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Interview with Entang Wiharso ...
Entang Wiharso, born in 1967 in Tegal, Java, is one of Indonesia’s most important living artists. Entang, who holds his heritage very closely, is continuously experimenting and exploring the different aspects of his art. On several occasions this year, he spent time in residency at the Singapore Tyler Print Institute (STPI), where he worked with the facility’s primary medium: print. In the coming months, STPI will exhibit the works that were created during his residency. The Artling speaks with Entang about this experience, his work and his thoughts on Southeast Asian art, and reveals some of his plans on mentoring young artists.   How did this residency come about? I’ve actually had quite a lot of experience with residency programs, not only in Asia but in Europe and America. Every residency program has a different goal or their own vision. Artists use that vision and collaborate. I just did a residency in Watermill Center, a foundation owned by artist Robert Wilson. It is a very different residency program, artists don’t have to make artwork but you think and research while you’re there. The residency at STPI is very special. I’ve actually come here before with a friend and I saw the facility and thought “this is an artist’s dream, with all kinds of possibilities.” Working with Eitaro and the crew is so professional and everything is very easy, they make it easy for things to happen. If I have an idea, we discuss it. I am familiar with printmaking, but not with this kind of facility. I have a small printing press, my wife is also a printmaker. My practices crosses media, not just painting or sculpture, I’m willing to explore different media. For me, it is about the idea, not just the technique as a goal. You have worked quite extensively with metal relief throughout your oeuvre. What have some of the challenges been in incorporating printmaking into your vision this time around? I am familiar with the material, but I always try to discover or shift from different materials, as an artist. Even if it’s the same material, trying to make it something else. The project isn’t finished yet, but it’s more complicated now because I’m not only using metal, but also using glass – metal relief with glass melted into the metal, etc. When I come here I had an idea that I want to print something, to create something new. I didn’t come here empty-handed, I had an idea of what I wanted to do. If I create today, the idea can be from last year, it’s not instant. Of course I discovered some things here, it’s a very organic collaboration in a way. I’m familiar with the team as well, so I’m just continuing my practice. It’s very productive and I have a lot of ideas. The environment is so great, the ideas keep coming. An acrylic work created during Wiharso’s residency at STPI   Projects such as this one with STPI tend to be significantly collaborative between artist and local artisans, and make use of tools inherent or distinct to the city. How important is it to protect your “Indonesian-ness” in this project?  The Indonesian-ness is already inside me, so I’m not worried about going somewhere and losing my identity. My identity is wherever I go, I don’t want to hold on to history. Of course, my work is about history, present and future. But for me it’s not really a concern for me. There are no boundaries in regards to preserving anything. It’s also my personality, I feel like I’ve always lived in transition. When I was a kid, my parents always moved us around, which was not normal for an Indonesian at all. I lived in a village where everyone stayed in the same place, then we moved to different cities. I didn’t feel like a normal kid, but it was a good experience. The places were all in Java, but each city had its own character. I’m the kind of person to observe, to see and internalize the small details. Being in transition is good for my practice, actually. Can you tell us about this work (see image below)? You’re known for your symbolism, for putting a lot of layers into a work. What kind of symbolism should we as a viewer be looking for in this series? Is there something we should look out for to understand the meaning that you’re trying to convey to us? Well actually, when I create something, I don’t want to make something clear because I want the audience or the viewer to be involved in recognizing it themselves and putting meaning together with the artwork. Bottom line is I don’t want to make judgmental art. That’s why I like working with layers. This is called “Body Text”. I create the word through visuals, it’s very personal. But everyone can relate to it. The artist in the STPI studio with his work    You’ve incorporated words into your work, is this something recent?  This has been for more than ten years. In the beginning I was just scratching into my painting, but now it’s become very visible. The idea is that during the reformation it’s more intensive, because everyone comments on the social or political situation. I’ve been collecting from magazines, newspapers and from friends, and then I write it down. The words in this work: In Java, when people ask “are you hungry?” even if they don’t know you. It’s a custom, a common occurrence. The intention is to offer something, and sometimes it’s not polite. I think it’s dangerous, having to analyze the different layers and having to be polite. Culturally, we let the situation happen because no one stands up to it and always says ‘yes.’ It’s about the different layers of culture, and having to deal with this. I think in Asia it is really common.    