Of Indian descent, artist Navin Rawanchaikul was born in Thailand and works between Chiang Mai, Thailand, and Fukuoka in Japan. Rawanchaikul is internationally acclaimed for his panoramic figurative paintings but he also works across a range of other media to create a rich universe of interconnected stories of people and communities. Through sculpture, painting, performance, photography, and film, Rawanchaikul creates community-driven projects that aim to integrate art into everyday contexts.
There is No Voice (3) was created in collaboration with the community from his home-town, Chiang Mai. It was exhibited as part of the artist’s first solo show in 1994 but the work continued to evolve until its final completion in 2012. It comprises a collection of discarded medicine bottles, reused as receptacles for black-and-white photographs of Chiang Mai’s senior citizens, and reflects the artist’s continued commitment to exploring social issues to bridge the divide between art and life.
Molded into the glass of some of the medicine bottles is a measuring scale. Once used to measure the desired medicinal dosage, and quantify the progressive emptying of the bottle’s contents, the scales now mark the aging bodies of men and women, becoming a metaphor for the passing of time and the expiration of life.
Other bottles in the display case contain photographs. Each bottle is sealed with a cork and collectively they sit on a shelf like items for sale. Yet their further enclosure within the vitrine presents them as an archive of specimens. The portraits, bound by both the bottle and the vitrine appear as subjects without a voice, and yet their preservation, like specimens in a jar, invites opening and a dialogue with the viewer.
Image: Navin Rawanchaikul, There is No Voice (3), 1994 – 2012, Wood, glass bottles, photographs, 200 x 65 x 150 cm. The Gene & Brian Sherman Collection, Sydney. Image courtesy the artist and Yavuz Gallery.