PHOTOGRAPHY & NEW MEDIA ART
Episodes from Contemporary Life
Art is at its most powerful when it marks the era that we live in. Photography and new art, by the nature of their medium, represents the current generation: ever-changing, ever-growing, continuously accelerating. Urban environments and culture grow with a rapidity that is only rivaled by technological advancement and it is this theme that the present collection of cutting-edge eleven works brings forth. They vary in form and appearance, but the themes they discuss are those most integrated with current contemporary life. They may evoke personal contemplation and evolution - Who are we? How should we live? What is our destiny? – as exemplified by works by Ay Tjoe Christine, Agan Harahap, Yee I-Lann and Neal Oshima. They may question the urban lifestyle, fluctuating between a world that is both real and unreal, such as works by Indra Leonardi, Jason Tablante, Wawi Navarroza and Yason Banal. They may express playfulness and humour, as seen in pieces by Tromarama, Erwin Windu Pranata and Angki Purbandono. Essentially, however, these works ultimately narrate the journey of human existence.
Ay Tjoe Christine continued her exploration of the ego and the self in 2006 with her Silent Supper series, a seminal body of work executed in 2007 in which three different mediums meet. In Silent Supper 06 (Lot 255), Ay Tjoe challenges the conventional notions of sculpture and installation, painting and photography by first making the "objects" by hand, creating a mise-en-scene for the objects, photographing and printing them on canvas and finally adding texture by painting certain areas with acrylic. It was an innovative method that enables viewers to interact with these works from a different perspective. In this context, still-life is transformed into an intimate portrait. The series was conceived based on the idea that sustenance does not depend on food alone. For Ay Tjoe, the energy that is derived from the creation process is a powerful nourishment, yet the ultimate irony lies in the fact that in the end she is, as we all are, human, and while the heart is willing, the flesh is weak.
Agan Harahap's Whiter Shade of Pale(Lot 256) is a thoroughly personal and important work. It was conceived after the death of the artist's father and as the eldest son of a Batak family, Agan suddenly felt all the weight of responsibility on his shoulders from which he must transform from youth to adulthood in an instant, as if opening a door and being immediately confronted by a new world. In the suddenness of his loss, he saw himself as the horse under the doorway, skeletal in its fragility, and in his uncertainty, his world is devoid of colour. Whiter Shade of Pale is a poetic and delicate rendition of the tension between the real and unreal, which is emphasized further by its medium, a combination of digital print and canvas that produces a surreal tableau. With this brilliantly executed work, it appears that Agan has found himself during his journey of change.
A dreamy and majestic seascape dominates Yee I-Lann's Sulu Stories: Archipelago (Lot 263), from the acclaimed Sulu Stories Series. Yee I-Lann magically enthralls with a pictorial narrative of history, genealogy, cultural legacy and geography. The past and future is linked most emphatically by the longing to be connected. In the artist's statement, I-Lann described that "each picture is a beginning point. By exploring the past we fabricate our understanding of the present. Sabah and the Sulu zone is an archipelago. The horizon is dominant. Borders are watery. Coastlines such as the Bahala Cliffs in Sandakan seen in 'The Archipelago', or Mount Tumatangis in 'Awn Hambuuk Sultan' have for millennia been physical markers for its peoples and traders. I have always been aware of Sulu as an intrinsic part of Sabah history." Another artist deriving inspiration from the water is Filipino photographer Neal Oshima who creates renditions of rivers and reflections that are merged together to form Rorschach-like images called the Riverrun series (Lot 262). With a stretch of the imagination, the shadows on the water appear like silhouettes of figures or imprints of the body and limbs. This transformation from nature to abstraction to figuration heralds a new era in photography and signifies the unlimited possibilities this medium has to offer.
The tension between the real and unreal are explored through Indra Leonardi, Jason Tablante and Yason Banal's portrayal of the urban culture of excess. Glamorous, fun, and sexy, they pose the question: how real is the urban lifestyle around us? Leonardi's Reality Blurred (Lot 258)reinterprets Lichtenstein's benday dots in a distorted glamorized shot of a pop diva, suggesting that the image we see is conceived and deliberated, and perhaps, a little unreal. The scene in Tablante's alternate universe Alice in Wonderland, The Tea After Party (Lot 259) appears to be out of this world, but its raw grittiness is not impossible to see in urban bars in the early dawn. Meanwhile, Yason Banal's fantastic conglomerate of broken glass may look extraordinary, but it was made completely from the broken shards of 300 real champagne bottles (Lot 264). "In an age of multiplied belief systems and competing truth claims regarding reasons, when reason has, of itself and of its own accord, asked reason, Yason Banal's artistic practice creates moments where we could be mapped onto the 'post-belief' terrain that he reflects and coolly intensifies into no man's lands" (Cited in WHITE/CUBE MASH-UP featuring Agung Jenong, Joselina Cruz, June Yap, Pamela Lee and Roger McDonald). Wawi Navarroza's Plus Minus (Lot 260) is an intellectual exploration of the same theme. Monochromatic objects in black and white straddle the line between pseudo-landscape and still-life, juxtaposing the concealed and the unconcealed, questioning the notion of reality.
Angki Purbandono's signature style juxtaposes inanimate objects (such as plastic mass-produced toys) with organic ones (such as the kapok), creating at once a still life and a unique landscape. A short, slightly absurd and at times humorous narrative is embedded within these compositions such that the toys appear more animated, active and "alive" than the organic element, allowing for a subtle but real contradiction between the soul and spirit and the corporeal form. These compositions, such as the one found in Kapok Saviour (Lot 257), convey that one can be alive without really living, that life and death is not always as easily defined as black and white.
Debuting for the first time at Sotheby's are works by Erwin Windu Pranata, who combines video animation with sculpture with his 1 Eye Mickey (Lot 261). Playful and innovative, Erwin is one of the first in Indonesia to use this creative method to enhance the work's visual aspects and effects. Another innovation in Southeast Asian New Media Art is epitomized by a work by Tromarama. Tromarama, from Indonesia, is a collective that was formed in 2004 by Febie Babyrose, Ruddy Hatumena and Herbert Hans. Their work, represented here by *Ting (Lot 265), poses intriguing yet playful commentaries and observations on contemporary urban culture. Working in different media, particularly stop-motion animation and combining it with music produced by local bands especially for their projects, Tromarama has exhibited extensively, including at the Mori Art Museum, National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts, and the 5th International Video Art Biennial. *Ting perfectly describes the urban masses; they move in herds, follow each other and do what the other does; they are restless and thus embark on adventures and travel the world, only to find that ultimately the place they long for most is home.
Like the episodes from daily life, these little vignettes speak of hope, fear, desire, relationships, humour, goodness, and the quest for life's meaning. Tracey Emin once said, "There should be something revelatory about art. It should be totally new and creative, and it should open doors for new thoughts and new experiences." These works possess the power of storytelling and their form enables them to do so in the most extraordinary way. They reveal what is hidden, obscure what is shown and feel through absence. And as they provoke, inspire, caution and delight, they reveal something about the creator, the viewer, and if the timing is right, the life we are living.
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