September 15, 2018

Nathan Beard, Figure 1. Siamese Smile, Thailand 1970-75, 2017-8

Thai-Australian artist Nathan Beard looks to both heritage and pop culture in his new exhibition Siamese Smize at Turner Galleries in Perth. He covers family photos found in his mother’s Thai home with Swarovski crystals, creating blinged-up masks that isolate the eyes and mouth. The term “smize” references Tyra Bank’s infamous “smiling with the eyes” technique (immortalized on America’s Next Top Model) and the Thai tourism industry’s adoption of the phrase “Siamese Smile” in the late eighties, which presented a fetishized view of “Thainess” for a western audience. Beard’s images present a more nuanced reading of facial gestures that aligns itself with the myriad ways a smile can be expressed within the Thai language (there are at least thirteen).