by Niwat Manatpiyalert
22/04 — 18/06/2023
Opening Reception: 22 April 2023, 18.00 – 21.00 PM
Gallery VER is pleased to present the first solo exhibition “Area 721,346,” by Niwat Manatpiyalert, open for viewing on April 22, 2566. The artwork on display is the result of over two years of research on sugarcane and the sugar industry in Thailand.
In 2020, Niwat Manatpiyalart encountered “black snow” for the first time when he returned to his hometown in Mueang Kanchanaburi district. While the grey sky from blackened snowflakes caused by soot and dark residue in the air irritated his lungs when breathed in, the landscape reminded him of the dystopian world, sparking questions that range from the well-being of people in the community to an exploration of the cultural role of sugar. The sugar industry has a long history, and sugar itself was so valuable and much sought after that it was entitled “white gold.” In Thailand, cane and sugar production play an important role to the country’s economy, and have been included in the economic policy since the period of political transition in the 1930s (The People’s Party or Khana Ratsadon). This devised a lasting influence on Thai cuisine and created a culture of “eat sweet,” a legacy that has been passed down to our modern society.
721,346 refers to the officially recorded area of sugarcane cultivation in Kanchanaburi province, demonstrating not only the industry’s vast size, but its significant role in Thailand’s economy, history, politics, and labor force. The area encompasses the way of life and culture for the people in the region. The exhibition attempts to reveal the stories hidden within the swathes of sugarcane fields, yet the exact six-digit number cannot convey the sweet taste of sugarcane nor the bitter taste in the mouth from the polluted sky.
The exhibition “Area 721,346” by Niwat Manatpiyalert showcases a contemporary landscape of Kanchanaburi province that focuses specifically on local issues, presented in a silent, yet direct manner through sculptures, installations, paintings, photographs, videos (in collaboration with Chukiat Wongsuwan), and beverages (in collaboration with Anupas Premanuwat and Andreas Glöel).
The landscape images in various forms, whether it be documentary photographs, videos, two-dimensional drawings, or tasting experiences, invite viewers to hear the stories related to sugar consumption, the history of sweetness, obstacles facing the local communities and the environment that has arisen from state policies. These are stories that we may sometimes overlook, but have far-reaching impacts, revealing how seemingly small actions of individuals connect to structural issues and natural phenomena.