Teja Astawa

Dewi Penjaga Hutan

200 x 150 cm
Acrylic on Canvas
2010

Teja Astawa

Fruit Problems

140 x 200 cm
Acrylic on Canvas
2010

Teja Astawa

Iring-Iringan Sang Pangeran

200 x 150 cm
Acrylic on Canvas
2010

Teja Astawa

Memohon Keselamatan

150 x 200 cm
Acrylic on Canvas
2010

Teja Astawa

Memohon Perlindungan (Dewi Penjaga Hutan)

120 x 200 cm
Acrylic on Canvas
2010

Teja Astawa

Monkey Attack

200 x 150 cm
Acrylic on Canvas
2010

Teja Astawa

Pangeran di Taman Istana

140 x 200 cm
Acrylic on Canvas
2010

Teja Astawa

Pengaduan Binatang

150 x 200 cm
Acrylic on Canvas
2010

Teja Astawa

Rekreasi di Danau

200 x 150 cm
Acrylic on Canvas
2010

Teja Astawa

Sang Gembala

200 x 150 cm
Acrylic on Canvas
2010

Teja Astawa

Save the Tree (Sacred Tree)

150 x 200 cm
Acrylic on Canvas
2010

Teja Astawa

Temu Kangen Prajurit

200 x 150 cm
Acrylic on Canvas
2010

Teja Astawa

Terperangkap di Sarang Macan

200 x 240 cm (2 panel)
Acrylic on Canvas
2010

← back to Past Exhibitions Teja Astawa Solo Exhibition

Fragments of Subconscious Memory (2011)

Indonesian VersionCurator & Article by I Wayan Seriyoga Parta*

The process in creating an artwork is stimulated by various factors; one of them is the artist's personal experience that has made an impact on his life so deeply that it turns into an inspiration as well as motivation in the creative process of an artwork. In the context of creating an artwork, the experience then undergoes an internal process and interpretation of the artist. It is later reconstructed into a medium of artwork. The reconstruction process itself is related to re-imagining, the implementation plane of which may differ for each individual artist. In the same way, the creating process of Teja Astawa, a young artist who grew up in Sanur, Bali coastal environment is executed. Teja's artworks raise his childhood experience from the time he played with 'kamboja' and jack fruit leaves which were shaped into wayang figures. Together with his friends, Teja would often play with those leaves in his free imagination of childhood cheerfulness.

That childhood experience has printed a deep impression on him and made a room for his artistic life as he grows up, particularly in painting medium. Teja then re-weaves fragments of his experience and recreates those wayang figures in his artwork. In order to begin the reconstruction process Teja has carried out a field study observing the varieties of wayang and their individual characteristic symbolism.

By the time he pours out these wayang fragments onto canvas, Teja does not immediately introduce stories from wayang world, most of these generally come from Ramayana and Mahabarata epics. Teja does not present a theme solely from the stories of the great epics, on the other hand, he releases its association with the epic narrative role it plays and treats wayang only as a medium to play the role conveyed by the "Dalang" (the narrator). In wayang world, there are boundaries that have to be thought about, i.e. the figure's form to begin with, its attribute, and the character attached to the figure, in addition, the story boundaries surrounding the great epics, Ramayana and Mahabarata.

Teja Astawa chooses to unleash himself from those boundaries by painting the wayang figure according to his free imagination. Just like his freedom when he played with leaf wayang during his childhood, in the process of creating his artwork, Teja reconstructs the experience. The experience which has settled in his subconscious memory has to be reemerged to the surface and that experience in itself has undergone some overlaps with other experiences. In the process of re-emerging, Teja has done some reconstruction process so that they appear as fragments that are composed visually into a narrative. The narratives do not have structured story setting as they have in wayang epics; the story fragments in Teja's artwork is a sequence of independent narrative fragments which does not have direct association.

Needless to say, Teja has previously thought of a thematic idea for his artwork, however, the idea is continually improving as the artwork is in progress; spontaneous objects may come into the process and are expressed directly in the artwork. This spontaneity plays an important factor among the sequence of fragments in his work, and subsequently presents a narrative. The narrative has certain themes which are not a sequence of complete narratives, on the contrary they are independent narrative fragments united onto the canvas plane. Teja's works represent fragments of his subconscious memory which often appears spontaneously while he is working. Teja's creativity process in his work is psychological explosions and impulses from his subconscious memories.

