Mit Jai Inn at Silverlens Gallery, Manila

In the Thai artist’s work, ‘movement and transformation play out in tandem’, says Josephine V. Roque

By Josephine V. Roque

Mit Jai Inn, Actants, 2019 (installation view). Courtesy the artist and Silverlens Gallery, Manila

Mit Jai Inn’s first solo show in the Philippines (his work was included in a group show, also at Silverlens, last year) sees the Chiang Mai-based artist continuing his experiments with the painted canvas as movable object via three new bodies of work. 

In Actants, movement and transformation play out in tandem. These vivid, striped, unframed, open-ended paintings play with the experience of space and scale by encouraging the audience to move around them and, in some cases, to touch and change them. Making good use of the gallery’s high ceilings, Screens (2019) is a group of enormous chalky white and colourful canvases cut into strips like banners and displayed at various widths and lengths. The works, hung from the ceiling, surround the viewer – who can pass under and around them, to a canvas at the far side of the room, which extends o the wall and along the floor to form an L-shape. That these works are painted on both sides – meaning there is no back or front, no right side from which to view them – completes the experience of being engulfed.

In another room, a series of three wide beltlike strips of canvas hang from the wall, their ends placed side by side, forming a half loop or a twisted, colourful necklace (Loops, 2019). Each loop is further split into strips, with each of those painted with a combination of two or three textured shades that make looking at the work similar to figuring out the interconnecting blocks of a Rubik’s Cube. Dream Works (1999/2019) comprises tiles of frayed and slit canvas mounted on the wall into a grid so that they appear to form a larger work. Previous works from the same series are also present, showing how a canvas tile with slits might be folded in myriad ways. The artist uses oil paint, linseed oil and a palette knife to make his work layered and stiff enough to hold its form without a stretcher, yet pliable enough to take on another shape.

In another series, titled Scrolls (2019), rolled canvas works are displayed on their edges like unravelling spirals. The insides of the scroll are painted in colourful vertical stripes, while the outsides are predominantly white with neon streaks of colour on a textured surface similar to rocky soil or tree bark. The same flow of movement and displacement can be seen in the two Patch Works (2019, one with thick, sandwiched ribbons of canvas and the other interspersed with blank spaces). In both wall-mounted works, loose strips are woven and tied together, or left casually unspooling on the floor, alluding to cultures that use ribbons as markers for blessings and celebrations. 

In narrative terms, ‘actant’ refers to the archetypal and binary roles that structure stories – hero and villain, for example; something demonstrated by Mit, not only through the tension created by his woven, cut and frayed canvas strips, but also through the artist’s trespassing of the restrictions and boundaries of what a painting, sculpture and audience could and should be.

Mit Jai Inn: Actants at Silverlens Gallery, Manila 21 September – 19 October

From the Winter 2019 issue of ArtReview Asia