A laid-back chat with Yuree Kensaku about her ‘Atmosfear’ comic murals

Three years after her much-loved “Karma Police” exhibition, talented Thai-Japanese artist Yuree Kensaku is displaying her mural comic paintings in another exhibition, “Atmosfear” at 100 Tonson Gallery. Coconuts Bangkok got a chance to pop into the gallery to see her work and ask her some questions.

Yuree, a Bangkok-native, made her art world debut a dozen years ago, just after graduating from Bangkok University. Her first show was part of a series called “Brand New” that allowed promising young artists to have their own solo exhibitions. She’s basically been going full-speed ever since then.

What inspires you?

My inspiration for creating artwork is things I personally encountered or that happened around me, which leave a permanent mark on my mind. I try to understand these things through my own perception. This is because I want to draw what I truly understand.

What artwork style which best defines you?

Firstly, my paintings are figurative. When viewing my paintings, you know that it’s an animal, a person, or an object. It isn’t abstract. Secondly, they are lovely comics trimming details of real objects. Yet, these cartoons are sometimes sarcastic. And, the last feature is narration through symbolic characters in my paintings.

Can you tell us about your latest exhibition?

The concept of this exhibition is “Maku Atmosphere”, which means “Uncomfortable Atmosphere.” “Maku” is Japanese slang used by Thais which literally means “to coil.” The origin of this word comes from a Japanese cartoon in which the lead character is taken into a world of whirling colours (“maku”) in the sky which make the hero feel uncomfortable. That’s why I use this word to describe this exhibition.

And, instead of making paintings separately, I use the installation technique of turning every inch of 100 Tonson Gallery into these paintings emblazoned on canvas, which is stretched right on the walls. So, audiences will feel that they are really embraced into the maku atmosphere.

Finally, the reason I use a volcano as the logo of this exhibition is that this exhibition is like an ‘eruption’ of all my uncomfortable feelings.

Why do you portray “maku” situations through such lovely paintings, instead of more serious ones?

There are two reasons. First, it’s my own preference. I’m fond of lovely stuff. Second, it’s a fact that we inevitably encounter these maku situations. And, we shouldn’t let ourselves be overcome by these situations so much that we freak out. Instead, we learn to live with them. Personally, to some extent these paintings are therapeutic. That’s why I made these paintings look lovely, in spite of the concept of “maku.”

How many maku situations are portrayed in this exhibition?

There are four maku situations illustrated on the wall:

The first painting is a visual map of foods to which I’m allergic; such as lobsters, crabs, kidney beans, corns and jelly. For the past nine years, my food allergies somehow stopped. Recently, they have resurfaced again. I have put one foot in the grave three or four times because I couldn’t breathe, eating these foods. I’m severely allergic to seafood.

The second painting deals with animals that people are afraid of. This maku is inspired by my fear of snakes; there is a canal where snakes live near my house. To start this one, I googled “Top ten deadly animals,” choosing only what I wanted to draw. However, when drawing these animals, I made them look innocuous and cute. For example, I literally drew the head of the box jellyfish with a box.

Superficially, this third painting is a land of mermaids (in Thai, “Ngueak”). But, in fact it is a play on language, like my previous artwork. It comes from the Thai slang “Ngueak,” meaning “not so good” or boring, like when you say “Today, you look severe/bored.” Meanwhile, although the mermaid are ideally beautiful creatures for foreigners, I put them in a littered environment where there are cans, paper, cooking gas cylinders, plastic bags and beer bottles. Above, you’ll see Poseidon, the father of the mermaids.

The last maku is about social issues. The first one is a flood in Japan which happened in the beginning of this year. This painting is inspired by a clip on Youtube, in which it appears that a house is flowing with the vigorous flood while people are sitting on the roof. This incident really leaves an imprint on my mind, so I captured the clip and portrayed it through this painting.

Plus, this flood incident reminds me of the Great Flood in the Bible. So, I drew Noah’s Ark and linked to the issue about Rohingya refugees by drawing skeletons on the ark to tell that some of the refugees died.

On the right hand side, the painting is about violence. When working here, I thought of the bomb incident at Erawan Shrine, so I drew some bombs. Moreover, I also talked about the suicidal pilot who decided to ram the plane into the ground for recognition.

Other than paintings, what kind of artwork do you create?

I personally do any artwork based on drawing, such as animation and graphic design. I made a music video for Pry&May-T Project. Four months after this exhibition ends, I will display my fiberglass sculptures. Then, animations and another set of paintings.

“Atmosfear” shows through Nov. 27. Entry is free. See more details at the “Atmosfear” Facebook page.



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