Bayu Utomo Radjikin’s debut at The Substation Gallery, Singapore sees some continuum from the artist’s solo exhibition in Kuala Lumpur last year titled Unnamed. The artist revisits large portraits of his distinctive male protagonists dressed as Malay warriors, but the inclusion of a new element – the figures wearing fighter pilot helmets – is a slight deviation.
Or is it? Early in his career, Bayu often grappled with sociopolitical themes. As early as his university days, he addressed issues related to war and global atrocities, portraying figures in fragile situations and highlighting their cause to viewers. These themes featured in an array of mediums – installations, sculptures, and paintings – and so the artist’s inclusion of figures wearing fighter pilot helmets today is a glimpse of this “old” Bayu. The addition of text – adjectives used in relation to people and human emotions - in a number of his current works is another element that the artist has revisited from his past.
The works in Face without Name, remain true to the artist’s signature style. They are epic, large, and acutely realistic. And, the total showing is a miscellany of both charcoal works and paintings.
The physiognomic features of the artist’s signature male figures (alternately himself and a fellow artist) are detailed and pronounced, as are the attributes on the fighter pilot helmets. Both figures – masked and unmasked - are portrayed with a strong sense of drama made possible by the strong shadows and deep contrasts, which lend an air of nobility and importance to his subjects.
Why might this be? Why the focus on the human face? The answer to these questions can be found in other facets of Bayu’s oeuvre. The Malay warrior figure can be traced to Bayu’s Mencari Pahlawan (Quest of a Warrior) series, where the artist focuses on the notion of identity, questioning what it means to be Malay and what it takes to be a warrior, whilst the new figures – faceless, anonymous, and cold – instigate an entirely different set of questions: Who are they? What are they doing? Are these figures we are supposed to trust or fear?
By masking his figures with helmets, Bayu suggests that they could be anybody – you and I even. And their inclusion is not accidental, as the artist does refer to global events of our time and how soldiers become participatory elements in war, taking orders without questioning, and slowly lose all semblance of their own identity and eventually become unnamed faces.
Bayu’s universal and humanist view and the juxtaposition between the visible faces and the masked ones will probe audiences to consider oppositions, cultural and social identities, and – especially in light of the global events in the last decade - what it means to be human today.
Finally, Face without Name can be regarded as a culmination of sorts for this practicing artist of over twenty years. And quite likely, this body of work is a swansong before Bayu moves into new territory, producing works that focus on the female figure, subject matter that he recently showcased in Kuala Lumpur at HOM (House of MATAHATI) in a solo exhibition titled Cinta Kasih.
1997 Lukisan Malaysia National Art Gallery, Kuala Lumpur.
Seni, Alam & Perjalanan Pekan Seni Ipoh, Perak.
Crates Classified GaleriWan, Kuala Lumpur
1996 New ARTists GALERI PETRONAS, Kuala Lumpur. (Curator)
Rupa Kata Pekan Seni Ipoh, Perak.
Imaging the Contemporary Body GALERI PETRONAS, Kuala Lumpur.
50 Years Malaysian Figurative Painting Tradition GALERI PETRONAS, Kuala Lumpur.
1995 Skin Trilogy – performance events on a futuristic Malaysia A visual National Art Gallery, Kuala Lumpur.
Contemporary Art of Non Aligned Countries Jakarta, Indonesia
Phillip Morris Art Award ’95 National Art Gallery, Kuala Lumpur.
1994 War Box, Lalang, Killing Tools Creative Centre, National Art Gallery, Kuala Lumpur.
Positively A Life GaleriWan, Kuala Lumpur.
And Four Came Home Sabah State Gallery, Kota Kinabalu.
1993 What About Converging Extremes GaleriWan, Kuala Lumpur.
Asian Traveling Exhibition of Painting, Photography & Children Arts Asean Countries.
Creative Hands Art Case Gallery, Kuala Lumpur.
1992 Open Show ’92 National Art Gallery, Kuala Lumpur.
1991 Up To You, Festival by Sutra Dance Theatre MATIC, Kuala Lumpur.
Salon Malaysia ’91/’92 National Art Gallery, Kuala Lumpur.
Open Show ’91 National Art Gallery, Kuala Lumpur.
