Comics and Street Art are among the major influences of contemporary art in Indonesia.
One of the most influential groups in this field was the (now defunct) Apotik Komik, created in 1997 in Yogyakarta.
Yogyakarta is the art capital of Indonesia. The most prestigeous art school, the ISI (Indonesian Institute of Art) is located there and young artists from all over the country come to the old capital of Indonesia to study. And most of them stay in Yogya afterwards. Art is therefore present in everyday life in this city, and not only in the many museums, galleries and art spaces, but also in the streets. Hundreds and hundreds of mural paintings are scattered all over
The members of Apotik Komik (Samuel Indratma, Popok Tri Wahyudi, Arie Dyanto and a few others) are now well-established artists in Indonesia and also well-known abroad.
Popok Tri Wahyudi, The Chosen, 2005, oil on canvas, ca. 68x120cm, Collection Thomas Huebner
When I was living in Yogya, I was therefore already quite familiar with the style of Apotik Komik and other street and comic artists, when I one day saw the above painting in an auction in Jakarta. It became the first artwork I bought in Indonesia.
The work is typical for the style of Popok Tri Wahyudi (born 1973, lives in Yogya). It is strongly influenced by his comics, but compresses a whole story in just one picture. As is usual in his work, he is not so much interested in depicting individual persons, but shows more the archetypical features of people by their gestures and movements, mimic or color that is used.
The central figure, the ‘Chosen’ is surrounded by a group of people that react differently to his obvious suffering (or gift). The man in the blue shirt seems to be curious and is stretching his hand in the direction of the flames, like to see if they are for real or maybe in order to warm his hands. The person left to him seems in the contrary to be shocked and frightened. The other men in the background turn away their faces from the event, one of them as if in embarrassment, the other one looking to the ground but bringing also a towel that might later be used by the ‘Chosen’. Also the man in front of the ‘Chosen’ turns away from him in order not to see his suffering. But he seems ready to help the man with the burning hands by providing a tub with water. The woman right next to the ‘Chosen’ is the only one that has physical contact with the ‘Chosen’ and tries to comfort him by touching his head who is placed in her lap.
The yellow and red colors are dominating and the impression you get looking at the painting
is very strong. How would you react if you were one of the people on the painting?
Recently the artist has been travelling quite a lot, e.g. he stayed at Schloss Solitude near Stuttgart/Germany as a participant of a residency programme. He published also the comic ‘The Light House’ in 2009 in which he is describing in a humorous form his experiences with the difficulties of multidisciplinary cooperation between artists from different cultures during his time as a Solitude stipendiary.
Popok Tri Wahyudi: The Light House, Schloss Solitude, Stuttgart 2009
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