THIS HUMAN condition is what 2014 United Overseas Bank Art Competition grand-prize winner Anton Subiyanto tackles in his fourth solo exhibition, and his first in the Philippines.
The Indonesian artist, known for his ability to simplify complex social conditions, bested artists from Malaysia, Singapore and his own country with his piece “Old Stock, Fresh Menu.”
His work depicts a figure in a wok on top of a fire, being cooked with easily identifiable consumer products. The subject seems to be unaware of what is happening.
Rendered in his style of intricate graphite and acrylic-on-canvas drawings tinted with bright color washes overlaid with a second narrative drawn in gold ink, Subiyanto impressed the judges with his “ability to convey a sombre message in a playful way.”
For his solo exhibition at Galerie Stephanie, he takes on the idea of “redemption” and expresses it in eight acrylic-and-graphite works, as well as several significant works on paper.
This timely exhibit opens just before the start of the Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) integration, which aims to combine member countries into one unified economy. The integration will place the region as the fourth biggest economy in the world.
Coincidentally, or probably because of this, the integration also coincides with the ripening of the regional art market, which art centers like New York, Berlin, and neighboring Hong Kong, South Korea and Australia are all trying to enter into.
The Guggenheim and other international museums are beefing up their collections of Southeast Asian art.
For stress from the rat race, and the emptiness felt from the unending need to have the latest gadget, Subiyanto proffers a solution of a slower, more meditative stance in life and living, as his Javanese ancestors have.
“Rahayu: An Unencumbered Life,” Subiyanto focuses on the Javanese-Hindu philosophical and ethical ideal of teposeliro, a state of empathy and mutual respect that encourages social harmony.
In a state of respect and empathy, the capability to create empowering choices and establish meaningful relationships is returned to the individual. We are no longer beholden to the agenda that bombard and entice us to act and think in certain ways; rather, we are driven by the need to connect with others in significant and truly human ways.
And from there, when individuals live a life unencumbered by false needs, real communities are made, resulting in empowerment. Only then do we achieve happiness. Only then are we redeemed.
Subiyanto attempts to show that happiness is not about acquisitions, but in what we let go of—our prejudices, preconceptions of what truly makes us happy, and our empty desires.
It is in this state that we achieve social harmony, a proper context not just for the upcoming integration, but for the increasingly complicated world we live in.
On Oct. 1, 4 p.m., the artist will give a talk about his work and the graphic traditions of Java, and his experiences as an artist who has exhibited in Singapore, Malaysia, Australia and Japan,
“Rahayu: An Unencumbered Life,”opens Oct. 1, and runs until Oct. 18 at Galerie Stephanie, Unit 1B of Parc Plaza Bldg., 183 E. Rodriguez Jr. Ave. (C-5), Libis, Quezon City.