NATEE UTARIT (Thai, B. 1970)
NATEE UTARIT (Thai, B. 1970)

The Baroque No. 3

NATEE UTARIT (Thai, B. 1970)
The Baroque No. 3
inscribed 'The Amusement of Dreams, Hope and Reflection series' and titled 'The Baroque No. 3' in English; signed with artist's signature; dated '08' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
240 x 200 cm. (94 1/2 x 78 3/4 in.)
Painted in 2008
Richard Koh Fine Art, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Acquired from the above by the present owner

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Eric Chang
Eric Chang

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Lot Essay

Natee Utarit has been widely acknowledged and respected as one of the most visually striking and compelling contemporary Southeast Asian artists in recent years. A graduate from the Silpakorn University in Bangkok, where he took an equal interest in classical art of the renaissance as well as theories of postmodernism, his works have been exhibited in Berlin, Switzerland, Southeast Asia, Taiwan and
China. The popularity of his work across Europe and Asia can be traced to the visual impact, as well as complexity of his work. The vivid paintings and pictorial language he creates references Western art history, and is also known for his veiled references and commentary on Thai contemporary society, exploring ideas of identity, truth, beauty and culture. Natees paintings have always been seen as a form of critical representation of contemporary Southeast Asian art by critically examining the medium of painting.

"I have never felt that paintings are outdated. It is one of the oldest and strongest media in the history of art. I love painting because I feel the magnificence of this medium, and I am constantly learning about it throughout my career." (Natee Utarit, interview with Adeline Chia, 2013)

The current painting Baroque No.3 was painted about 2 years after Natees Last Description series. That particular series used the still life of flowers extracted from unnamed Classical paintings as a particular motif for critical thought and enquiry on the limitations of perceiving art only through beauty. Continuing on this path of enquiry into his next series titled The Amusement of Dreams, Hope and Perfection ; this was a seminal point in his career and was exhibited at The Art Center of Academic Resources at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok in 2007. The theme of the exhibition and the subsequent ones after was a reflective and careful examination at the differing chasm of adult and social realities as opposed to childhood dreams and aspirations. Just slightly earlier in 2006, there was a military coup dtat in Thailand, and in the light of that context, the works painted then could perhaps, also be seen as a form of commentary and reflection on the social realities in his native country.

Baroque No. 3 is one of only three large format still life flower paintings done by the artist. The somber colours and monotone palette employed are synonymous with the introspectiveness of the works painted in this period. This was perhaps also the artists attempt at downplaying and disregarding in his own way the greater idea of the death of painting thesis which was adopted in a populist way by Thai contemporary art. Thai art seemed to moving forward in diverging ways, the traditional Thai art form which was about painting religious elements with figurative themes or the embracing of conceptual art and installations only. Flowers were seen as a subject matter only painted by amateurs. In effect, the deliberate attempt by Natee, to paint the flower magnified in full bloom with an ephemeral quality to it is to draw the viewer in and remind us that beauty and aesthetics in painting and art is still alive.

"Actually over the last 14 years, my work has raised the same basic question: Is it possible to express ideas through a traditional medium like painting? In other words, if you walk about painting, it could be anything at all because the word is quite general. But I admire the paintings of the past; the kinds of painting that required skill. Unfortunately we live in an age that doesnt really value academic skills any more. Technology makes everything seem easy. But I cant deny that I still have a profound reverence for the painters of the past. Its impossible to deny that there is something amazing about what they did. This is where my work fits in. I try to deal with a combination of old issues and new ones in my work."
(Natee Utarit, Natee Utarit, Survey 1991-2006: Interviews by Vipach Phurichanon, March 2007, Bangkok, Thailand, 2009)

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