(b. 1971, Talawi, West Sumatra, Indonesia)
Born in Tawali, West Sumatra, Yunizar earned his fine arts degree at the Indonesian Institute of Arts in Yogyakarta – a school of national pride in the heart of Indonesia’s artistic and cultural capital. During his studies, Yunizar co-founded an art group called the Kelompok Seni Rupa Jendela together with five other Minang students. Amid the socio-political art that flooded the Indonesian art world after the 1998 Reformation, which saw the fall of the Suharto regime, the KSR Jendela crucially avoided overtly political themes. Instead, the group acted as a sanctuary for the artists to exchange ideas, experiment with form and material, and hone their distinct artistic sensibilities. By the late 1990s, the works that Yunizar produced were a breath of fresh air. Resisting grand, heroic narratives and didactic messages in his work, Yunizar set his gaze instead on the everyday—determined to articulate the feeling and essence, or rasa, of subjects that animated his immediate surroundings.
Yunizar’s crude, childlike style, composed of raw lines and fantastical imagery, may appear naive at first glance, but in fact radiates deep mystery and elegance. His paintings from the early 2000s portrayed haunting human figures in dark, muddy colours, capturing the psyche of anonymous, alienated people. In the mid-2000s, fascinated by vandalisms on bathroom stalls and street corners, Yunizar began incorporating rhythmic, impressionistic scribbles in his paintings, known as his Coretan or “unreadable letters” series. Evading meaning and literal translations, these writings instead evoked an emotional force akin to what one might find in oral traditions, which have a long history within the Minangkabau culture. Over the years, Yunizar has carefully transformed his practice, exploring motifs that increasingly collapse boundaries between the real and the imaginary—from homes and dwellings, to mythical creatures such as the symbolically charged Garuda, enshrined on Indonesia’s national emblem. Then, in 2012, Yunizar unexpectedly ventured into sculpture. Since then he has transformed whimsical subjects, such as village gangsters and primordial monsters, into arresting bronze creations.
Amid these dynamic changes in his oeuvre, what persists to fuel Yunizar’s practice is a deep-seated trust in his intuition, and a singular ability to see poetry and power in the ordinary. His works have garnered critical acclaim within Southeast Asia and across the globe. In 2007, he held a solo show at the National University of Singapore Museum (NUS), Singapore. His works are currently found in the collections of major art institutions, such as the Singapore Art Museum (SAM), the Long Museum in Shanghai, and the Benesse Art Collection in Japan. In 2021, he was the only Southeast Asian artist selected to participate in Frieze Sculpture, London.