Detail view of one of the works created during the STPI residency   In the last few years, cultures have been more aware of each other, by way of social media and the expanding reach of more traditional media. This has affected us in terms of what we know about our neighbors, especially in the region. I’d like to ask you what you think is the direction of Southeast Asian art – do you think we’re moving towards a more collective identity or that we continue to assert our cultural differences? Well there are so many things. Artists’ minds are not the same, their nature is like a scientist. You want to first see and make observation, and analyze and experiment and make a hypothesis. Every artist has a different platform or format in how to work. One artist wants to create their own identity or culture, like a conservator, to keep away from foreign things. Some artists are willing to engage with the global reality, with what’s happening in neighboring areas or further away. For me, it’s not good or bad, it’s more dynamic and there is more interaction. Thinking about issues in Indonesia and art itself. There’s a commonality or common ground in how to present their region to the global stage. The dangerous thing is that everyone will want to be uniform. Because contemporary art could become very narrow, because the stage has become one stage. Before, everybody wanted to add something, but now with the strong stage and the strong market, now everybody wants to take something from that stage. There’s less experimenting going on, there’s a rush to have success. I believe there are also a lot of artists who still think about how to add something. As an artist, it’s not to always agree. The nature of the artist is to disagree, also as humans in general. Are there any artists outside of Indonesia that you would like to collaborate with?  Yes, there are so many. In the moment, I don’t want to do any because I’m so busy with my life, not only with art. So in the beginning, I want to make plans like that, but in the end it doesn’t work out. I have Plan A and then I end up with Plan C or D. I just meet somebody and think that they’re interesting. Last month I went to a student exhibition, and I met an incredibly young man who works in animation and graphic art. I asked him to come to my studio to maybe do something together. I also have a full room dedicated to computers that I use to do my projects. So now, I’m working together with a young student, and they can learn and I can work together with them to make something. I want to continue mentoring young minds. My life is always in transition, so meeting new people is sometimes nice to keep different, it’s more dynamic.    The artist explaining his new works at the STPI studio   If your work is viewed 100 years from now, what influences will root your work in this present time?  What do you think? I can’t answer that! It’s very hard to say. It’s hard to place the intention of the imagination. You use a lot of Javanese objects in your works, especially recently, and your work is shown internationally. How do international audiences react to that?  That is an interesting question. Well, for example, relief doesn’t belong to Java. It belongs to everyone. You go to Europe or South America, there is relief. Everywhere in Asia. I want to play again. What has happened in contemporary art, is that people think that it is something new. It’s like going to the supermarket and seeing something new, and deciding that you want it. I want to play with that mindset. When you take something you should claim it, for me, nothing is art before you claim it. You have to prove it. There have been interesting responses to the current situation. Interestingly, the Belgian artist Wim Delvoye in the 90s came to Indonesia and learned about wood and carving. He took a cement truck and put it in New York. People were crazy wondering what it was. That is art. It already exists, but how do you present it as something that is important. It isn’t important to everyone, but it is important to the artist. When I see people react to my work, it’s very interesting. Indonesians claim it as Indonesian. We have to have long conversations about it. Through art, people can become more tolerant. But because we hold on to things as a personal identity, things become individual instead of shared. We want people to appreciate different things through art. But now it’s become a very narrow paradigm. It’s dangerous. That’s where globalization, which is when people deny it and are scared to change, that’s where terrorism comes about. How can we change? When people are scared to change, it becomes very dangerous. The nature of the art is always to bring people analyzing in a big crowd, people giving and taking. Like the Mona Lisa, everyone wants to see it even if they’ve already seen it in books. Everyone has been talking about Indonesian art in recent years, what do you think will move Indonesian art to an even bigger stage in about ten years’ time? Is there something that Indonesian art needs to possess or to do before that happens? Indonesians have a lot of work to do as a nation. Art aspect is part of that. For a couple of years, the realities of the art market on the Asian side, an artist needs to be out there in the dialogue, interested in the content and the idea of the art, that’s more important than the technique. The dialogue also from a technical perspective. There are two kinds of Indonesian art out there right now, one is about the market, the other is about the technique. I believe a lot of artists are keen to try to put their own words to a wider audience. Hopefully it moves in that kind of direction, otherwise nothing will happen and it won’t be meaningful. Detail view of one of the works created during Wiharso’s STPI residency   How do programs like the STPI residency help move Indonesian art forward?  This is a good collaboration. Not just with the institution and the artist, but it has a wider meaning. On a personal level, our nationality is already structured for that. Talking with other artists, many have the dream to work with STPI. When artists come here, it’s amazing. The printmaking, especially in Southeast Asia, the works on paper are not really appreciated for all kinds of reasons. STPI brings something else, and people forget about the material because you can see the amazing work being done. It destroys the border of the material, and all kinds of attitudes towards it and gets people excited. From the point of view of the collector, people are waiting to get a work from STPI because they know it’s very special. Do you think you will continue working with prints from this point onwards? From the beginning I always worked on paper, but I don’t really have a strong presentation in works on paper yet. But I will have a show showing works on paper in Brisbane, so I do have works on paper in storage. I think now I really have a strong desire to do something more, especially from this experience that has enriched me to do something different.  Any views or opinions in the interview are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the company or contributors ...

