Taona Sonakul's Photocubism

The world requires our awareness and attention for us to be truly alive to its reality. This is the poignant lesson embedded in the photographic work of Taona. By focusing our vision on small fragments of the world, and then joining them together, she asks us to be sensitive to the ever-moving phenomena around us – the sun through clouds, neon lights, the sea. And she enquires into the larger patterns that life seems to constantly presenting to us.

Taona creates grids of images, often concentrating on a specific subject. The compilations of up to 120 pictures are arranged in a variety of ways. A single subject may be explored, but from a range of viewpoints. For instance in Chao Praya, light reflects off water, but we move from glowing pinpoints seen close up to vistas of rhythmic furrows. In many of Taona’s works color is an organizing principal, as in Yellow with its out-of-focus lights in citron, gold, and amber. In a number of pieces, different subjects combine, as in Zinc, which features images of rusting corrugated metal, colored fabric, leaves, and flowers.

In Taona’s series Photocubism 1, she has explored both the natural and the urban environment, both kaleidoscopic in their changing, multiple perspectives. Reflecting the artist’s background in cinema, there is a filmic quality to the work, with sequences of imagery, edited together into a new visual and emotive experience. But this is non-narrative art, attentive to observable reality, but with strong interest in the visual and abstract aspects of our experience. In this work, the ordinary is seen in unfamiliar ways, as if the world awaits us to be discovered for the first time.

In the series Photocubism 2, the number of individual images is reduced to a maximum of 18 and a minimum of four. The effect of fewer images is to focus more closely on both their connections and their discontinuities. The poetic voice of Taona’s work speaks clearly here, and larger patterns of meaning and form emerge. And yet mystery remains, along with our wonder at the abundance of the world.

In Photocubism 2, Taona often focuses on the human environment, a monastery, a bedroom, and in a series of works on specific cities, capturing their essence in just four pictures. In these pieces, the organic and the constructed combine to make a single experience. These images suggest that, like them, we are not one thing, but varied and impermanent, an enigma always in a state of revealing itself.

Essay by John Mendelsohn