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Division, Co-Existence, Borderlessness: The Visions of Indonesian Guggenheim Fellow Entang Wiharso
A few months ago, I discovered a painting called “Melt” by renowned US-based Indonesian artist Entang Wiharso (born 1967, Tegal) that made quite an impact on me. It is a triptych featuring three separate heads, each bruised, with multiple eyes, suspended in disoriented and confused states of being. Though violent, the piece somehow manages to glimmer with a kind of humour, even hope. Isolated, the figures do inhabit one space and are touched by what looks like similar flames.
The triptych well illustrates what was the artist’s core subject for a while—his own personal experiences embedded within a strong examination of the predominant socio-political conditions of his home country. To him, creating work has been a way of understanding the human condition, of heightening our ability to perceive, feel and understand human problems like love, hate, fanaticism, religion, and ideology.
“I depict the condition of humans who are often divided by complex, multilayered political, ethnic, racial, and religious systems,” Wiharso said in 2011. “They co-exist yet their communication is limited and indirect. Figures are interconnected by intuitive as well as intellectual linkages, including ornamental vegetation, tongues, tails, intestines, animal skin patterns, fences and detailed landscapes.”
The artist studied painting at the Indonesian Institute of Arts in Yogyakarta, graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts. His life and immediate family are bicultural, biracial and the inheritors of diverse religious and spiritual legacies. Recently, his work has thematically expanded to include references to mythologies of a centuries-old animist past, the high-speed, hyper-connected lifestyle of the 21st century, universal issues of power, geopolitical structures, loss and love.
A Guggenheim Fellow for 2019, Wiharso plans to connect spirituality and transcendence with national narratives about progress, destiny, acceptance and peace—particularly shedding light on the discourse around migration.
He writes: “I want to extend my previous installations of temple structures into the landscape, bring the setting and background into focus. I am developing small scale models that re-create landscape based on the materials I gather and produce during my trips to various sites. These models form the basis for a large temple installation tentatively conceived of as Temple of Hope: Tunnel of Light. Whereas previous works in my Temple of Hope series removed the structure from the landscape bringing it inside, this work will bring the temple back to the landscape to create a different feeling and perspective. My intention is to create a site that reflects hybridity and creates a sense of borderless-ness through work that celebrates humanity and provides hope for a better future.”
Entang Wiharso is represented by Arndt Fine Art that has offices in Berlin, Singapore, Zurich, New York and Melbourne.
Cosmopolitan soul and King's College London + National Gallery alum - slowly working on a novel and a collection of short stories. Say hi at firstname.lastname@example.org, send all professional communication, including enquiries related to content creation, curatorship, educational engagements, art buying and building a collection, to email@example.com. Follow on IG: @tulika_inez_bahadur89. View all posts by Tulika Bahadur