Born in Purworejo, Central Java, Indonesia (1959), contemporary artist Agus Suwage studied at the Bandung Institute of Technology and majored in graphic design. In Indonesia, artists are in a constant battle for freedom of artistic expression. Suwage, along with many other contemporary Indonesian artists, want to present a more open artistic attitude towards the new socio-political condition in Indonesia after the political reforms of the late 1990’s.
His works completed at STPI are a two dimensional conceptualization of his 2005 installation, Pink Swing Park. The installation depicted a male and female model in a fantasy world reminiscent of the Garden of Eden. The figures, nearly nude, surrounded a pink swing placed in the center. Artists in Indonesia constantly fight for freedom of artistic expression, and the media proclaimed Suwage’s work to be sacrilegious towards the story of Adam and Eve, insinuating the couple’s use of the pink swing in erotic and sexual activity. It was violently protested by the Front Pembela Islam, also known as the Front of the Defenders of Islam, and Suwage was faced with a potential five year jail term for producing “pornography”.
Suwage’s works from his residency at STPI are an ironic effort to address the anti-pornography law passed in Indonesia in October, 2008. He focuses on the same female model from the Pink Swing Park installation, using a different visual language for each piece. Suwage interplays three elements; handwritten text from chapters of the anti-pornography bill, circle motifs, and the female figure. Each element is raised, embedded, or cut out to deliver a visually powerful image that is beautifully balanced with the colours used to print.
While at STPI, Suwage was faced with the challenge to master an unfamiliar territory of prints and paper pulp. His experimentation with paper pulp brings sculptural elements to his two dimensional compositions. The 51 new works are a testament to Suwage’s determination to understand and manipulate a new artistic medium.
Agus Suwage currently lives in Jogjakarta, Indonesia.