Discovering On the painting of Somyot Hananuntasuk Measuring the World is one of the most successful publications to have emerged in the past few years. It is the title of a novel in which Daniel Kehlmann relates the story of two historical figures, the explorer Alexander von Humboldt and the mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss. The tale of the two researchers - one who travelled the world and one who stayed at home - unites opposing poles: movement and motionlessness, thought and action, seeking and finding. The two protagonists are bound by a passion for discovering. Somyot Hananuntasuk's paintings have seemingly little to do with such a narrative - but all the more with the term 'discovering'. Before looking at this in more detail, one thing must be said quite emphatically: Somyot Hananuntasuk's paintings do not depict anything; they are objects in themselves. Only when one has rid oneself of the notion of painting being a reproduction of the visible world can one immerse oneself in the pictures.
An important prerequisite for discovering is inquisitiveness. But that also creates its own problems. It poses questions - for example as to the where, what and how. Inquisitiveness can be found at the outset of a creative process; it can be satisfied by solving a problem and ultimately lead to the success of the whole. In the case of painting, both are evident in the finished picture - the question and the answer; a puzzle solved without words.
One possible problem is the place. This is where the creative process - or, more specifically, the making of a picture - starts. Where am I? The canvas is still blank. The first application of paint provides a hint. It then induces a string of decisions. With every movement, with every step the place becomes more defined. This process allows fields of colour and shapes to emerge but also to disappear once again. The painter-explorer - obliterating more and more white spaces from the imaginary map - is inspired through the perception of his surroundings by the senses, the filtering and transformation of sensual impressions by his own personality, emotions, memories and experiences,not least of all by his intuition. For us, the existence of place is inextricably bound to time. It is based on the instinct with which decisions for the future are made in the present, based on experience from the past. Every creative process has a beginning and an end, and at the end of everything there is a new beginning: when the work created is perceived by someone else. This launches another search process. Not only the painter is the explorer; viewers of his work also set off on a path of discovery across the terrain he has prepared.
For the painter, who has made the decision to let this creative process take its course, step by step, drawing on his experience, his feelings, his instinct, the result is a fundamentally personal work. It exists without needing any legitimation, in whatever form that may take. However, the viewer normally asks the 'what' question. Somyot Hananuntasuk's works reveal their very own special constellation that links what with how. The artist himself has said: "When I work I'm not interested in painting figuratively and I don't want to make any statements about society, religion or politics. I'm much more interested in patterns, structures, spatial effects and the emotional impact of colour." The sometimes powerful colours used by the artist fill whole sections of the canvas, applied in a multiplicity of modulations in a lively painterly style, with the brushstrokes always remaining visible. All variations of reds, blues, greens and yellows send out strong optical impulses to the viewer.Frequently, these are combined with light or dark achromatic areas.These appear as fields or lines; they are, however, never used as a mise-en-scene for any space other than the pictorial space, or any shape other than the coloured shape itself. Should figurative situations emerge then these are purely figments of the viewer’s imagination. The colours (to which black and white also belong) remain what they are: lines, whether narrow or broad, and fields of colour, woven from such lines. What these are can only be summarised imprecisely and vaguely with the word 'harmony', in the same way that the individual cannot be defined by the word 'person', just as little as a person can be by listing a few characteristics. The characteristics of harmony, of equilibrating tension and setting counterpoints summarise those manifested many times in the pictures. Their surfaces are true marvels of atmospheric colouring, advancing over the pictorial area as organic shapes that are anything but static.
So that these pictorial constellations never become set in any one form and continue to produce lively results, Somyot Hananuntasuk occasionally changes his place of work, frequently creating small-format works in oil pastels when travelling. Due to their being completed quickly and the relative inexpensiveness of the materials used, unbiased, quick decisions can be made as to what steps are needed to reach a specific creative goal. The spontaneity of the pictures as a direct response to the mood of the setting helps avoid thoughts on compositional problems stagnating. New pictorial discoveries are made which can also be applied when working on large-format canvases.
There is a consistency, an inner relationship, between Somyot Hananuntasuk's individual works. His paintings are not a 'measuring of the world'. His paintings are creations that owe their existence to the same exploratory urge as the 'measurers of the world' in the novel. The discoveries themselves are never duplicated - every picture is virgin territory; there are no fixed formal components that could be repeated in series. In front of each blank canvas destined to become a new picture, the question of discovering is posed anew: what treasures still lie concealed in the individual? What riches will surface? The answer is the painting.
Translation: Christopher Wynne