MANGU PUTRA
(b. 1963, BALI)

Within a short span of time since the beginning of his artistic career, Mangu Putra has caused more than a stir in his exhibitions throughout Indonesia. A graphic designer before turning into full-time painting in 1998, his paintings exude acuteness and sensitivity to visual forms.

Putra rarely adheres to one style of painting. He shifts between abstraction, figuration and realistic rendering, all of which contribute to his coherent yet diverse oeuvre. This wide variety of approaches ranges from a nearly perfect imitation of a noisy photograph to an extremely hyper-realistic rendition of trees verging on the point of abstraction. Although some of his works may seem true-to-life, they usually appear strangely artificial, attractive and overly idealistic. His vision of the world is hence, not a natural one but rather, a version that is contaminated by society. 

Putra’s usual choice of subjects contains the wilderness, fish, mountains and other forms of nature. In an interview, he mentions that nature ties his works together; they form his goal of revealing the true essence of nature by capturing and translating it into a visual-aesthetic language. Perhaps that is why his paintings are not true-to-life as we understand it. His work goes even further and seeks to reveal the underlying spirit of his subjects, which in this case is the forest. Hence, the artist could be said to articulate an enchanting reality that replaces or even surpasses our current one. 

Born in 1963 at Sangeh, Central Bali, Mangu Putra was trained in Yogyakarta at Indonesia’s premier art school, Institute Seni Indonesia (originally ASRI, the Akademi Seni Rupa Indonesia). He majored in Design and Visual Communications and worked as a graphic designer until 1997 when he began to pursue a career in the Fine Arts. His works have been presented in solo and group exhibitions in Indonesia as well as internationally in Singapore, China, South Korea, Australia, and the United Kingdom.

WORKS BY THIS ARTIST

LULLABY FROM THE SMELL OF RAIN CLEARED SOIL 01 and 02
2020
Acrylic on Linen, 90 x 130 cm

Employing his signature hyperrealist form, Mangu Putra paints a collage containing black and white photographs and newspaper headlines—appearing old and worn, as if it were plucked out of an archive or historical record. 

Yet, as we read the words and examine the images more closely, we realize that these snippets and fragments are, in fact, artifacts of today: headlines announcing the latest Covid-19 news; cars unused and wrapped in their covers; an airplane standing still on the ground, rather than flying in the air. 

We are reminded of the historic stillness that has seized our present, in which our movements are halted, travel is painfully limited, and we are constantly on our digital devices, anxiously anticipating the latest update both in our countries, and across the world: how is the economy doing? Are people surviving? How do we return to normal living? When will this all end? Nonetheless, while today, the unease feels like eternity, Putra reminds us through the faded, historic quality of his work that a day will come when this too will be a thing of the past.