Azure Neon Body

1995
Neon lights
50 x 0 x 1000 cm
Edition of 1

Some time ago Phaophanit came across a small book, a dictionary translating Laotian into English. Published by a Laotian prince in the seventies, the book also contained essays about Laotian life, and that of the prince in particular. Some words, for example ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, were not included. However, a whole section was devoted to words describing the human body—skin, hair, leg, sweat, liver, kidneys, fingernails. These descriptions provide the basis, in Laotian script, for Azure Neon Body. One hundred and seventy two words, arranged haphazardly in a trench in the ground, emanate a strong azure light. A smaller version of this work was shown at the Reina Sofia Gallery in Madrid in 1994–95. In the gallery, it was set into a false floor and flooded the room with bright blue light. In the outdoor version of this work, the sculpture has to compete with natural light. This brings a new dimension to Azure Neon Body, one of time, day or season accompanied by the vagaries of changing light, shadow and weather.

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About The Artist

Memory plays an important part in Phaophanit’s work and his choice of materials, including bamboo, rubber and rice, often referencing to his Laotian heritage. Although Laotian references are an important component of Phaophanit’s work, he is often concerned with contextualising this interest within broader aesthetic and philosophical concerns. Phaophanit is best known for his sculpture and installations, which employ familiar materials to expose multiple layers of contradictory meaning. An early installation entitled What Falls to the Ground but Cannot be Eaten at the Chisenhale Gallery, London, in 1991, was composed of an austere architectural gateway and a light suspended bamboo installation creating an important dialogue between both material and cultural differences. Laotian text adorned the ceremonial gateway through which one entered the installation. Since then, Phaophanit has frequently used Laotian text in his work. The nine red neon words of Litterae Lacentes (Light Writing) at Killerton Park, Devon, in 1993 were placed on a garden wall where bamboo and palm trees had been planted. He did not translate the words for his audience, in an effort to communicate the challenge of living between cultures. Following this, Phaophanit developed an interest in neon and LED light technology and has worked frequently with architects to develop new ways of working with these materials.

Vong Phaophanit

Born: 1961

Other Artworks by Vong Phaophanit at CASS

2012

Field of Rods

Field of Rods is formed from a series of highly polished, steel rods anchored to a fixed base. Resembling sheaves of whe…

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