Lot 224
  • 224

Handiwirman Saputra

680,000 - 880,000 HKD
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  • Handiwirman Saputra
  • Tutur Karena, Nelan
  • Signed and dated 08
  • Acrylic on canvas
  • 195 by 150 cm.; 76 3/4 by 59 in.


The work is in good condition overall, as is the canvas. There are indications of minor wear and handling around the edges, with associated minor media accretion on the upper left corner. There are slight hairline craquelures scattered on a few areas such as the lower register and the middle area o the upper register to the right of the circle. Also, with minor black spots of faint media accretion on the right register, however these are unobtrusive. The paint layers are well-preserved otherwise and stable. Under ultraviolet light inspection there is no evidence of restoration. Unframed, on stretcher.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

Handiwirman Saputra’s view of “beauty” is sincere and original.  Blurring the boundaries between the representational and non-representational, he invites viewers to associate the strange objects in his paintings with things that are familiar. The current work belongs to a series called Tutur Karena, which is one of the artist's important body of works and one that he continuously tries new ways to interpret, such as in the form of three-dimensional objects in Tutur Karena, Kelapa (2008) and pieces from his Singapore Tyler Print Institute residency in 2012. 

Handiwirman Saputra’s objects, whether two or three dimensional, often intermingle when Handiwirman paints a portrait of his three-dimensional objects. His compositions are clean and simple, characterised by an austere background with one or two objects positioned at the center. By revealing so little it entices the viewer to ponder upon it more. Uncluttered and minimalist, the present painting depicts a smooth, white elliptical object suspended in space. Although its edges are rounded, its surface appears to be flat or slightly convexed. Except for two black holes and a black oval line in between them, everything about the painting is in varying shades of white, including the droplets of water coming out of the black holes.

The name of the series was derived from Handiwirman’s cultural roots in Padang and can be understood as a way of explaining something without mentioning or describing it.  The present painting, Nelan (Swallow), completes its two siblings, Merem (to close one’s eyes) and Mingkem (to be silent). Although impossible to be certain, the shape and motif of these white spheres are reminiscent of human heads or face. The names of these works recall the idiom, “public smiles, private tears” when facing a situation where things seen can’t be revealed and words can’t be said. When such a situation occurs, there is no other choice but to swallow and shed tears in private.

The overall white monochrome effect of Nelan can be viewed as a progression from his commissioned project, 'Archaeology of a hotel room' for the Novotel Hotel Bandung in 2007. The use of white there is not a coincidence but rather a planned concept to show that simplifying living space reveals the essential quality of living by carefully selecting materials and technical rigor that articulates and advocates simplicity. White is the purest representation of beauty.

It is impossible to discuss the concept of white on white without recalling the ultimate expression of Suprematism, which began when Kasimir Malevich (1878-1935) marked a pivotal moment in the history of art with White on White, 1918.  Malevich refers to it as art based upon “the supremacy of pure artistic feeling” rather than on visual depiction of objects purely aesthetic concern with form, free from any political or social meaning (Kazimir Malevich, The Non-Objective World, Munich, 1927). He stressed the purity of shape and colour, especially white, held a powerful place in the imagination as a pure beginning of monochrome. In his booklet Ot kubizma i futurizma k suprematizmu: Novyy zhivopisnyy realizm (‘From Cubism and Futurism to Suprematism: the new realism in painting’), he stated “the blue colour of the sky has been overcome by the Supermatist system…has entered into white, which is the true actual representation of infinity and therefore freed from the colour background of the sky”. Handiwirman and Malevich shared the same philosophy towards the immeasurable purity of white, which they had expressed different nuances and tones.

Nelan also recalls the spatial compositions of Lucio Fontana (1899–1968), who approaches his art as a series of investigations into a wide variety of mediums and methods, particularly in the series of Concetti spaziali where he attempts to transcend the confines of the two-dimensional surface. The violent cuts in Concetti spaziali and the incipient body in Nelan enforced the idea that the painting is an object, not solely a surface. Here, the serenely white monochrome surface delivers a mesmerizing and commanding exemplar of Handiwirman’s signature dialectic between the painting and the object.  Reducing the optical polarities of light and shadow, the sculpturally polished white plane succinctly embodies the artist’s passion towards minimalist beauty. The punctuation of the white canvas with gestural slashes or punctures betray violence of emotion, in Fontana’s case, outwardly, but in Handiwirman’s case, it is inwardly, cutting into the emotional state rather than the aesthetic.

The idea of returning to the most basic desire to reinvent the tradition of two dimensional artwork into something relevant to their era is something that Handiwirman shares with Lucio Fontana and Kazimir Malevich, although in a different time. By paying homage to the most basic colour (or in this case, non colour), Handiwirman ventures into a new territory in which all things unnecessary are forgotten or ignored. What remain are only things that are important. In Handiwirman's metaphorical world, where only the true essence of living prevails, there exists a dream-like lyricism and a longing for the highest humanist ideals.