Curator’s Pick: April | Shinro Ohtake & Handiwirman Saputra

There is something about the functions of material as image, as signifier, as appropriation, that I am drawn to. It suggests a kind of mobility, a freedom to wander, an assortment of potential relations all while the material is bound to inherent qualities and histories. It is in this light that the works of Shinro Ohtake and Handiwirman Saputra present an opportunity to consider and enact how fact, fiction and cultural reality collide, and call upon us to reflect on the ways in which images and their material translations have organised and shaped our relationship to the world.

Figures and Squares (2015), Shinro Ohtake, 182 x 147 x 7 cm.

Yellow Sight 14 (2015), Shinro Ohtake, Screen print on Stonehenge paper, bounded with linen in yellow frame, 116 x 167 x 9½ cm.

In Shinro Ohtake’s (b. 1955, Japan) experimental print and paper explorations at STPI, one encounters themes and motifs of natural and lived environments, expressed through an obsessive use of found images culled from the artist’s daily life. Figures and Squares and Yellow Sight 14 are two striking works that demonstrate this proclivity, presenting the artist’s incredible mode of chronicling, processing, fracturing and restructuring information. Capturing the eye is also the artist’s prolific use of neon yellow, amidst the gamut of juxtaposing colours and imagery. While this makes a reference to uranium – or “yellowcake” – and radiation, emanating Ohtake’s preoccupation with life’s transience following the natural and nuclear disasters in Japan in 2011, he avoids projecting a specific narrative.

The works are a composite of cut-out photographs and illustrations, haphazardly painted or scribbled over with textures and imagery that evoke a quality akin to layers upon layers of graffiti and advertisements on a single surface. There is a kind of compulsive accumulation of material, but also a kind of flattening and decay – the images applied by Ohtake are often subject to treatments and washes that cause their form to disintegrate, or to meld with the graphic layers that come before and after. With what may be considered global or mass-culture content, Ohtake more deeply considers how such images can hold multiple times and chronologies.


Ujung Sangkut Sisi Sentuh  / Suspended Forms (2012), Handiwirman Saputra, Paper pulp drawing with translucent abaca paper, ø 128 cm.

Echoing in gentler measures Ohtake’s driving interest in collaborating with ‘what’s already there’, Handiwirman Saputra (b. 1971, Indonesia) examines material and form in everyday environments through his sensitive translation of found paraphernalia one may consider nugatory. The narrative and performative potential of material lies at the crux of the artist’s tactile practice. Ujung Sangkut Sisi Sentuh – Suspended Forms is a series Handiwirman developed during his residency at STPI, where automatic drawings of objects are translated into the delicate yet resilient medium of paper pulp. Organic linear renderings of garbage bags, construction tools, fallen branches and other detritus populate each circular composition, familiar shapes that take their cue from the objects found at riverbanks near the artist’s home, and explored in his 2011 solo exhibition “Tak Berakar, Tak Berpucuk” or “No Roots, No Shoots” at the National Gallery of Indonesia.

The enigmatic clutter of items, their biographies and relationships to people become metaphors and symbols for Handiwirman, and for viewers who begin to sensitively trace and identify them in his work. These objects, now outlined and iconified, challenge our personal and cultural associations with remnants that conjure scenes of the mundane. The sheerness of the abaca pulp gives the images a certain elusive quality, as if they threaten to disappear, yet they persist in reflecting patterns of consumption and accumulation in contemporary society.

Ujung Sangkut Sisi Sentuh #06 / Suspended Forms #06 (2012), Handiwirman Saputra,  Paper pulp drawing with translucent abaca paper, ø 128 cm.


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