Lot 1068
  • 1068


1,400,000 - 2,500,000 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.


Sotheby's Hong Kong, 7 October 2012, Lot 224
Acquired from the above sale by the present owner
Private Asian Collection 


This work is in good overall condition as viewed. There are a few very minor cracks to the pigment scattered on the surface of the work, but the paint layers are stable and healthy overall. There are a few faint accretions, but these are easily removable with a light professional cleaning. Framed.
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.

Catalogue Note

Evocative and perplexing in its very nature, Tutur Karena, Nelan by Handiwirman Saputra is an incredible display of the artist’s ability to transcend the boundaries of still life and surrealism. Born in Bukittingi, Sumatra, Saputra cultivated his talents at the esteemed Institut Seni Indonesia (ISI) in Yogyakarta, before going on to establish the Kelompok Seni Rupa Jendela (Jendela Group Art Collective) in 1996 alongside other celebrated artists: Jumaldi Alfi, Mohammad Irfan, Rudi Mantofani Yuniar and Yusra Martinus. Saputra’s seminal explorations through the Jendela group ignited within him a strong desire to explore, dissect and assimilate the comprehensive foundations of visual objects and the multifarious ways in which viewers can interact with them. Belonging to a trio of works named Tutur Karena, which exists as one of the artist’s most pivotal body of works, the title of this present lot can find its roots in Saputra’s cultural milieu in Padang and can be understood as a way of explaining something without having to mention or describe it explicitly. Nelan (Swallow) is accompanied by its two siblings: Merem (to close one’s eyes) and Mingkem (to be silent). Reminiscent of the popular idiom, “public smiles, private tears”, this series prompts an introspective evaluation of the eternal conflict between internality and externality, particularly when humans are confronted with things that can’t be revealed or words that can’t be said. Saputra navigates the human process of emotional constraint through the paradigms of surrealist aesthetics, and ultimately contends that the show of emotions will always be inescapable, and we should embrace its inevitable beauty as such.
As an artist whose visual dexterity encompasses various genres, such as installation, photography and painting, Saputra communicates his visual ideas through the framework of “retinal art”, which was coined by French-American artist, Marcel Duchamp. Through the depiction of the readymade and existing, Saputra challenges the nature of viewership, as he reshapes and manipulates the reality of objects in order to gain access to the viewers’ unconscious process of free association. In Tutur Karena, Nelan, Saputra portrays a white sphere, which bears comparison with a human face, and places it on a canvas of pure white. With all his works, Saputra creates exhaustive exercises on composition, as he pairs foreign objects in actual three dimension in his studio, photographs the new composition, then paints the object in enlarged scale onto canvas. This creative three step system removes all objects from their origins, subsequently situating them within a new reality, which provokes an unfamiliar yet curious mode of perception between the viewer and Saputra’s final product. Floating in an indeterminate space of white, Saputra removes the backdrop of any distractions or content and presents a clean slate to the viewer, which permits the permeation of meaning and interpretation to the piece. Saputra carefully constructs a visual meditation on the trajectory of human emotion, as he defies traditional methods of function and form, and represents an amalgamation of materials to elicit a multitude of perceptual and tactile responses. Here, Saputra arranges a thin circle in between two dots, which echo the reversed features of the eye and mouth of a human face. The two dots, like eyes, appear to be flowing with tears – evoking an emotional reaction from the viewer that is both familiar and strange at the same time. Saputra’s mastery of positioning his objects in a variety of spatial arrangements defies the boundaries of regular compositions, and seamlessly bridges the gap between a recognizable object and an alien amorphous form. Saputra’s tireless inquisition into the aesthetics of material culture is unveiled, as he establishes an aesthetic narrative that is uniquely his own, and successfully reinforces the nature of an object, as it traverses from the realm of three-dimensionality onto a two-dimensional surface.

No detail goes amiss under Saputra’s meticulous scrupulousness, as the title, Nelan (Swallow), infuses the canvas with an emotional frequency, one that encourages the viewer to indulge in the all-consuming nature of human emotion wholeheartedly. This formal rejection of materiality allows Saputra to embark on a purely aesthetic pursuit to acquaint objects in the real world with each other, as to generate masterpieces that become enigmatic and didactic in their process of re-construction. With this present lot, the mere evocation of the presence of human features: flowing tears, eyes, and a gaping mouth, brings into question social perceptions of both human emotion and material physicality.

Saputra pushes us to re consider the notions of still life and abstract surrealism, as we are influenced to simply enjoy the material presence of his works through a newfound visual perception of reality. Hailed by critics and curators as a pioneer in challenging the schemas in contemporary art, Handiwirman Saputra is an artist whose works are expressive reinvigorations of the social lives of objects and materials, and Tutur Karena, Nelan is an exact case in point.