UJI HAHAN HANDOKO
(b. 1983, Kebumen)

Uji Hahan Handoko graduated from Indonesia Institute of Fine Art in Yogyakarta. He has since gone on to participated in several artist-in-residence programmes, including the National Art Studio’s programme in Seoul, Korea. Hahan has been featured in numerous local and international group exhibitions and art fairs.

Heavily influenced by punk, comics and youth culture, Hahan incorporates film, music and street culture into his distinct visual language. Each piece illustrates the tension in a point of contact that exists between urbanization and agrarianism, the East and the West, the local and the global, ‘high art’ and ‘low art’. Using his own experiences as narrative, Hahan’s work delivers a powerful critique of the structures and mechanisms of the society around us.

WORKS BY THIS ARTIST

The Breaking Of Our Middle Finger
2020
Acrylic on Canvas, 59 x 40 cm

“Long live the art industry!” is written in white against a bright red background, covered in an iconic, yet evidently counterfeit, Louis Vuitton pattern. Above the text, a caricature of a figure clad in a black and red jumpsuit and an oversized hat covering most of his face, as if humiliated, squats on the ground and sticks up his middle finger. Yet, the finger is fully covered in a cloth bandage, indicating that it is either broken or wounded. 



The bold and profane gesture suddenly loses its power—revealing, instead, fault and fragility. The only face fully seen is plastered on the figure’s hand, right below the middle finger: lips frowned, tongue sticking out, and one eye releasing a tear. The face perfectly sums up the complex ironies Hahan layers in this piece—exposing tensions between superficial facades and raw emotions, wealth and vulgarity, power and shame. 

The title, The Breaking of Our Middle Finger, uses the revealing pronoun, ‘our’—suggesting, based on the written text, that this ‘our’ refers to the art industry at hand. Art industries across the world, however lucrative and diverse, suddenly find themselves in a deeply precarious state amid this pandemic. When some had performed obscene displays of wealth and glamour before, they must now scale down and confront the vulnerability that lies at their core. The question Hahan proposes now is how they will choose to reveal themselves—covered in shame, or bravely revealing their pain?

The Breaking Of Our Middle Finger
2020
Acrylic on Canvas, 59 x 40 cm

Layering symbols of consumerism, contemporary cartoons, and classic Greek and Roman culture, this painting showcases Hahan’s mastery in employing remix and sharp irony to communicate bitter present-day truths. A shiny gold bust of a Roman leader, dressed in hard armour, takes centre stage and commands our gaze. With his full beard; stern, distant stare; and impenetrable confidence, the man in the portrait instantly exudes power and prestige—yet, the portrait’s pristine, gold luster makes it more fit for a Las Vegas casino, rather than a highbrow Western museum. 

In true character, the portrait is adorned with a bright green ‘halo’ imprinted with the signature Louis Vuitton pattern in pink. Perched on both sides of the portrait’s soldier are two satirical caricatures—one embodies a reverse dollar sign with a waved hand and eyeballs sticking out, and the other is a violet, alien-like creature aggressively pulling a yellow smiley face out of its mouth. 

Below the portrait, a phrase reads, “Maintenance of happiness”—starkly mocking how the more our contemporary world plasters itself with these icons of wealth, intellect, culture and power to feed us illusions of happiness, the more is truly reveals its profound emptiness.