Contemporary artists role within society is especially vital during periods of social and political upheaval. Their sensitivity, observation skills, and diverse visual languages inform the public of critical issues demanding attention.
‘Revolution’ 2021, by emerging Balinese artist Andre Yoga, depicts an Islamic man in a shirt emblazoned with red hearts casually sitting atop of a cow with a pistol drawn to his head. A shower of meteorites falls from above while a satellite beams frequencies to earth. A beautiful natural background is anchored by a band of blue with an array of one-eyed faces grinning out at the observer. Andre cleverly balances the duality – the threat of extreme violence is neutralized by a vibrant landscape and the omnipotence of love.
“The painting reveals Indonesia’s experience of the Fourth Industrial Revolution; the automation of traditional manufacturing and industrial practices. The narrative is inspired by ‘Pasfoto Sang Iblis’ Sanento Yuliman’s book describing how Indonesians are too slow or too relaxed in responding to situations around them,” Andre told the Jakarta Post.
The powerful, in your face visual formula is derived from Andre’s graphic design and illustration background. The understanding that an economy of information is key to capturing our attention. His iconography intentionally leaps out from the canvas merging with our awareness. His bold and provocative paintings deliver a distinct message and are a relevant sign of the times. “Controversy is essential within my art. We need controversy to shake us from our dream,” Andre stated. “Indonesia is in crisis. Tradition, however, grants people the option to defer their responsibilities. We are aware of the serious nature of the crisis, yet remain preoccupied with our lives, preferring to ignore the truth.”
A distinguishing aspect of Andre’s works is the spatial arrangement of iconography, allowing negative spaces within his composition to become solid aesthetic elements. His contrasting imagery may vary from the social, cultural, political to pop art icons. Images of conflict; struggle between power figures while the marginalized remain passive. Design tricks; adding 3dimensional aspects, a horizon line, clouds and references to the landscape, along with the verve of contrasting colours. These additions are vital information that triggers the imagination within his intriguing mindscapes. His unique artistic voice has firmly established his presence within the burgeoning Bali art scene.
Andre introduces an outsider’s perspective as a Balinese Christian who married a lady from Jakarta with an Islamic background. “Identity portrays the story of my life, being a Christian living and growing up within the Balinese Hindu culture. It is the never-ending journey of finding myself,” he said. “The concept of religion is still strong and important in Indonesia. As a Balinese Christian, I feel the pluralism of Balinese life. I can also translate Hindu culture and patterns and can merge with them with representations of Christianity. As an outsider, I have a different perspective and can offer a new and fresh awareness in my art.”
“I’ve been drawing since high school, then I sold my illustrations for local and international clothing brands. After that, during college, I often did murals in restaurants and cafés in Denpasar and even Singapore.” Andre’s first venture into art-making was defined by ultra-detailed pen sketches based on techniques such as pointillism adopting Pop Art, Japanese Anime and Indonesian cultural icons. “Nowadays I enjoy watching YouTube and make observations of the current global social-political paradigm, and this inspires my artistic ideas.”
Andre’s choice of symbols may be easily and literally read. However, in some paintings can speak differently and without specific meaning, functioning as a form of natural expression. He often adds to this written text the topic of the work or words inspired by music and film posters. “I studied graphic design because I believed it would enable greater future career opportunities,” he revealed. “My college background in visual communication and graphic design has guided my use of information. The icons’ meanings and the order in which they are read emphasise my pictures’ communication aspect.”
“During my college years, I saw the paintings of Agung Mangu Putra, and he inspired me to want to make art. I have also been stirred by the Indonesian contemporary master Heri Dono whose art describes revolution. I adapt this to what I see around me in Bali. I am constantly observing the dynamics from both the village perspective and Bali as an international tourism hub and a global village. Andre also cites artist F.X Harsono, who depicts the marginalization of Chinese Indonesians in his work as one of his influences.
Contemporary art is often criticized for being difficult to understand. Andre, however, has refined his pictorial system of less is more. What immediately attracted me to his paintings is his clarity of what and how he wishes to communicate. “Current issues go viral in cyberspace because of their contentious nature. Such issues, while they can be confronting, open our minds to new thinking and ideas. This is what I wish to achieve, so I translate these important issues into my own visual language,” explained the artist who was born in Denpasar, in 1994.
“It is essential that artists present different viewpoints during this area of the erosion of democracy and freedom of speech. It takes courage, however, to communicate in this style.”
This article was published in the Jakarta Post 30/8/2021
Words: Richard Horstman
Images courtesy of Andre Yoga