The narrative mechanism in Teja's work closely resembles fragments appearing in his dreams. A sequence of narrative fragments in a dream, as Freud says, actually has a structure in the form of a sequence of events which repeatedly appear methodically, but in reality it is actually difficult to understand the sequences as they contain symbolic values. It is difficult to understand since the dream mechanism works in the subconscious memory, instead of the conscious memory; reality in dreams is not the same as reality in conscious memory. Like the complexity of the symbolic narratives in dream world, Teja's fragments of narratives also contain complexity. This complexity comes from spontaneous method while the artwork is in process. Unlike the subconscious mechanism theory, Teja's narrative fragments in his work even appear right into his conscious mechanism whereas parts of his ideas are taken from his subconscious memory.

Through spontaneous mechanism those memories appear in his work process, as in his work "Monkey Attack" dated 2010. In terms of outline, Teja wants to create a narrative about Monkeys relaxing on the beach, and one of them is even holding a surfing board. All of a sudden there is a "Bum" (=boom) sign, a bomb explodes and like in comic iconography, something is thrown out of a bombing ship in the background sea. On the other side, a monkey is having a conversation with a lady in a swimming pool. Subjectively interpreted, those monkey fragments may be associated with Bali Bomb Blasts I and II sometime ago in 2002 and 2004. When the author confirmed this to Teja, he admitted that the thought of the Bali Bomb Blasts did cross his mind impulsively as he was finishing his work. However, he admitted that he was not trying to portray the Blasts and associate the monkey figures and the coastal background with a certain condition in Bali tourism context. Teja added that the appearance of the bombing ship at sea in the background was only to portray a narrative fragment of monkey activities. Suddenly the Blasts incident crossed his mind and he impulsively expressed the incident in his work.

Spontaneity method has previously become an inclination in surrealist artist artwork process, just like in literature e.g. a man of letters intends to create a poem spontaneously by taking words from scratches of newspapers or magazines he found and arranges them into a poem. That spontaneity method has also become an inclination in Teja Astawa's work mechanism all this time. Spontaneity is the root of the presence of unusual, peculiar, at the same time unique ideas in Teja's work.

Visual structure in Teja's work consists of a sequence of human as well as animal figures in a composition seen as playing roles in a certain narrative theme. It is a sequence of narratives about animals and human, in this case wayang, which identity is not too obvious, since Teja only inserts iconography such as attributes representing a king or god. A god in wayang is usually represented by a string of aura lights in the form of arched lines surrounding the god figure. The themes are expressed by emphasizing the figures or objects being painted in relatively large scale, and in between the sequence of main objects appear little objects that often do not have direct connection with the main objects.

In his work "Sang Gembala" (=the Shepherd) dated 2010, the main object is a man sitting up while looking after his cows and a figure of a woman with long hair sitting on a table with her knees bent and folded back, as if feeding bird chicks. Out of nowhere, a mountain appears on the background with a car tangled on it. This is repeated in his work "Pengaduan Binatang" (=Animal Complaint) dated 2010 which tells about a tiger facing a king or god figure. At the background appears a car drowning in water which is painted in white with straight horizontal lines. Also in the work "Memohon Perlingdungan Dewi Penjaga Hutan" (=A Call for Protection from the Forest Guardian goddess) expressing two tigers meeting a goddess, on the blue background representing water, someone is driving a speeding boat. There are more similar small objects which can be found in Teja's works, mostly they appear as background by the use of monochromatic color, which is sketched in black ink. Those little objects seem peculiar and generally presented in smaller size which rouse the observer to find out whether there is a connection with the main object or not. The presence of the small objects is Teja's inclination to play on canvas, giving space for the appearance of subconscious fragments and spontaneously responding to the main theme of his work. Although they are represented on the background and sometimes seen disguised in ink sketches, those objects might, on the contrary, become the main aspect and play an important role in Teja's work. The little objects' presence is so full of attraction that arouses a question: which is actually the main theme in Teja's work? Is it the composition of the larger objects or the seemingly unusual and peculiar trivial objects? At least, in the author's opinion it is the smaller objects that may become the main factor in Teja's work. In terms of composition, despite his exploitation of perspective approach, it does not actually appear to be linear perspective. Visually, the difference between near and far, large and small exists, however it cannot be seen as logically scaled since Teja may freely and playfully present the smaller objects in front, the larger objects in the middle and return to the background with the smaller objects. Once again it can be seen in his work "Pengaduan Binatang" (=Animal Complaint) dated 2010 where in the lower part the observer can see a small human in a boat, painted in detail. The linear perspective logic, in this case, is not in effect.

