Yavuz Gallery is proud to present Disparate Bodies, a group exhibition featuring internationally-acclaimed Southeast Asian artists: Agus Suwage, Mella Jaarsma, and J. Ariadhitya Pramuhendra from Indonesia; BenCab and Isabel and Alfredo Aquilizan from the Philippines; Pinaree Sanpitak from Thailand.
This exhibition presents work in a variety of media and revolves around explorations and conceptions of the Body – through its relation to being human, ideas of reassessing the self and identity, and implications arising from displacement and dispersed presence.
Agus Suwage presents two new works that explores contemporary society and its tensions through the Self. One of Indonesia’s most revered artists, Agus is known for his self-representation in a variety of forms that probe questions about Indonesian society, culture, religion in critical yet humourous and ironic ways. The self-portraits he presents are an interplay between the reflection of the Self, and the contrivance about the Self, as he relies on the camera to record a variety of his poses and facial expressions, before transforming these visual records into paintings and drawings. Though he has continually returned to this genre over his illustrious career, these personal works also investigate and reveal the artist’s stance about the various socio-political issues surrounding him and the roles of artistic practice in society. As Agus himself once stated, “in order to be critical toward others, I opt to first be critical toward myself”.
In a similar vein, Mella Jaarsma questions the positioning of self and identity, but in the context of cultural and racial signifiers embedded within clothing, the body and food. Born in the Netherlands and based in Indonesia since the 1980s, Jaarsma’s critical practice interrogates the stereotypes and performativity of complex, hybrid identities. In The Pecking Order, Jaarsma inverts and plays with the titular phrase, by producing costumes and paintings that refer to the animal most literally associated with a pecking order: the chicken. The costumes, created from chicken leather and stuffed chickens, functions as both a dress and a table to explore social organisation and hierarchies, blurring the binary division between an oppressor and the oppressed.
J. Ariadhitya Pramuhendra creates monumental charcoal works that question one’s core identity in the search for the truth and the divine. He creates uncanny realistic portraits and theatrical figurative scenes that reference historic Christian iconography and surreal science. His latest piece Angel’s Journey, from his “Beyond the Half” series continues his enquiry on self-identity and mortality within the personal context of practicing Christianity in Indonesia – one of the largest Muslim countries in the world.
Ben Cabrera, or better known as BenCab, is an icon in Philippine art. A pioneer for addressing social and political issues, as well as his portrayal of Filipino identity, he is internationally acclaimed for his draftsmanship in expressing universal human sympathies and everyday narrative drama. In his latest large-scale work, The Human Clay After Muybridge, BenCab continues his research into the human body’s movement and form. Infused with rhythmic strokes and flowing lines, the three-meter work presents eight interconnected figures in the midst of spirited movement. Weaving in iconographic references to art and scientific history, The Human Clay After Muybridge is a multi-layered and complex piece that is inspired by Eadweard Muybridge’s early motion study photographs, as well as by an exhibition entitled The Human Clay which the artist R. B. Kitaj organized in the 70s. The group exhibition, which included Francis Bacon, David Hockney, Lucien Freud and Frank Auerbach, was controversial because it championed figuration at a time when abstraction was dominant. By drawing on these key sources, BenCab similarly calls for the case of figuration, while emphasising the idea that ultimately, it is the artist’s creativity that shapes and moulds the art, like clay.
Pinaree Sanpitak’s practice similarly revolves around the human body, concentrating on the powerful and tender experience of being female and a mother. Her vibrant painting Two Red Breasts, marks a change from her monochromatic works. For well over 20 years, Sanpitak’s primary inspiration has been the female body, distilled to its most primal, basic forms: the vessel and the mound. The female breast has been a recurring motif in her considerable practice, which was brought about after the birth of her only son. Sanpitak is also often called a feminist or Buddhist artist, but she resists such easy categorisations, preferring to let her work speak to each viewer directly, through the most basic language of form, colour, and texture.
Lastly, Isabel and Alfredo Aquilizan explore community ties and displacement between groups and bodies of people through commonly found materials. Left Wing Project (Belok Kiri Jalan Terus) is a continuous series of work that examines the complex socio-political struggles that contemporary agrarian societies face in Asia. The immense sculpture consists of hundreds of hand-forged sickles, fashioned and welded into the shape of a left angel wing. The wing draws references to the leftist political history of Jogjakarta and traces their increasingly disenfranchised blacksmith communities due to Chinese economic globalism.
In celebration of the opening of Disparate Bodies, Mella Jaarsma will be presenting The Pecking Order, an hour and a half long performance at the gallery.