One World – No War City Hall, Kuala Lumpur.
1990 Malaysian Landscape Travelling Malaysia.
Young Contemporary ‘90 National Art Gallery, Kuala Lumpur.
Dokumentasi Kemiskinan Cahaya Seri Alam, Shah Alam.
Keluarga Bahagia National Art Gallery, Kuala Lumpur
1989 Open Show ‘89 National Art Gallery, Kuala Lumpur.
Art Festival PWTC, Kuala Lumpur
Young Contemporary ‘89 National Art Gallery, Kuala Lumpur.
Landscape & Photography Sarawak Museum, Kuching.
Kelantan Open Kelantan State Gallery, Kota Bharu
Malaysian Scene Kontena National, Kuala Lumpur
1988 Hiroshima Never Again City Hall, Kuala Lumpur.
MATAHATI Art Exhibitions & Activities: 2010
Sangkring Artspace, Yogyakarta, Indonesia
ArTriangle III 2010
National Art Gallery, Kuala Lumpur
2009 Art Expo Malaysia Matrade, Kuala Lumpur
Malaysia Emerging Artist Award
Wisma Kebudayaan Soka Gakkai, Kuala Lumpur
MATAHATI Ke MATADUNIA
Malaysian Contemporary Art to The World Galeri Chandan, Kuala Lumpur Culver City, California, USA
2008 TENGGARA Contemporary Painting From Malaysia, Indonesia & Philippines Novas Gallery, Contemporary Urban Centre, Liverpool UK
ArTriangle ‘08 Soka Gakkai Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur
MATAHATI : For Your Pleasure GALERI PETRONAS, HOM, Annexe Gallery, 12 Artspace Gallery, Kuala Lumpur
2007 HOM Opening HOM, Kuala Lumpur
ArTriangle Soka Gakkai Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur
2005 ANTING+ANTING MATAHATI Art Salon, Kuala Lumpur
MATAHATI Malaysia & ANTING+ANTING Philippines Pinto Art Gallery, Antipolo City, Rizal, Philippines
2004 Awas Valentine Willie Fine Art, Kuala Lumpur.
Perahu Kamalayan (Mural Collaboration) National Art Gallery, Kuala Lumpur
Project MAGER ’04 (Fund Rising) Art Salon, Kuala Lumpur
1+1=1 Inter Aksi KL- Jogja Galeri Shah Alam, Selangor.
Seni Halaman MAGER Nusantara Plataran Joko Pekik. Jogjakarta, Indonesia.
Seni Ruangan Gallery Pitoe, Jogjakarta, Indonesia.
Mata & Hati (Himpunan Karya MATAHATI 1993 – 2004) Galeri Pinang, Dewan Sri Pinang, Penang
2003 Suara Jiwa (Art Collaboration with children) National Art Gallery, Kuala lumpur.
2002 ROOM MADC, Jalan Ampang, Kuala Lumpur
1999 MATAHATI PL GALERI PETRONAS, Kuala Lumpur.
1996 Seeing the Unseen Pelita Hati Gallery, Kuala Lumpur.
1995 Stories Pelita Hati Gallery, Kuala Lumpur.
1994 Dari Mata Hati The WELD, Kuala Lumpur.
MATAHATI Group SHENN’s Fine Art Gallery, Singapore.
1993 LIFE…an exhibition by MATAHATI MAYBANK Gallery, Kuala Lumpur.
Public Collections: National Art Gallery, Kuala Lumpur, National Art Museum, Singapore, Sabah State Gallery, Kota Kinabalu, Galeri PETRONAS, Kuala Lumpur Yayasan Kesenian Perak, Ipoh, Ibrahim Hussein Foundation, Langkawi, Japan Foundation, Kuala Lumpur MAYBANK, Kuala Lumpur, Bank Negara Malaysia, UiTM Shah Alam, Selangor, New Straits Times, Kuala Lumpur, GaleriWan, Kuala Lumpur, Valentine Willie Fine Art, Kuala Lumpur, SHENN’S Fine Art, Singapore, NN Gallery, Kuala Lumpur, A.P Art Gallery, Kuala Lumpur, Wei Ling Gallery, Kuala Lumpur