Noon-nom: a sense of nestling


In her installation Noon-nom 2016 Pinaree Sanpitak brings the bodily form together with the spiritual. While the artist’s practice has always evoked the human body, it was not until her son was born that she began focusing on the breast as a sacred and nurturing form. The similarities between the shape of a woman’s breast and the architecture of the Buddhist stupa is highlighted in an ongoing body of work entitled ‘breast-stupas’. These works emphasise the way that the bosom and Buddhism, in their own ways, provide comfort and (spiritual) soothing.

Pinaree Sanpitak, Thailand b.1961 / Noon-nom 2016 / 80 components: fabric and synthetic wadding / Commissioned for ‘Sugar Spin: you, me, art and everything’. Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane / © The artist / Photograph: Natasha Harth © QAGOMA

In Noon-nom we are invited to rest within the sea of soft-sculpture ‘breaststupas’ in varying shades and textures. In Thai, there are five tonal inflections. The highest is ‘noon’, which means ‘support’, as if to lay ones head on a pillow, while the lowest is ‘nom’, which is ‘breast’ or ‘milk’. By bringing these words together in the title, Sanpitak evokes the sense of nestling against a breast. Including so many breasts in a single installation allows the audience to be enveloped and, through repetition, the artist humorously confronts our conflicting associations with the breast as both sexualised and sacred.

Pinaree Sanpitak’s Noon-nom 2016 installed in ‘Sugar Spin: you, me, art and everything’. Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane / © The artist / Photograph: Brad Wagner © QAGOMA

The multiple breast-stupas in Noon-nom suggest the story of one of Buddha’s miracles in which he multiplied himself a thousandfold. Following Buddha’s death, it is said that his mortal remains were divided into 84 000 portions, which were then housed in stupas in the eight kingdoms in which he had lived and taught. Drawing on these histories and associations, Noon-nom brings together the spiritual with the bodily, and the delicate with the playful.