Agus Suwage is one of Indonesia’s most important contemporary artists. He was born 1959 in Purworejo, Java, Indonesia. He lives and works currently in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Suwage is actively engaged in both local and international scenes since the late 1980s. Suwage studied Graphic Design at the Institute of Technology in Bandung, Indonesia from 1979-1986. He has participated in over 150 museum and gallery exhibitions around the world. His art practice – which includes drawing, painting, sculpture and installation – has been exhibited in major art events across Indonesia and abroad. For example at the Singapore Biennale, Singapore (2006) and had a major retrospective at the Yogyakarta Art Museum, Indonesia (2009). Whilst his oeuvre predominantly circles around the phenomenon of “death”, he is also engaged with an obsession of portraiture.
Since the mid 90’s his own projection onto canvas has become the focal point of his artistic concern. At the most intimate level, his works might just be a medium for him to face and overcome his constant personal fear towards it. He thereby often uses popular symbols and iconography to invite an engagement with the beholder. Charcoal figures of skulls and skeletons dominate the works in his exhibitions, using images related to death as a chance to gaze at life face to face. The use of such imagery is Suwage’s way of confronting the act of living to its final point, when all action, belief and faith meet their inevitable end.
Indonesian artist and curator Aminudin Siregar reflects: “Suwage teaches us about self-criticism.” His work does not judge the situations he perceives. Rather, he invites the viewer to follow his contemplations by arranging various problems in ironic, even incoherent relationships, enshrouded by dark visualizations and a bitter sense of humor. Suwage belongs to a larger community of artists who are actively shaping Indonesia’s dynamic developing contemporary art scene. “It could be said that the work was among the last in recent years to incite public reaction in Indonesia and to trigger a debate among people outside the art community”, writes Farah Wardani (Art writer, curator & director of Indonesian Visual Art Archive). Agus Suwage is clearly one of the few Indonesian contemporary artists with a cosmopolitan character.