Wei-Ling Gallery welcomes June with Wuku, an exhibition of 11 aluminium sculptures by Dadang Christanto, which draws references from his personal, cultural and spiritual upbringing in his homeland Java. As an artist-activist, Christanto is critically acclaimed for his work that sensitively evokes reflections on universal human suffering and communal grief. His work honours the countless victims of political violence against humanity, and at the same time, captures his affinity towards the traditional beliefs and myths that he was brought up with.

Each unique sculpture, embellished with enamel and gold leaf, represents one Wuku. Wuku refers to a cycle that consists of 7 days in the Javanese Pawukon calendar system. A year would consist of 210 days (30 cycles), with each cycle named after a character in the Javanese kingdom. Although the earliest inscriptions of Wuku date back to the 8th century, some aspects of it still hold a presence in the Javanese society today. Much like a horoscope, Wuku is used to determine auspicious days for specific activities and provides an overview of a person’s characters and circumstances. Every Wuku is associated with a God, tree, animal and other elements that are believed to either bring good or bad fortune to a person’s life.

Human heads have always been a recurring imagery in Christanto’s practice since the early 2000s. “Creating head paintings and sculptures is a symbolic act of counting victims of human rights violations. It feels endless.” Christanto expressed. One of his earlier head pieces is ‘Heads from the North’ (2004), a series of Bronze sculptures commissioned and acquired by the National Gallery of Australia. Like many of his other works, the installation is a response to the 1965 genocide that happened during the transition between the Old Order and New Order in Indonesia.

During the New Order, many Indonesians had to give up their freedom of thought, belief and religion. Only major religions (Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Hinduism and Buddhism) were recognised by the government, leaving citizens coerced to follow one of them. As a result, many Javanese families ended up practicing a syncretic (fused) belief system; they would hold a major religion as declared on papers, whilst still adhering to their traditional Javanese values. Christanto recalls having received teachings about Wuku as a child, a concept that he has always been fascinated about.

Inscribing motifs of Wuku onto aluminium heads, Christanto hopes to reclaim the right of belief that was once lost, whilst preserving a cultural heritage that is on the edge of disappearing. As he quoted from Czech writer Milan Kundera, “The struggle of man against power, is the struggle of memory against forgetting.

About Dadang Christanto (B. 1957)

Dadang Christanto’s oeuvre engages with collective history as well as personal trauma, influenced mainly by the haunting events surrounding the 1965 political and ethnic purge in Indonesia. He was amongst the first Indonesian artists to enter the international art world in the early 1990s, notably featuring in the first and third Asia-Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art, Brisbane (1993 and 1999), as well as the Bienal de São Paulo (1998). Christanto was also featured in other major art exhibitions worldwide including the Gwangju Biennale, South Korea (2000), Venice Biennale (2003), and Yogyakarta Biennial (2003). His latest solo exhibition M I S S I N G (2018) was held at Wei-Ling Contemporary, Kuala Lumpur. His works are held by major collections around the world including in Australia (National Gallery of Australia, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Queensland Art Gallery); Japan (Fukuoka Museum of Modern Art, Japan Museum of Contemporary Art); and Germany (Magdeburg Museum).

Wuku’ by Dadang Christanto is featured at Wei-Ling Gallery from 28 May – 26 June 2021.

Wei-Ling Gallery is located 8, Jalan Scott, Brickfields, 50470 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Admission hours are Tuesday – Friday 10am – 6pm, Saturday 10am – 5pm.

Exhibition is open by appointment only. For appointments and further assistance, please contact +60322601106 or e-mail siewboon@weiling-gallery.com