This year’s UOB painting of the Year was awarded to Indonesian artist Suwi Wahyudianto. His painting focused on the 2001 tribal conflict in Central Kalimantan.
Wahyudianto’s painting, created using mixed media on aluminium, was inspired by the ethnic tensions among the Madurese which caused horrendous loss for life. A pile of human body parts covered by deep red blood is the focus of the painting, created by a combination of resin, plastic, enamel, and pigment.
The 26-year-old artist painted it based on his personal experience witnessing a number of Madurese refugees who returned to the island of Madura, to escape the Sampit riots. He was a child at the time and noted that it formed part of his collective memory from he drew inspiration.
At the “Indonesia UOB Painting of the Year” exhibit which was held for the first time at the National Gallery in Jakarta, Wahyudianto shared his thoughts about feeling a bit off kilter during the time. His painting is not only an recollection of a dark event in memory but is also an exploration of social harmony.
“I wanted to share the importance of empathy. Despite our racial and cultural differences, we are essentially the same. I want people embrace those differences in order to live in a better world,” Wahyudianto told NOW! Jakarta.
The panel of judges—including senior Indonesian artist Entang Wiharso, Malaysian artist Wei-Ling Gallery, Founder Lim Wei-Ling, Somporn Rodboon of Thailand’s Mahasarakham University and Kwok Kian Chow from Singapore Management University— were impressed by Wahyudianto’s ability to evoke a sense of empathy towards communities involved in social conflicts in their contemporary form.
Wahyudianto, who graduated in Fine Arts Studies from Surabaya State University in 2017, noted that his painting is also related to the state of events today regarding tensions surrounding religion, ethnicity and race.
“There is a chance this might happen again in the future. Through this artwork, I hope to invoke our sense of empathy towards the lives of innocent people who have to deal with conflict. It symbolises the hope that someday, the thick wall that separates us from seeing and treating each other as equals will come down,” he said.
Wahyudianto—whose work is often inspired by everyday life, past memories, and history— notes that he is able to connect issues to the contemporary situation using an experimental approach that require various techniques and mediums in his artistic process.
“It’s an honour to receive the UOB painting of the year award, both in the country competition and South East Asia level. UOB is known for helping emerging artists in the country and is also a great platform for Indonesian artists to do well at competitions,” Wahyudianto stated.
During the two week-long “Natura Harmonis” exhibition at National Gallery of Indonesia, art enthusiasts had the opportunity to see the works from other runners up from Indonesia’s contribution to the UOB Painting of the Year contest, including Ajeng Martia Saputri, Hudi Alfachuci, and Lenny Ratnasari Weichert. Indonesian winner for this year Emerging Artists, Seno Wahyu Sampurno, were also on display along with 50 other finalists.
Wahyudianto’s works are on display along with other Southeast Asia finalists at UOB Art Gallery, UOB Plaza I at 80 Raffles Place, Singapore until 28 February 2019