Artists in Southeast Asia: Zoncy, Anon Pairot and more share what inspires their recent artworks
An intimate look into the lives of five artists beyond their works to find out what makes them tick and inspire them
The references that artists use to inform their work are widely varied: these can be a song, a film, a novel, a fashion image, a building in their neighbourhood, a childhood memory and sometimes a combination of two or more of them. The possibilities and permutations are endless.
Five Southeast Asian artists, Robert Zhao Renhui (b. 1983, Singapore), Eiffel Chong (b. 1977, Malaysia), Alwin Reamillo (b. 1964, Philippines), Zoncy (b. 1987, Myanmar) and Anon Pairot (b. 1979, Thailand) share with Art Republik the sources of inspiration for their work lately.
“I have visited more than a hundred zoos in the last 10 years. Whenever I travel, I make it a point to visit the local zoo, no matter how small it may be. I am searching for a reason why we need to see animals in zoos. I am still searching.”
Robert Zhao Renhui is a visual artist based in Singapore. His work addresses man’s relationship with nature, paying close attention to how our attitudes and opinions shape our assumptions about the natural world. He is currently showing ‘Christmas Island, Naturally’ at ShanghART, Singapore.
“Till Death Do Us Part”
“When I was about ten, my mother took out our family photo albums and threw away all the photographs that had my father in it, including their wedding photographs. I didn’t understand why she did that at that time, but it coincided with them getting divorced. I recently came across some old wedding photographs while visiting abandoned homes and the memory of that particular day came flooding back. I tried to relate the couples in the photographs to my parents, and couldn’t help but let my imagination run wild about why their photographs had been discarded when they should be prized possessions.”
Eiffel Chong is an award-winning photographer based in Malaysia who has exhibited extensively both at home and abroad. His works often deal with identity and human frailty. Chong graduated with an MA in International Contemporary Art and Design Practice from the University of East London and a BA (Hons) in Photography from London College of Printing.
“The ‘Rizal’ Matchbox”
“I grew up in the family’s piano workshop, and so the piano springs are from there. The matchbox is from a childhood incident. After discovering matches, I was playing with them in the varnishing area of the workshop, and nearly torched the whole place down! Of course, my father found out, and I was punished seriously for it. For me, Rizal’s face on the matchbox is a kind of trivialisation — his significance reduced to a common day kitchen implement is far removed from the ideas that he represents. Most know Rizal as a matchbox, similar to his face on the now devalued one peso coin.”
Alwin Reamillo is an interdisciplinary artist living and working between Australia and the Philippines. His practice is focused on ideas about migration and cultural identity. His works appear in many forms, and span painting, photography, collage, sculpture, mixed media installations, performance and shadow puppetry. The chosen image relates to his ongoing ‘Matchbox’ series, most recently shown at Art Fair Philippines with Arndt Fine Art.
“An Afternoon in a Beach Town in 1998”
“While we were playing, Dad was drawing something on a paper. He showed us what he drew. It was the three of us on the back of a giant tortoise. I liked it very much. Once he made us recycled paper masks. If I pulled down the ribbon at the back of the mask, the red tongue came out from its mouth. And he put curves on the chest and the hips on the drawing of a girl I made. He was a good poet when he was young. Later, he became a judge at the high court. Now he is retired and works as a freelance lawyer. My past as [it is] related to him has influenced me in the early years of my career as an artist.”
Zoncy Phyu is a multidisciplinary artist based in Yangon, Myanmar. She explores a range of mediums for her work, including painting, photography and performance. She is also a trainer in creative advocacy, community theatre and multicultural education.
“I am always interested in human relationships. They form the core of my work and preoccupations. I usually get inspired by stories from the people I meet: stories from the newspapers, stupid stories from taxi drivers… just everyday things. Travels, especially to factories and to strange cities, are wildly interesting to me as well. Of late, I have been intrigued by animal behaviour.”
Anon Pairot is an artist, designer and a curator based in Bangkok, Thailand. His work is known for its fluid confluences between rebellion, controversy, subversiveness, intellectualism and theatricality.
This article was originally published in Art Republik 14.