Two and a half years after his first solo exhibition at Gajah Gallery Yogyakarta, Rosit Mulyadi presents a new series of works at Gajah Gallery Singapore. Entitled Anti-Canon, this solo exhibition marks a significant departure from the artist’s previous thematic concerns. In his last solo show, his works were defined by his anxious curiosity towards how we perceive ourselves and each other on online platforms. Now, he lends this anxious and curious gaze towards mainstream protagonists of history, culture, and economic progress.
In Anti-Canon, Mulyadi centres figures neglected and sidelined in global political and economical canons, through clever subversion of art historically canon pieces. Mulyadi elevates the story of working mothers—in particular, migrant domestic workers. The subjects of his paintings experience displacement not only geographically, but also in their familial roles as mothers, being pressured to transplant their emotional labour to families of strangers. Hence, many of the works evoke feelings of longing and neglect, further emphasising the problem of rural exploitation, underappreciated domestic labour, and women’s sacrifices in economic precarity.
A shift also happens in how he uses image appropriation. In his previous body of works, he would appropriate old masters pieces to tackle the ubiquitous ‘remix culture’ and information overload in our digital age. Distorting the meaning of the original works was not his central concern. However, in this new series of works, Rosit’s intention behind using these western masterpieces is more assertive: to deliberately misunderstand their original context, actively retaliating against the West’s continuous
misappropriation of the East.
In addressing these gendered and class-specific dialectics, Rosit uses the careful method of emphatic observing and listening to situate himself in the discourse. He has witnessed the endemic socio economic problem with his own eyes, and his recent return to his rural hometown in Lakbok, Ciamis –itself a source region for domestic workers– becomes the catalyst for this new series. He seeks to amplify the affected voices rather than speak over them. Anti-Canon expresses a movement against erasing the importance and sacrifices of female labourers in global political and historical canons, a refusal of imbalanced narratives.