11 Jul Narath Boriboonhiranthana: Cutting Loose
11 July 2019
At the crossroads of Art Nouveau and traditional Thai art, Narath Boriboonhiranthana creates really delicate paper cut art pieces. An abstract mix realized from concrete elements inspired by the personal history and the overflowing imagination of the artist.
A detailed work which needs from 3 weeks to 3 months to create a piece. The result is a precise draw transformed in lights curves, which make architectural details, wildlife and plants slowly reveal.
Everything started at Silapakorn University in Bangkok, where the future artist first studied traditional Thai arts. That’s where she discovered the paper cut technique which has become her medium since almost 6 years.
However, nothing fated her to do so, as she started by developing drawing. But after a depression that occurred between her second and her third year, the young artist was failing in creating and missed her concentration to finish her works. She put herself in question: “I couldn’t finish my work, until the beginning of a course about Thai techniques. The teacher wanted us to pick one and I was like “oh my god! I don’t know what to do. Traditional paints? Should I do oil?” I couldn’t do it.” Her professor suggested her the paper cut…
Narath thrived on it and succeeded in overcoming her attention deficit disorder. She even improved her attention span. “I started to cut and I was just feeling that my concentration was going much longer and that I was feeling somewhat better. This technique
was really some sort of meditation for me. It was making me work longer, focus better and the result was interesting. I tried so hard to put in the focus. It just expressed my feelings.”
At first, she developed the technique in a traditional way. Then, at the end of her graduate work, she asked herself this question: “Why don’t you cut the same as you draw?” From then, Narath started to create her paper pieces the same way that she previously created her drawings. The result being a great finesse and extremely developed details.
“After that, I went to the fashion industry, try to find new friends for 1 year, to experience the work world and I kinda found myself. And finally I figured out I wanted to come back to my artworks so I resumed creating. At first the same way as before but it was not exactly the same, surprisingly. My interests had changed.”
This decorative way to approach her creations didn’t fit her anymore. Narath now wanted to express her personal story and her feelings. “I didn’t want to produce such decorative art I wanted to put my soul in it.”
This hurdle marked a crucial turn in the career of the young artist. She switched from an almost exclusively abstract work to a more personal and figurative one and approached her creations in a cathartic way in which she expresses what she can’t say out loud and therefore breaks free from her fears, her disappointments and her frustrations. The feelings of reject, not being loved or not finding her place in the society being central in Narath Boriboonhiranthana’s work.
Into the labyrinth
Her artworks consequently change in a maze of references, objects and symbols that we don’t see at first sight but that we discover progressively, as many as secret messages.
While in one of the art pieces she opens a window on a dreamlike world, she closes a door in another piece and hides a secret behind that she is the only one to know.
“Since I had this depression thing, it’s been like “OK I’m going to use this paper technique to tell a story, to put my feelings out in the way that I will use the symbol of it.”
Symbols as anemone, a flower that we find in almost each of her works: “I don’t like to say it but it’s really romantic. Anemone flower evokes sadness and second love. And this is what I like. From outside it’s a beautiful and very delicate flower but on the inside, she expresses sadness and melancholy.”
A point of view that we can easily compare to the work of the artist which is very esthetic on the outside but very dark inside. Because Narath draws her inspiration from her personal story and her conflictual relationship with her parents.
“Each part of my work tells a story; sadness, loneliness, the relationship between me and my family. I tell my story and I express my darkest and negative feelings that I present in a pleasant way.” She doesn’t ambition to create art pieces overloaded by pathos, though. She wants to show artworks suitable and accessible to everyone. “Maybe it’s not really deep but I just want to produce artworks that are easier to understand for people. I want people who look at my artworks to be able to recognize elements and like them. So, I decided to produce something I like, something that makes me happy and that I would love to have on my walls.”
In this endless research to tell her story, Narath goes as far as to personify herself in her pieces, starting to incorporate female portraits in the middle of her work. “I love to draw portraits and I just want to put a main character in there to represent myself but not frontally.” Not a self-portrait by the classical definition of the term, but rather an allegorical representation of the artist. “I just want to tell a story and represent myself. It’s like if you’re making your own story, if somebody will play your character in a movie, who are you gonna choose to play your part?” This face is never the same and unlike the rest of the art piece, it’s never cut. Narath reconnects here with her first love for drawing.
Her work progresses and the artist gradually breaks away from the classical technique. When one browse all of her works, one sees that the frame and right-angled corners disappear to smoother pieces which remind of Art Nouveau curves. No more corners, no more straight lines, nothing shows the first step of a rectangular white paper sheet. Narath throws off classical codes of composition and gives free rein to her imagination.
A call to imagination which is not without reminding the art movement of Romanticism developed in the 18th century. As romantic artists in their time, Narath represents her internal feelings and is nourished by her dreams, her doubts and her fears. It is her need to express herself that leads her creation. Nothing seems premeditated. She lets herself be gladly guided by her mind that “wander everywhere” and that she “can’t stop.” This is why we can see monkeys in her art piece named House of Cards. “When I created this piece, I was thinking about monkeys, so I drew them!”
Her influences are wide, always mixing Asia and Europe. Asia where she grew up and studied, and Europe where she now lives, in Budapest. In addition to Art Nouveau and Romanticism previously mentioned, it is relevant to add the influence of symbolists as Gustav Klimt in the way of depicting her female models. We also find the abundant imaginary world of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s novel Le Petit Prince where foxes and rabbits jump alongside, as well as her tribute to the Ophelia of John Everett Millais. This painting from the mid 18th century is taking as reference the character of William Shakespeare’s famous play, Hamlet. In this tragedy, the young Ophelia commits suicide in water after her lover, Hamlet, abandoned her and killed her father.
Narath Boriboonhiranthana develops an art destined to contemplation by the subtle decryption of elusive symbols. And if the artist is not afraid to put in her work her darkest feelings, she doesn’t want to fall into the trap of clichés regarding her trans situation. “I’m a trans, and I think you know that, obviously. I just want to represent myself as a normal person. I don’t think that gender or what I am is worth talking about. Even if you’re a gay or a trans or something like that, we are all equal has humans. It doesn’t mean that because you are LGBTQ+ you should be passionate by unicorns, glitters or anything of the sort. You can be interested by other things. For example, I have a friend, a beautiful trans woman and she paints traditional Thai Buddhist monks…”
So, even if Narath doesn’t reject her trans status, she doesn’t try to claim it or campaign for equality and human rights in her work. This is not where she belongs and she doesn’t want to be reduced to the simple status which is still summarized by clichés, however vivid they unfortunately might be.
Until June 30th, Narath Boriboonhiranthana exhibits at Subhashok the Arts Centre in Bangkok. You have the great opportunity to enter for a short time in the artist’s mind. Called, The Remembrance, the exhibition is gathering 11 art pieces including one created especially for the occasion: wide-format moon to pay tribute to her parents. “Before going to sleep, I like to look through the window. This night, I missed my family. When I opened the shade, I saw this beautiful moon. I felt extremely sad so I decided to create this piece.”
Then, from July 20 to August 20, the Remembrance exhibition will hit Phuket, where it will be on display in the beautiful setting of luxury resort and residence Kata Rocks by Infinite Luxury. Overlooking the calm, crystal clear waters of Kata Beach and the Andaman Sea, Kata Rocks is among the most iconic five-star resorts and home to the Kata Rocks Superyacht RendezVous.
BANGKOK / Subhashok the Arts Centre
PHUKET / Kata Rocks