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Patrick Wowor: Breaking down barriers between art and audience

Tunggul Wirajuda
Tunggul Wirajuda

A media practitioner for over 10 years in both TV and print.

Jakarta | Wed, August 30, 2017 | 12:47 pm
Patrick Wowor: Breaking down barriers between art and audience

Patrick Wowor poses with his eponymous work, 'Awas Tegangan Tinggi', a departure from his self-confessed comfort zone of painting that illustrates the emotional undercurrent between two individuals. (JP/Tunggul Wirajuda)

The two blackbirds seem lost in each other’s company, even as they stand still in time and space. Titled “Awas Tegangan Tinggi” (Beware! High Voltage), their ardent chemistry is literally cast in iron by their creator, Indonesian artist Patrick Wowor.

“Like other birds, the blackbirds stand for freedom, as they fly off when they please. But in this case, their pose symbolizes the strong undercurrent of love and other strong emotions between two individuals,” said Patrick of his latest work, which was inspired by blackbirds converging on power lines in the US city of Seattle, a sight that reminded him of society's communal spirit.

He approached the theme with none of the negative connotations associated with blackbirds in folklore, whether in Indonesia or elsewhere, as typified by Edgar Allan Poe’s famous poem, "The Raven".

“‘Awas Tegangan Tinggi’ is a departure from my previous work, most of which were paintings,” said Patrick, who divides his time between Jakarta and Seattle. "I made it with a giddiness and joy that one would feel with a new toy.”

But curator Afrizal Malna finds a sinister edge to “Awas Tegangan Tinggi”, not least because of its bare-bones appearance. “It looks torn down to the bones,” he noted. “The sculpture shows how civilization can bring out the savage side of nature, as if nature is a vulnerable creature lost in today’s civilization.”

Unveiling the creative journey

“Awas Tegangan Tinggi” is a highlight of the eponymously named exhibition of Patrick’s latest artwork, which was recently displayed at the Cemara 6 gallery and museum.

The artworks in Awas Tegangan Tinggi seeks to reach out to viewers by "breaking the fourth wall" between the audience and Patrick's art.

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“I believe that art’s scope is limitless. It can be as open as possible,” said the Jakarta Institute of Fine Arts alumnus, who has been exhibiting in Jakarta and Seattle since 2005. “I first explored this concept with my exhibition Open Studio, which I held at Balai Budaja in 2014. While it was a homage to the place’s significance in modern Indonesian art, the gallery’s dilapidated state perfectly replicates an art studio.”

Awas Tegangan Tinggi and Open Studio are similar because they highlight the creative process, not the finished work. This is different from the mindset of many Indonesians who focus more on the result, not the process, which they tend to take for granted,” lamented Patrick. “Like life, one savors the journey – or rather, the creative process. I create art for its own sake, not because of a need to exhibit.”

Despite the insight it offers into Patrick’s work and his ongoing development as an artist, Awas Tegangan Tinggi is a different animal compared to Open Studio and his other exhibitions. “Awas Tegangan Tinggi alludes to how we respond to life’s pressures and challenges. Its also describes how we know our strengths and weaknesses,” Patrick said. “It warns about high voltage or high pressure, making it more imperative for us to determine whether we are strong enough to face those challenges.”

Patrick’s mixed media installation 'Entah' (Either) epitomizes his thoughts on the process of discovering the self through the pressures and challenges of journeying out of one's comfort zone.Patrick’s mixed media installation 'Entah' (Either) epitomizes his thoughts on the process of discovering the self through the pressures and challenges of journeying out of one's comfort zone. (JP/Tunggul Wirajuda)

Patrick’s mixed media installation “Entah” (Either) epitomizes these thoughts. Using a suitcase as his canvas, the centerpiece opens a hole that seems to challenge the viewer to go and find out what’s on the other side. “'Entah' is a metaphor for life as journey. Like life or other voyages taken spontaneously, it symbolizes the unknown directions that it will take,” he explained.

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“Like those journeys, one has to let it unfold naturally and still take control, which is a dichotomy I address in my work,” he said. “As with the other artwork in Awas Tegangan Tinggi, 'Entah' is at ease with the dark. Darkness balances light, so it's neither negative nor something to fear; fear of the dark reflects public concerns about uncertainty and uncomfortable truths.”

Stepping up to new forms

As seen in the title sculpture, “Awas Tegangan Tinggi” sees Patrick stepping out of his comfort zone of painting and trying out new artistic mediums. Among them are his “Black bird” [sic] linocut-on-paper series, whose stark, sparse, yet striking lines evoke the works of Pedro Joseph de Lemos.

Visitors converse in front of the 'Black Bird' series of linocut on paper.Visitors converse in front of the 'Black Bird' series of linocut on paper. (JP/Tunggul Wirajuda)

Featuring various views of blackbirds, the illustrations manage to turn the idea of perspectives on its head.

“The birds' faces are always positioned toward certain directions, presenting a nonexistent space as the space missing from the bird’s habitat,” Afrizal noted.

The linocuts “Black bird #2” and “Black bird #3” epitomize this premise. The birds stare back with fascination at passersby, just as humans would in their habitat, leaving one to wonder what the birds are thinking.

Other works, like Patrick’s “Garis Langit #1-#18” and “Bardo”, see Patrick put a twist on the mundane and everyday. “The study of lines in my works was based on electrical lines and the patterns that they make on the urban skyline. The more I look at them, the more I notice their symmetry,” Patrick said of the theme, which he first encountered in Seattle. “They might seem to be disorderly, but their structure does have a pattern, logic and will that are subtle and intangible. Applied to human figures, the lines show how governments silence the public, though for the most part [the artwork] are studies.”

'Garis Langit #1-#18', a study of lines, sees the artist reinterpret the mundane and everyday structure of electrical lines. 'Garis Langit #1-#18', a study of lines, sees the artist reinterpret the mundane and everyday structure of electrical lines. (JP/Tunggul Wirajuda)

Patrick pointed out that his work in Awas Tegangan Tinggi, as well as in prior exhibitions, reflect his conflict between needing to control or allowing the creative process take its course, as well as getting ahead of the curve. “Reinvention plays a big role in my work, as does unpredictability. I also seek to instill an element of surprise,” he said. “If I lose the element of surprise, I’d rather destroy the work.”

Patrick added that he would continue to exhibit his work in Jakarta and Seattle, though he has a particularly soft spot for the former.

“Jakarta provides a spark for my work, perhaps because of its changes and raw energy, and the potential Indonesians have to connect with my work right away, despite their reluctance to step out of their comfort zone, while American viewers might take a while to grasp my concepts,” he said. “I am also exploring new ideas, among them the notion of the bathroom as a meditative space where we can get our ideas and inspiration. This contrasts with the long-held belief of the bathroom as a defiled place that is all but taboo.”

How Patrick intends to convey his concepts or when remains to be seen. But if his previous works are a measure, they are certainly worth looking forward to. (kes)


A media practitioner for over 10 years in both TV and print. Tunggul Wirajuda found a niche in the latter, particularly as a features writer. He often writes about visual or performing arts, but just is at home in writing about automotive, culinary and film, among other things.

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