Iwan Effendi is a young Indonesian artist who attended art schools and has already had numerous exhibitions under his belt. I was immediately struck by the power of Iwan’s strong imagery and vivid colours. Before finding out anything about the inspiration behind this talented artist’s works, I loved the juxtaposition of his beautiful, sensitive imagery of nature and wildlife with more mysterious, disturbing elements which appeared to me as as freakish dolls or innocent, newborn children, missiles or alien spacecraft and tornadoes or nuclear clouds.
The Crane Song by Iwan Effendi
The picture you see above is what inspired me to have a closer look at this artist and his work and made me want to find out more about what exactly was going on in this artwork. Iwan said this about Crane Song “it is a diptych of opposing colours of blue and orange tones composed of a man who wears eyes as his cloak”
Maybe we need to look back at history to see where Ivan’s imagery is coming from. Here is an entry from an article written by Marilyn Goh.
In 1965, Indonesia found itself once again at a political crossroads after having endured an extended period of political instability since securing independence from Dutch colonial rule. In the twilight of President Sukarno’s rule in 1965 marked by bitter ideological conflict and political polarization, a coup at the end of September triggered a widespread wave of violence that brought General Suharto to office for over 3 decades. Generations removed from these events after 5 decades, the suppression of dissident artistic voices in the Suharto’s iron-fisted rule mean that contemporary Indonesian artists have only in recent years, begun their cathartic response to the trauma.
Eye of the Messenger by Iwan Effendi
This artwork is a response to the turmoil: interrogating the construction of Indonesian history in political upheaval of the 1960s and ultimately acknowledges that the socio-cultural and political discourses surrounding these years are cultivated, cultured and fabricated.
The works in Eye of the Messenger are ironic and multi-layered: dismembered, colourful body parts float in the dimensional space of the canvasses and are tacked onto each other. They can’t be contained by the boundaries of canvas, spilling out of the seams and onto the surrounding white walls. Unlike the luminous simplicity and crack-quality of flat-faced satiric drawings that invite ridicule and laughter, Effendi’s cartoonish works cry out like multiple voices in a Greek tragedy clamouring to claim their own truth. In this context of use, reception and exchange, Effendi’s works accrue a varied interpretive history of – and perhaps even grant absolution to –those who have found finally regained their silenced voices.
“Long Lost Memories” by Iwan Effendi
Iwan describes “Long Lost Memories” as a piece of bulbous objects, bird eggs and birds that peer disconcertingly into nothingness. “But thank god, our eyes can’t lie,” Effendi further remarks. Ocularity and perception feature prominently in his canvases; the physical eye, and by extension, the visual experience, is used as a cautionary metaphor because of its ability to fall prey to yet simultaneously, resist manipulations.
Imaginative characters placed amidst the bright colors of a never-never land is the visual language of Iwan Effendi. Ofttimes we come across war-like visual elements in his works; aircraft, tank, which occasionally deformed in animal shapes. It allied closely to his fondness for war stories, such as the epic of the Second World War. It was into this tale that Iwan unravelled his ideas.
Iwan Efendi’s imagery also became characters in the form of puppets. His grandfather had been a puppeteer artist who devoted himself to the tradition of wayang. in He heard the story about the arrest of his grandfather, a puppeteer artist who devoted himself to the tradition of wayang. He, as well, understood that his grandfather was arrested for being alleged as a member of Communist Party of Indonesia (Partai Komunis Indonesia, PKI).
The opportunity to meet Maria Tri Sulistyani, a children’s book author who later became his beloved wife, has led him to visualizations of children’s tales from around the world. He did not stop there; he developed Papermoon puppet theatre, which was formerly initiated by Maria. Together with his wife, Iwan began exploring the medium of puppets. To Iwan Effendi, the expansion of his visual expressions into puppet theatre is an extraordinary challenge that would meet no end. Accepting and referring to the philosophy of puppet theatre—“sincerity of being nobody”—Iwan put aside his ego as an artist and surrender himself to the world of puppeteering. It had not been an easy start, yet lately he found it intensely addictive; puppet theatre has animated his visual figures. extract from an article written by Ade Tanesia
Sources: Ade Tanesia and Marilyn Goh