Dadang Christanto, widely known for his works surrounding Indonesia’s 1965-66 genocide, returns to Jan Manton Gallery in his new exhibition LEGACY with a continued rigour and commitment to voicing the stories of the countless victims.
Christanto grew up in Tegal, Central Java where he lived with his family during the 1960s. When Christanto was 8 years old, his father was forcefully removed from his home in the middle of the night by a group of militants. He was never to be seen or heard from again. The events of 1965-66 motivated Christanto’s art practice as a way to not only express his pain caused by the atrocities but to share stories of suffering.
In his new body of work, Christanto illustrates violent acts of mass murder, with severed heads seen crashing into bodies of water and limbs sinking further below. ‘Plung’, the title of 3 works, is an Indonesian onomatopoeia to describe the sound made when an object drops into water. “It is a poetic word which carries a quietness – a sound you may hear in the night,” says Christanto. “Violence is a reality in our lives and is an inherent part of human nature. Whether we like it or not, we must be brave enough to oppose violence.” Alongside the ‘Plung’ series is the artist’s self-portrait ‘One Day in K’, which provides a glimpse into his life amidst the COVID pandemic. The increased isolation experienced by Christanto inflicted a deep sense of longing for another place, specifically the Yangtze River in China.
The exhibition’s titular piece ‘Legacy’ was previously shown in a 2007 exhibition in Jan Manton Gallery where it was formerly titled ‘Such a Beautiful Morning, The Sun Rose and Its Light Did Stab in the Back’. Since its first showing, the work has undergone the addition of new layers with the last being a caricature of Indonesia’s past leader Suharto. Christanto’s intent to revisit the large-scale work was prompted by the first layer’s portrayal of the mass casualties caused by the 2004 Indian earthquake and tsunami, which devastated the west coast of northern Sumatra. “Tsunamis are a natural disaster and by adding these new layers, I wanted to show there also exists ideological and social disasters,” states Christanto.
LEGACY acknowledges that although the artist has healed from personal wounds, issues of socio-political injustice and discrimination within Indonesia remain unresolved.
In Conversation & Opening Drinks: Saturday 6 May, 4 – 6pm
Join Dadang Christanto and our resident philosopher Alain Guillemain as they discuss the exhibition’s philosophical and artistic themes.
Image: Plung 1, 2023