk at Reisig and Taylor Contemporary. Photo courtesy of Reisig and Taylor Contemporary.

Thank you for joining us, Saun. Can you tell us a little about yourself? 

Thank you so much for having me! I’m a multidisciplinary artist from Thailand currently based in Los Angeles. My work is grounded in the position of questioning, or rather the questioning of position, and as such I view the ‘art objects’ I work on, whether concretely tangible or ephemeral, as traces of the various threads of inquiries I’m preoccupied with, interwoven within and through each work or set of works, some present threads intertwining and connecting with ones I began questioning years ago, now illumined by the spark of a connection.

What brings you to art? What are you exploring in your projects?

Art for me is the act of questioning, one that uniquely has the power to conjoin emotion and thought. Each work, or works, creates a space through which collective questions can be asked, and hopefully can triangulate a dialogue between not so much the artist but rather the ideas/inquiries, the art object and the spectator, or to coin Claire Bishop’s term, the spect-actor. The artist takes on the role of conduit, or perhaps a kind of orchestrator of sorts—orchestrator in the sense of choosing and weighing the right set of tones and colors to present the dialogues with as much clarity as possible—or to quote a translation of Adorno from his book on Alban Berg, to “heighten the illusion to the point of transparency”. Some of the main threads of inquiries I explore are questions of myth, narrative, history and identity, the blurred lines between them, and the ever-transformative movement through them. Time, of course, plays a big role in these questions and the notion of cyclic time is something I constantly return to, as is the image of ouroboros, particularly in relation to mythmaking (the act of breaking myth is in itself a form of myth and thus the serpent eats its own tail). Connected to all this for me is the exploration of semiotics and again, the notion of being caught within the cycle of symbols, of signifiers and signifieds and the question of how we push forward—here, the last lines of Samuel Beckett’s The Unnamable comes to mind (and has stayed with me for years): “You must go on. I can’t go on. I’ll go on.”

Bound. (48 x 96 inches) Oil, acrylic, shellac, gold leaf, cheesecloth, rope, copper wire, and ash on canvas. 2022. Photo courtesy of Reisig and Taylor Contemporary.

You’ve been very active during the past few years. What is the most exciting project you’ve worked on so far?

That would definitely be my solo exhibition Dandelye—or, Beneath this River’s Tempo’d Time We Walk at Reisig and Taylor Contemporary last month. It is a culmination of many threads of inquiries that began about seven years ago in book form, floating, like the symbol of the dandelion, into the realm of music as a solo album last year and finally reaching new ground and achieving full bloom with this exhibition which brings together both my visual and aural backgrounds.

Ghosts of ’76. (17.5 x 28.5 inches) Oil, tape on wood panel. 2023. Photo courtesy of Reisig and Taylor Contemporary.

What does “community” mean to you? Has your local community inspired you as an artist?

Community has always meant the possibility of open dialogue and inspired discussions for me, which has been rare to find. I cherish greatly the group of artists, thinkers, writers and musicians—all friends—who share these longings and with whom I’ve been fortunate enough to have engaged in this sense of community and dialogue with. And yes my local community inspires me, particularly with this group I’ve mentioned, many of which grew from my associations with Objet A.D. and Reisig and Taylor Contemporary and the community of artists and dialogues they have fostered through their exhibitions and community. I’m very humbled to have been welcomed to be part of it.

Additionally, one of the beautiful things about our current technology is the ability to find community and dialogue across borders and boundaries. I have had and continue to have many ongoing conversations and collaborations with artists in numerous countries and continents and that is something that greatly inspires me, in particular the ability to see and hear different perspectives and cultures and exchange ideas through communal dialogue and varied disciplines.

Let the Wind Speak, Let Water Turn to Grains of Sand, Into Gusts of Wind. (73.5 x 18 x 30.25 inches, (including plinth; sculpture: 34” tall including bolts, width and depth variable)). Copper plate, acrylic, vinegar, salt, bolts, aural exciters, wood, speaker amplifier, with computer running Max application of sound installation (including audio files) and separate monitor for schematics display. Max/MSP Patch Programmer: Chen Shen, Audio Consultant, Plinth Design: Ken Goerres. Install view for Dandely—or, Beneath this River’s Tempo’d Time We Walk at Reisig and Taylor Contemporary. Photo courtesy of Reisig and Taylor Contemporary.

What are you working on right now?

I am currently working on a new set of works, continuing and pushing forward my copper sculpture/sound sculpture explorations and using that dialogue between visual and aural mediums as a way of pursuing further questions on the relationship of the two, here also drawing from my interest and background in the medium of film but exploring it through my own means outside the frame of the screen. The relationship between image and sound as well leads back to my interest in excavating language, language being itself both sonic and visual.

Excavation (or The Vagaries of the Exposed). (42 x 78 inches) Oil, acrylic, shellac, gravel, cheesecloth, rope, clay, coconut shells, ash on canvas. 2023. Photo courtesy of Reisig and Taylor Contemporary.

Do you have any advice that you would offer to others?

Any advice I could offer would be to keep questioning and remain curious and open. For me, the moment I begin to feel ‘secure’ in my knowledge of something, I immediately know I must begin to question that, hence being grounded in the position of questioning. It is one of the reasons I love using concrete as a material: I love how it begins malleable, like ideas, and if not questioned (and perhaps even in spite of it), it hardens (inevitably) into ideologies. And so one must continually break these down and reform them, knowing that the cycle must continue—again, ouroboros—accruing layers we further excavate, mining at once our own intimate strata as well as those of society around us, remaining ever in motion.

Façades. (42 x 35.5 inches) Oil, acrylic, shellac, cement, hardware cloth, cheesecloth, gold leaf, printed photographs on paper on wood. 2023. Photo courtesy of Reisig and Taylor Contemporary.

text & photo courtesy of Saun Santipreecha

Photo courtesy of Reisig and Taylor Contemporary

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