“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.”
As a child, Indonesian artist Entang Wiharso led a life of flux as his family moved around the Indonesian island of Java. As he told the Artling “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.”
It is an experience he continues to live with studios & residences in Yogyakarta & Rhode Island producing his expressionistic, surreal works all interwoven with traditional storytelling. Covering a range of mediums from relief sculptures to painting from installation to video, Wiharso’s works encompass Indonesian and Western folklore and literature, contemporary culture, and current events.
As he said in conversation with ArtAsiaPacific’s, Ashley Bickerton “The Dutch colonizers were very aware of how to claim ownership of the land. They photographed and painted the Indonesian landscape and sent the images around the world: “This is ours, we own this.” When I saw such images – exotic depictions of harmonious, idealized tropical landscape, dotted with villages and fauna – I wanted to take it back and make it Indonesian again.”
It is a desire Wiharso has actualized remarkably well, representing Indonesia in two Biennales (Venice and Prague) and exhibitions in Singapore, Japan, Rome and now New York. In regard to his 2015 New York exhibition at the Marc Straus Gallery, the New York Times art critic Ken Johnson said about the installation, Inheritance (see below) “It’s a very postmodern tableau, but it has the mystery, too, of an old folk tale.”