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Jakarta Post

Teguh Ostenrik: Dives deep with art

  • Novia D. Rulistia

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Tue, January 19, 2016   /  04:22 pm
Teguh Ostenrik: Dives deep with art

Submerged: The Domus Longus underwater art installation in Wakatobi, Southeast Sulawesi.

At the age of 65, internationally renowned artist Teguh Ostenrik refuses to slow down and is continuing to create works that inspire many.

Artist Teguh Ostenrik'€™s works have been exhibited and collected by museums, institutions and corporations in many countries, including Singapore, Japan and the US, and he is now taking his art to the deep sea to express his love for the environment.

Teguh and the non-profit foundation he established, Yayasan Terumbu Rupa, recently developed an underwater art installation near Pelangi Island in Thousand Islands regency as part of a coral transplantation program.

'€œOur nature has been destroyed because of human greed. As an artist, I'€™m not a decorator '€” my job is to make something that can provoke and inspire other people,'€ he told The Jakarta Post at his studio in South Jakarta.

His passion for the ocean emerged in 1984 when he visited Senggigi in Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara, and was in awe of the pristine beach and its coral reef that was home to lobster and squid.

When he returned to the island in 2013, he was shocked at the significant change in the ecosystem.

'€œThe coral reef was gone, and it was just sand everywhere I looked, just like an underwater Sahara desert,'€ he said.

The experience prompted him to take action.  

He then worked together with the Lombok Hotels Association (LHA) and a local resort to make his first artificial reef system, called Domus Sepiae (Squid House).

The artificial reef system '€” or biorock '€” was able to bring back squid and some barracuda, but the installation was prone to damage because of its location, which was often used for water sports, and a lack of thorough monitoring measures, Teguh said.

Teguh'€™s second ARTificial Reef project was in Wakatobi, Southeast Sulawesi, as the foundation participated in Coral Day celebrations in September 2015.  

Icon: Artist Teguh Ostenrik works on the Corpus Christi statue made from scrap metal for a church in East Jakarta.Icon: Artist Teguh Ostenrik works on the Corpus Christi statue made from scrap metal for a church in East Jakarta.

He named the work Domus Longus (Long Home), featuring a replica of the Longnose Butterfly Fish, the mascot of Wakatobi National Park.

His third project in Pelangi Island, conducted in December, is called Domus Musculi (House of Mussels).

'€œJakarta Bay used to be known as a green mussel production area before it was heavily contaminated with toxic heavy metals,'€ he said.

As the mission of the foundation is to protect the ocean through art, Teguh takes into account elements of art and the environment in every ARTificial Reef project.

For his third project, he reused frames that were initially featured on stage in the Gandari opera, for which he was artistic director.

Teguh reassembled three tunnel-like frames, measuring 5 by 2.8 by 2 meters, made from steel piping and anchored at depths of 5, 10 and 12 meters.

He attached replica mussels around the frames.  

He chose to use pipes for the project as they were light and easy to carry during the installation, but strong enough to withhold the weight of coral that would grow on the frames.  

Limestone that would likely form inside the pipes would later make the installation stronger, he added.

The tunnel frames are big enough for divers to pass through and enjoy a different experience.

'€œAfter two or three years when coral has grown, the tunnels will be illuminated by exciting forms of rays of light that seep through the frames,'€ he said.

'€œI don'€˜t want to create an installation that can only be looked at, because art is an experience.'€

Sea green: The underwater tunnel-like frame of the Domus Musculi project on Pelangi Island, Thousand Islands regency.Sea green: The underwater tunnel-like frame of the Domus Musculi project on Pelangi Island, Thousand Islands regency.

Teguh has also completed several sketches for his next underwater installation project, but said he would not realize them anytime soon due to budget limitations.

He also plans to invite international artists to participate in his underwater projects.

'€œThe ARTificial Reef program is not only meant for coral revitalization, but also becomes an alternative source of income for local people through ecotourism,'€ he said.

Although Teguh seems to be occupied with his underwater agenda, he still dedicates time to working on projects using different media and materials.

'€œI still do painting and sculptures and sell them, or collaborate on architecture projects as I still need to make some money. I don'€™t get any money through my underwater projects, I spend a lot on them instead,'€ he said, laughing.

Much of his time is also focused on his 7-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter, such as taking them to school before going to the studio.

'€œI feel like I'€™m more creative now than 10 years ago. Maybe because when I wake up, I see someone who'€™s still young and beautiful,'€ he said, referring to his wife Mira Tedja.

Teguh said he was looking forward to completing his Berlin Wall project, in which he plans to make an installation using four sections of the Berlin Wall that he bought in 1989.

'€œThe idea behind the project is to show that even until today, such walls that divide people still exist in many places. The work will reflect the efforts of people who are trying to break down those barriers made by humans,'€ said Teguh, who spent many years in Germany studying fine arts at Hochschule der Künste.

After four decades in the art world, Teguh has held over 20 solo exhibitions in many countries and collaborated on various stage performances.

Looking back at his achievements, he said he was content with his life as an artist.

'€œIf reincarnation does exist, I'€™d love to be an artist again in the next life,'€ he said.  

'€” Photos courtesy of Teguh Ostenrik

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