I’m trying to keep up a sort of regular ‘feature’ on über embroiderers on The Smallest Forest: These are the big kids, the crème de la crème, the leet of needle and thread…that runts like me long to play with, but will never even exist in the same universe with. *stabs herself with a #24 chenille* Oh, crewel world!
(Note: compiled from several sources…please click on an image to visit its source)
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I love the busy, quirky, narrative-style embroideries by foremost Thai textile artist Jakkai Siributr. Something about all those random little seed stitches producing a quilted effect on padded fabric really makes me happy.
Also, I’m powerfully drawn to what resemble thread drawings of scenes from Thai life (more often than not satirical) His anthropomorphic animals and crowds of little naked people are irresistibly humorous. The works are highly ornamental, detailed, beautifully executed, and even when drawing on contemporary Thai religious kitsch, have been reined in by Jakkai’s manipulating to reflect a slightly edgier aesthetic, as well as a potent message.
Not all just sugar dust and powder puffs, Jakkai Siributr’s work is highly politicized and charged with his personal views of Thai cuture and society…particularly the materialism and commercialization of Buddhism in his country. He uses “an iconography of popular but bastardized versions of Buddhism: from the idols of a current cult of amulet worship to the forms of the Thai yantra, designs that sponsor luck, power or protection…to address the hypocrisies, and occasional nonsense, that attend pervasive local versions of Thai culture and politics. “
As he states in an interview with some young art enthusiasts in an Art Babble video (embedded below) he hasn’t exhibited in Thailand for a while—fortunately, he says, because the political and critical message of his current work would probably incense quite a few people in his native country. Brave of him, in that he is the great-great-great-grandson of one of Thailand’s most beloved and revered monarchs. One wonders how Jakkai’s work is received by his family…
Siributr’s use of craft—embroidery and textile design, in particular— as the means to get his message across is unusual and effective. Craft methods are (still) an unexpected outsider in the art world, and their use defies categorization. It is precisely this “outsider” status that signals a works aim to be disruptive, unconventional, and subversive.
Artists who employ craft, from Grayson Perry to Ghada Amer, are diverse; and the politics and history of craft are skewed by the current contexts of a global labour force that is predominately female and forms of advanced capitalism that can assimilate the so-called alternative of the handmade*. —Brian Curtin for Frieze Magazine
(*Italics are mine)
From a PDF on mousework archives is this brief artist’s cv from a past exhibit:
While Jakkai’s tapestry paintings are overwhelmingly contemporary, his artistic lineage and significant ancestry provides a fascinating glimpse into royal court life in Thailand, hinting at some of the psychological and societal pressure that meld his art.
Considered one of Thailand’s most influential artists of his time, Jakkai’s grandfather was HSH Prince Subha Svasti, a grandson of King Mongkut (Rama IV), the monarch made famous in the Anna and the King memoirs. A keen painter and photographer who often depicted the pomp of court life, Prince Subha Svasti’s works include a magnificent portrait of his cousin King Prachathipok (Rama VII).
Born in Bangkok, Thailand in 1969, Jakkai Siributr graduated with a B.A. in Textile/Fine Arts from Indiana University in 1992. He received an M.S. in Textile Design from the Philadelphia University (Philadelphia College of Textiles and Sciences) in 1996 and was awarded a Bellagio grant by the Rockefeller Foundation in 2001.