December 23, 2014

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Interview with Photographer Tay Kay Chin...
The Artling interview's Singaporean photographer Tay Kay Chin....

October 31, 2014

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Spotlight: Isaac Julien at CCA...
For two days only, don’t miss this rare opportunity to meet internationally acclaimed artist and filmmaker Isaac Julien.  Julien’s illustrious career includes exhibiting in MoMA, Documenta11 and collaborating with cinema’s finest, such as showing James Franco as a sleek art advisor in “Playtime” and casting legendary Chinese actress, Maggie Chung for the epic work “Ten Thousand Waves.” Julien’s “Vagabondia” (2000) currently playing in CCA’s “Theatrical Fields” was nominated for UK’s prestigious Turner Prize in 2001.  Isaac Julien, Vagabondia, 2000. Installation. Two screen projection, 16mm film. Digital transfer, colour, sound. 7 min., looped. Choreography by Javier De Frutos. Image courtesy of the Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore (CCA) Artist Talk Friday, 24 October, 7.00pm–8.30pm School of the Arts Singapore (SOTA) SOTA Concert Hall, Level 2 1 Zubir Said Drive, S(227968)  Register at vafaculty@sota.edu.sg Contact number: +65 6594 8480 The talk is part of the Louis Vuitton - SOTA Arts Excellence Programme.   Brunch, Conversations and Screening  Isaac Julien and Mark Nash Sunday, 26 October, 11.00am–1.00pm CCA Seminar Room  Block 43, Malan Road Gillman Barracks Join in the discussions with curator Mark Nash on Isaac Julien’s earlier works and the screening of his recent production.  ...

October 15, 2014

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Interview with Japanese Artist Teppei Kaneuji...
The latest artist to join STPI gallery’s Artist in residence program is award-winning Japanese artist, Teppei Kaneuji. Teppei is known for his assemblages which involve collecting objects to create an entirely new concept. In Endless, Nameless (Constructions), he was inspired by objects and symbols reflecting the culture of Singapore, a city which he describes as a collage in of itself. “Multi-cultures are blended together like chaos and order in one place.I was very much drawn to that, and I was influenced by the shape, colours and spaces of Haw Par Villa…”* The Artling speaks to Teppei about his experience in Singapore and the impact of this residency to his art. Before coming to Singapore what symbols / images did you associate with the country? And what are the new images that you would associate to Singapore after your 6-week residency at STPI and why? I had this impression that Singapore was a New Asia—much like a new wave unlike other Southeast Asian counterparts. I was surprised to find such complex cultures coexisting together in orderly fashion—all in one place.  Games, Dance and the Constructions (Color thick paper) #1 Games, Dance and the Constructions (Color thick paper) #4 Working with print could seem daunting to some artists who produce more sculptural artwork. You seem to have conquered this obstacle and seamlessly applied dimension to the work you created with STPI. What was that experience like for you, working with the tools that you were given? Because my style of working has always been to connect different dimensions and situations, it was such a great experience for me to work with different mediums at STPI.  There’s an entertaining energy to your construction, and everyday objects seem like they now have new roles to play.  What was behind the selection of objects that you brought together?  The objects are selected according to the work and what I set out to achieve. For example, in the case of the White Discharge series (pouring white resin over objects amassed together), I wanted to build a sturdy and tall structure, so I tried to collect different kinds of objects that could play the role of a column and a beam. That was the one criteria in the selection of objects for that work. The original meaning of these selected objects are different the way I see it and the act of putting disparate objects together breathes new life into them. It creates new encounters for all who see the result.  You collect things which seem to have no correlation to each other, and yet when you put them together, out come a certain cohesion that only you saw during the process of creating the work. Do you aim for the viewer to find and accept that same new meaning around the new object you’ve created? Or, do you encourage them to create their own when looking/experiencing the work? Even though we are looking at the same piece of art or object, how we interpret it differs according to one’s experience or cultural background. The things you know and the things you don’t also differ and that is beyond our control. Take for example my work Hakuchizu, where I poured white powder over various objects on a table. It was understood by some as the ashes of an atomic bomb or pollution from China. Some might say it’s a Japanese Zen garden, or a scene of winter, while others say it’s a fictional representation of the final days of the earth. Whether we’re aware of this or not, the notion of Variety will always co-exist in a space.  And, finally while on the subject of putting things together, which living artist are you hoping to collaborate with? Any artist whose language I do not speak.  Model of Something #8 Endless, Nameless (Constructions) opens on 20 September at the STPI gallery in Singapore and runs until 25 October. *Quote from the STPI website  ...

September 18, 2014

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Interview with Ian Woo...
The Artling interviews Ian Woo, one of Singapore's Leading Abstractionists and Programme Leader at Lasalle College of the Arts, Singapore....

July 31, 2014

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Interview with Hilmi Johandi...
The Artling interviews up-and-coming artist Hilmi Johandi, on the occasion of his solo exhibition at OCBC Art Space....

June 18, 2014

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An Interview with Gary-Ross Pastrana...
Gary-Ross Pastrana, a Filipino conceptual artist and curator examines the very nature and identity of objects in 99%, an exhibition presented by Silverlens at the Gillman Barracks. Pastrana, who at the heart of his process questions and breaks down the very construct which surrounds an object, also decidedly gives it a new identity and makes it almost whole. He thus implores the viewer to choose a focus, between the 99% completion or the 1% which will always elude the final pieces....

June 07, 2014

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Interview with Lee Wen...
The Artling interviews acclaimed performance artist, Lee Wen!...

May 13, 2014

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Interview with Tuan Andrew Nguyen...
The Artling interviews Vietnamese artist Tuan Andrew Nguyen, a member of The Propeller Group and one of the founders of San Art in Saigon....

May 12, 2014

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Interview with Norberto Roldan...
The Artling interviews Filipino artist Norberto Roldan....

May 12, 2014

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