(b. 1971, West Sumatra, Indonesia)
Abdi Setiawan’s sculptures return to the skill of wood carving while deploying the artist’s entire imagination and perception to depict the Indonesian human figure. The realistic rendering of the figures pokes us with satire so that we smile away our embarrassment in recognizing our own behavior reflected. Today’s life and culture are those of the city – with all its complexity of problems: population explosion, insufficient dwelling space, transportation, excessive consumption, crime and poverty.
The advancement of modernity and its related humanitarian problems are becoming obvious in urban life. Direct involvement in attempt to familiarize himself with the atmospheres of certain corners of the city as well as the characters of the people there, almost always prevails in Setiawan’s process of making works. Setiawan understands the emotional experiences that have their shares in shaping the characters of the figures he intends to offer by means of his sculptures. However, in the making and finishing of his works the artist transcends the experiences and observations. He knows he needs to add his personal interpretations and judgments to the various recorded physiognomic data of his figures. He reclaims his humanitarian intention and interest to critically understand what is going on around him. And he has to deal with discovering and defining the various formal aspects in his works so as to contain all his ideas and thoughts.
The teak wood he carves roughly so as to produce an unlevelled surface. The colors enforced to mix on the surface of the polyester casts of his wood sculptures are effecting detailed accessories and clothing, and through gestures and poses (arms crossed, gripping a handphone), facial expressions, gazes, and glances – all elements which add to the rich physiognomic images in his works. Tattoos, clothing patterns and brands, graphical T-shirt imprints, and other attributes from popular culture make strong references to art history. Not always Setiawan feels the need to give his figures life sizes.