Exhibition Review: Vipoo Srivilasa: Wellness Deity, Linden New Art

Vipoo Srivilasa's exhibition at Linden New Art is a testament to the collaborative power of art.

Spanning over a career of 20 years, Thai-Australian artist Vipoo Srivilasa has harnessed art’s ability to connect creatives, organisations and the broader community. 

Wellness Deity captured this collaborative energy in the light-filled room of Linden’s ground floor gallery. The 19 drawing submissions and accompanying writing surround the walls while Srivilasa’s ceramic iterations sit across two tables at the centre of the space. The hand-selected drawings from a total of 63 submissions from Australia and overseas showcase stories rooted in reflections, experiences, and hopes emerging out of the pandemic. 

There are hidden joys when viewing Srivilasa’s works up close, even when they reference solemn events. Beloved Australian mascots – a koala and a magpie – perch on the peach-pink deity Black Summer, its hands held in prayer. Imagined by Cita Daidone, the hybrid fire and plague deity can grant Covid-19 immunity through its bite. 

Unfulfilled social interactions find outlets through a grooming uni-kitty, Deity of Togetherness, inspired by Juliette Hanson’s drawing with her daughter. Meanwhile, Thomas Quayle’s self-indulgent god, Dyneinasus, spares dedicated time for self-love in the form of a teddy-eel hybrid lounging with carefree satisfaction.

Srivilasa’s skillfulness in translating humour into these diversely formed and quirky ceramic works exemplify the artist’s role as not only a creator, but also an activist in forging creative connections.

A piece of commissioned writing replaces the standard wall-labels next to each drawing. In one instance, Melbourne-based curator and arts writer Sophia Cai shares an imagined-vs-reality moment during lockdown in response to Sai Wai Foo’s dual-sided deity: ‘It was a romantic delusion, arising from a tired mind and tired body who believed that all I needed to heal was time and space.’

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Titled Balancing Act, Srivilasa’s ceramic interpretation features four floating hands binding a yellow hand-for-head figure at the shoulders and legs. Perhaps attempting to calm our urge for action, the work speaks truth to the need to find balance within chaos.

Five new acrylics – an experimental medium for the artist – provide a lens into Srivilasa’s multidisciplinary artistic practice. The painting series Hungry Ghosts sees the artist fending off clawed and red-eyed ghosts as a self-imagined deity in the style of ancient Thai Buddhism murals.

In the final gallery, Srivilasa presents a body of work expanding beyond the traditional use of blue in porcelain to manifest a rich ultramarine that adds velvet-like finish to the animal-hybrid sculptures. Created in the past two years, it is the first time that these works are presented together to the public. 

Linking together drawing, writing and ceramics with diverse narratives, Srivilasa’s Wellness Deity harnessed the power of art to forge connections during a time of isolation. 

Vipoo Srivilasa Wellness Deity 

Linden New Art
22 May – 22 August 2021

Celina Lei is an arts writer and editor at ArtsHub. She acquired her M.A in Art, Law and Business in New York with a B.A. in Art History and Philosophy from the University of Melbourne. She has previously worked across global art hubs in Beijing, Hong Kong and New York in both the commercial art sector and art criticism. Most recently she took part in drafting NAVA’s revised Code of Practice - Art Fairs. Celina is based in Naarm/Melbourne.