1600 x 1200 cm
image from: www.isrol.multiply.com/photos/photo/15/6
Visceral, political and horrific, Aris Prabawa’s recent exhibition at Casula Powerhouse, left me completely stunned by the power of its imagery.
It is rare that an exhibition catches the darkest nightmarish imagery lurking in one’s subconscious and puts it on view. Upon seeing this show my eldest daughter said, “I don’t know if I’ll sleep well tonight”, and I don’t think she did. His work has an impact that truly lingers. Aris was at the opening of this exhibition, a young smiling, open faced man. I asked him how he felt after completing one of his many pieces, “Yes, sometimes I cannot sleep”, he concurred.
Born in Indonesia , Aris is a multidisciplinary artist, whose work explores the dark underbelly of Indonesian politics, military oppression, corruption and violence. Hefty military generals, sleazy businessmen and soldiers ride massively engorged pigs, eels, rats, and bats painted in lurid, sickening oil colours. Vile and macabre the effect is menacing and disturbing. The interconnection between the military, corporations and government are portrayed terrifyingly. Each sordid character is huge in scale, the Indonesian peasant dwarfed intheir presence. The effect is to recreate the horror of living smothered by an oppressive blanket of military totalitarianism, beneath which the everyday folk cower.
300 x 216 cm
image from: Sika Gallery
Prababwa’s influences include German Dada, Mexican muralists, Indonesian political artists and graphic artists from early 20th century Europe. Technically his work is excellent, detailed and richly textured. The colours are not pretty viewing, nor is his work. Yet its powerful, brazen and impacting. Australia, awash with apathy and art-for-interiors, has a lot to thank Aris for. We could well consider his experience of growing up during Suharto’s regime and how the Indonesian populace have been repeatedly quashed by their own government. As we attempt to reshuffle our relationship with Indonesia, Aris’s work reminds us that the key players are still those that were in charge before. The psychological impact is described by Aris, as ‘hilang kemanusiaan’, meaning ‘humanity lost’. Indonesians today are controlled by fear of reprisal and collectively stumble in their efforts to fight for justice. Uncompromisingly, Aris’s terrifying work denounces the power of violence and summons us to reject complacency. Aris is a founding member of the art collective Taring Padi and the band Black Boots. He is inspired by punk, DIY and antiauthoritarianism. He currently divides his time between Indonesia and Sydney.