Sometimes a painting can be adjusted slightly and suddenly take on a new meaning for the artist. For Prae Pupityastaporn, a Thai landscape painter whose works are being presented at Frieze Seoul by the Nova Contemporary gallery in Bangkok, working with two similar paintings side by side can depict the delicate balance between memory and the present moment. An image can change ever so slightly, and ever so profoundly.
Ms. Pupityastaporn’s admirers wanted to share her works with the world, and the Korean fair’s Focus Asia section, which will spotlight 10 artists from Asia, seemed like a natural platform.
“Frieze Seoul is a new art fair, and Focus Asia is about bringing contemporary art to Seoul and reviewing and reflecting the new atmosphere of Asian contemporary art,” said Hyejung Jang, chief curator at Doosan Art Center in Seoul, a nonprofit gallery that nurtures emerging Korean artists. “We tried to avoid the typical point of view of what Western people expect to see in Asian art based on their Orientalist perception.”
“We both agreed that Prae’s work is so beautiful, and a few of her paintings fall somewhere between figurative and abstract,” Ms. Jang said. “The color palettes are very elegant and subtle. Her brushstrokes are very delicate.”
Ms. Pupityastaporn decided to paint large diptychs in acrylic for Frieze Seoul — “Way to Remember” (each of the two panels measures about 7 feet by 8.3 feet) and “Misplaced Memory” (each panel about 6.3 feet by 5 feet) — as a sort of extension of an idea about painting from memory she nurtured during a recent exhibition at Nova Contemporary. But she did not begin with a specific topic for Frieze Seoul. Rather, she just let her works evolve and decided to see where that took her.
“Normally, I don’t have a specific theme, but for my first solo show with Nova I started two landscape paintings that were similar, but I wanted to intentionally create them to work together as one landscape,” Ms. Pupityastaporn, 42, said in a recent video interview.
“For Frieze Seoul, I created a few new paintings that could be a sequence and or be conceived as one. ‘Way to Remember’ is a scene of leaves blowing in the wind. If you put the two images together, they could be one scene. There is movement. The wind blows this way and that way, creating tiny variations.”
Sutima Junko Sucharitakul, founder and director of Nova Contemporary, chose to show Ms. Pupityastaporn’s work for Frieze Seoul in part because of the gallery’s devotion to focusing on female Asian artists — and its home, Thailand, as an emerging global arts center.
“I feel that Thailand needs to build an ecosystem for contemporary art, and I want to promote female artists,” Ms. Sucharitakul, 34, said in a recent phone interview. “Prae is one of the first artists we have worked with. A lot of people see her work as more European, but we want to present our artists as international, not just as associated with one country. There is not enough presentation of female artists in Thailand.”
Ms. Sucharitakul said that she had great respect for Ms. Pupityastaporn’s work, mostly because she blends classic European arts training — Ms. Pupityastaporn studied in Germany for many years — but also incorporates her Asian roots. Her depictions of native vegetation and rock formations jutting out of the ocean come to mind.
Nova Contemporary exhibited her works in a group show titled “Last Words” at ROH gallery in Jakarta, Indonesia, in late 2021, but this will be her first solo presentation outside Thailand since she had two small solo exhibitions in Germany while earning her master’s degree. Ms. Pupityastaporn had two solo presentations at Nova in November 2019 and August 2022, and she was in a group show in May 2022.
“By focusing on paired works and diptychs, Prae expresses how subjective memory can be,” Ms. Sucharitakul said. “The paintings appear almost identical at first, but there are subtle differences. Everyone has an image of the beach or the sky or the moon when we think back on a vacation. Sometimes, these change each time we remember.”
Ms. Pupityastaporn often paints in her studio in Bangkok after visiting a favorite Thai beach, so that blurred remembrance defines a few of her diptychs. It is all part of that organic process of letting her paintings evolve together.
“When I finish everything, then I put a show together, because the most important process for me is to work,” she said. “Normally, people have a concept for a show, or at least which paintings will be more specific to a show, but I try to make it all more natural. I think it’s important for an artist to have their signature and know what that is.”