Suddenly there’s an audience of big eyes looking down at me. Not just big eyes, I mean great, vast cavernous peepers staring at me from some secret sisterhood, all living together amidst a swirl of vivid colour and bold patterned backdrops. My life just became one giant candy psychedelic dream.
Welcome to the inhabitants of Gantu Studio 88. The mother of these canvas-mounted beauties is the Pop Surrealism artist, Kanjana Khumcruth (Gan). This other-worldy studio space is shared with local artistic talents, Rittipong Nupan and Somkiat Kaewnow, but I’m already lost in Gan’s arcana.
Pop Surrealism’s journey began in the late 1970s when the underground art movement termed ‘Lowbrow’ started to emerge on the West Coast of America, particularly in Los Angeles. Lowbrow art was connected to modern imagery found in comics, tattoo parlours, experimental illustration, punk rock motifs and street art amongst other things. It certainly had its roots in movements such as Dadaism, Surrealism, and Fauvism.
As the art form established, emerging artists produced increasingly sophisticated paintings and their style became known as Pop Surrealism. Some consider the artist Kenny Scharf to be the “godfather” of its name. Scharf describes his journey into Pop-dom as, “Surrealism is about the unconscious, and I feel my work is about the unconscious. The images come from the unconscious except that my unconscious is filled with pop imagery. My unconscious is pop, therefore the art would be Pop Surrealism”. One should have expected such a response.
Gan’s journey, however, is far removed from the confused glitz of West Coast America. But Gan had a plan to follow her creative passion from her rural home town in Ratchaburi.
She gained a place and graduated from the Product Design degree at Suan Sunandha Rajabhat University, Bangkok. Throughout this time Gan worked in a local gallery, learning her skills from the resident artists. On graduating she became a highly skilled reproduction artist, creating like-for-like canvases of great works using a range of artistic techniques and styles.
After eight years reproducing art masterpieces in both Pattaya and Kamala Beach, Phuket, Gan became inspired to create her own original work, and opened a gallery on the island.
“I love Pop Art and contemporary works. The influences from elements in my life when I was a young girl. The cartoons, fantasy books, 60s and 70s retro magazines. They were all so colourful in my life. I loved them,” proclaimed Gan. “I realised when starting my own work that I must learn from my own lifestyle. An artist has a long time to spend with and learn from themselves. My art is a release into my thoughts and childhood.”
Her influences are clearly identifiable within the strong themes and consistency which appear to haunt her solo work. Gan’s provocative oil paintings present a solitary girl as the key focus on the canvas. Each child-like entity has familial traits in their appearance, the mutant offspring from the marriage of the artist’s mind and method. Yet spirited styles and characterisation give the canvas a life of its own, adorned by prominent imagery and design details that provide insights into the subject’s deeper self.
Similarities in style of the facial features define the work as a never-ending collection and study. Most notably, Gan’s exaggeration on her subject’s eyes as a focal point in the composition.
“She is the girl from my heart,” Gan reveals. “She has big eyes, and within them is a truth, everything is real. The character is a microscope. You cannot hide from the truth in someone’s eyes.”
The complex layers of the artist are to be found represented in her many characters. The girl is her younger self. She presents her dream world, fears and desires. She is her superstar. Looking directly at Gan’s characters one can’t help but feel an uneasy contradiction. The innocence in those big eyes holding a deeper secret. And it keeps the observer transfixed in a vain attempt to make a connection, to fleetingly understand each starlet.
Perhaps it’s time the art world entered her surrealist dreamscape, and woke up to the fact that Gan herself just might be the superstar.
Enter Gan’s world at www.gantustudio88.com