Thousands of people who flocked to the opening of ArtJog 10 last month found pairs of gigantic eyes staring at them. Those eye- catching installations were created by Wedhar Riyadi, this year’s commissioned artist at ArtJog, the country’s longest-running art fair.
“Five months ago, Pak Bambang (Toko, Curator of ArtJog) came to me and asked me to do the commissioned work for the fair. I was surprised, flattered, and nervous at the same time because there was very little time to complete such a major work” Wedhar, who welcomed Prestige to his home and studio in Bantul, says.
But an opportunity to do a commissioned artwork for ArtJog is not one to be missed. The chosen artists are rising stars whom the committee believes would be influential figures in Indonesia’s contemporary art scene. Previous artists include Indiguerillas, Iwan Effendi and Papermoon Puppet Theatre, and Samsul Arifin.
But why eyes? “It’s a symbol of seeing and being seen. Technology has allowed us to see other people – what they are doing, where they are – through screens. We are watching other people, and we are being watched at the same time,” Wedhar, who worked with a team of 15 to realise the ArtJog installation, says. “My work, ‘Floating Eyes’, is an encouragement to see eye-to-eye beyond the screens.”
Wedhar’s eye icon has been attached to him since his early days as a full-time artist. It was created out of his love for comics. Up to today, he still keeps a cabinet full of comic figurines in in his house. When studying at Institut Seni Indonesia (ISI) Yogyakarta, Wedhar hung out a lot with the comic community on campus. He was also in touch with the street art community, even involved in the “Mural Kota” (City Murals) initiative.
“During my early days as an artist, I was heavily influenced by Pop Artists like Andy Warhol. But these days, I re-learn textures and colours from classic paintings,” he says. Wedhar’s drawing techniques is one of his strengths as an artist. Ardnt Gallery in Berlin wrote of him: “Riyadi is a master of line drawing, and his works show a powerful inspiration from contemporary street art, graffiti and comics.”
Wedhar himself admits that to date, drawing is what makes him happiest. “Drawing on paper defines me as an artist. I don’t really like canvas, as it sends out an intimidating aura. Whereas paper symbolises nonchalance. You just have to focus on channeling your imagination onto it.”
A decade since becoming a full-time artist, Wedhar has held four solo exhibitions, including Arndt Gallery and Yavuz Fine Art, Singapore. His works are collected by Akili Museum of Art in Jakarta, Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art in Brisbane. But Wedhar admits that with recognition, comes pressure.
“When I was a student making art, the process was pure joy. It was a blissful experience to create without any burdens. It was just me and my work,” Wedhar smiles. “As a professional artist, I have a lot of considerations. I have to think of the public, the gallery, as well as the themes where they apply.” Having said that, Wedhar is grateful for the freedom he gets, even when he is doing commissioned work.
Does Wedhar fear losing his idealism amid the expectations? It does not seem so. “As an artist, I’m opened to new opportunities. If I can get inputs from different stakeholders, face different problems, I shall continue to grow as an artist.”
The story is a part of a serial features, profiling 5 top young Indonesian contemporary artists, as recommended by Bambang “Toko” Witjaksono of ArtJog. The series is published in the Art Issue of Prestige Indonesia, which can be purchased here.