BANGKOK — Artist Maitree Siriboon has turned buffaloes’ bodies into large canvases filled with famous works to draw attention to their rapidly dwindling numbers.
See works by Gustav Klimt, Cristobal Balenciaca, Keith Haring, Joan Miro, Andy Warhol, Takashi Murakami and others carefully reproduced using non-toxic paints on the gentle giants at a photo exhibition opening next month in Bangkok.
The 33-year-old artist chose to paint the animals with world-renowned works as social criticism, playing off their appropriation as symbols.
“Masterpiece works by foreigners such as Picasso and Warhol are often revered by Thais and even inspired some artists to produce similar works,” Maitree said. “So, I painted famous works on buffaloes, which are a symbol for stupidity, to change people’s perspective on them and to inspire others to conserve them. I want to construct a good remembrance of them for the future.”
Reminiscing on the role of these culturally significant animals now that few work the fields, the Ubon Ratchatani artist found the lovely animals are being trained to entertain tourists, decorate scenes or even butchered for food. That inspired Maitree’s first buffalo photographic project in 2010 to reinvent their significance in terms of art and to reflect the close relationship that once was.
In 2015, the government established a 5.8 billion baht conservation fund to protect Thailand’s buffaloes, which have dwindled from about 2 million at the turn of the century to fewer than 850,000 today.
The paints Maitree used are natural colors used for the Holi festival and imported from India.
Apart from photography, Maitree is also keen on mirror mosaic works. He’s presenting five new works in “My Universe,” a series reflecting his fading memory of Isaan anchored by a 3.5 meter mosaic tree.
“Save Thai Buffalo and New Mosaic series,” his fourth solo exhibition, opens July 9 and runs through Aug. 15 at YenakArt Villa on Soi Prasat Suk, Yen Akat Road. The nearest public rail service is MRT Lumpini.