Thematic inclination in Teja's work is simple in nature and it expresses animal themes which remind us of Tantri stories (fable), and is set in unique smaller objects that express independent narrative. Presented in simple manner, not burdened by narrative symbolism which is full of connotation and philosophy, like wayang epics or Tantri stories, Teja Astawa's works offer lighter narrative themes, sometimes funny looking, another time seriously looking, full of peculiarity and also uniqueness. The smaller objects might rouse a question about the association between the main object that appears as if it does have a direct connection, and the sequence of a whole complete connotation. However, in reality, the sequence of meanings in Teja's work does not have a whole connectedness, since it contains fragmental puzzles which often appear in impulsive mechanism. They appear impulsively in his work process, spontaneously emerge from his subconscious memory, and quietly come out through the depths of Teja's imagination.

Looking at it from the point of view of art language, Teja grasps wayang forms and unleash them from their forms and attributes that standardized them within certain boundaries. Beginning from the eyes, eyebrows, mouth, posture and body gesture up to the varieties of attributes each figure has, as Teja does not present a wayang story or narrative, in his work he unleashes them from all standard rules of wayang painting. He develops wayang characters and adapts them to his own imagination, wayang as an artwork that in itself is a deformed artwork distorted from its depiction, then reprocesses it into a new proportion, i.e. by giving a bigger head with a more plastic anatomy, resembling human anatomy, unlike the usual thinner wayang figure, and by simplifying their clothing attributes.

In the context of creative process, Teja is recreating a new form and structure of wayang by removing it from the standardized structure. Teja has committed distortion towards wayang structure, turned it into new art language and adjusted it to his creativity. He re-presents it in a new art style, distinctive and unique, in conformity with his own characteristic that is full of spontaneity as he communicates his ideas. Taking all relevant factors into account, Teja's artwork suggests some visual processing aspects, i.e. firstly, it is a matter of light narrative, light, simple and open-minded towards connotation, secondly, it is about processing art language rooted in wayang style, then he recreates it until it produces a specific and unique art form; thirdly, concerning arrangement and composition of art elements that exist in it, particularly in perspective context which is played by ignoring linear perspective aspects. Objects in front, middle and backgrounds can be contradictory, as all of a sudden small objects presented in detail with high intensity appear in front.

In Teja's works, layers of objects that appear simultaneously and hard to be understood through linear perspective system or linear narrative that introduces sequential structured stories, are composed. As mentioned in the above analysis, the composition mechanism in Teja's work is similar to the compositional inclination in a dream world which appears all of a sudden and overlaps in a set of time, condensed with layers of various narratives. Narratives in Teja's work are in the form of spontaneous appearing pieces of puzzles composed in such a way onto a piece of canvas.

Yogyakarta, December 2010

*I Wayan Serioga Parta, born in Tabanan Bali in 1980, finishes his graduate degree in STSI Craft Art Design Department (ISI) Denpasar in 2003, Post-graduate (Master of Fine Art) in Art Research Studies Department, in ITB Bandung Post-graduate Studies in July, 2010, and at the moment he is undergoing post graduate studies (Doctoral Program) in Post Graduate Program of ISI Yogyakarta. Since 2006 he has been a teacher staff in a Public University of Gorontalo. He was a guest lecturer for 'Collection of Artwork as a Lifestyle' public lecture in Faculty of Art and Design, Maranatha Christian University, on February 25, 2010. He has been an Art Curator since 2004, i.e. Curator Team of Pra Bali Biennale 2005, Curator for REAL(I)TI, Art Exhibition 2009 in Vanessa Art Link Jakarta, Curator for Indonesian Artists Roadshow Exhibition, Edge Gallery Hongkong, 2010 which was produced by El-canna Gallery, Jakarta, Curator for Return to The Abstraction, 2009 Exhibition and Curator for Medi(a)esthetic, 2010 Exhibition in Tonyraka Art Gallery Mas, Ubud Bali.