GATOT PUJIARTOHelping the Hero, 2009, canvas, textile and thread, 150 × 200 cm. Courtesy Peal Lam Galleries, Hong Kong. 

Stitching Stories

Gatot Pujiarto

Pearl Lam Galleries Soho, Hong Kong
Hong Kong Indonesia

Walking along Queen’s Road West—which divides up the Sheung Wan and Sai Ying Pun districts of Hong Kong—amidst small businesses selling mourning incense, dried seafood and Chinese New Year treats, one is instantly immersed in the smell and scene of the city’s local culture. In this unlikely neighborhood sits Pearl Lam Galleries Soho—the space’s second location in Hong Kong. Situated inside the high-ceilinged Soho 189 building, the gallery is a result of eccentric Hong Kong gallerist Pearl Lam’s promise to deliver to the city a new platform for emerging artists from around the region. Having previously featured local street artists and sculptural works by Beijing-based beekeeper Ren Ri, “Stitching Stories”—the first solo exhibition in Hong Kong of Indonesian artist Gatot Pujiarto—is the latest addition to the eclectic lineup of hidden talents at Pearl Lam Galleries Soho.

“Stitching Stories” pays tribute to the art of collage, showcasing ten of Pujiarto’s extraordinary mixed-media collages that incorporate torn magazine pages and scraps of clothing into painted canvases and tapestry works. With textile and thread as his dominant medium, Pujiarto, formerly trained as a painter, stylistically “stitches” stories together in his works. Constantly exploring different treatments of fabrics—such as pasting, patching, tearing and braiding—Pujiarto demonstrates a distinctive weathering technique in his collection of highly intricate, textured works.

Upon entering the gallery, which houses a spacious, all-white interior, one encounters a large work of densely packed textile and thread on canvas, situated against a floor-to-ceiling glass window, entitled Air and Water Pollution (2015). While it depicts a cluster of mountain-like features, a sense of distortion also exudes from the tangled web of threads and their ends that hang loosely over the canvas like dripping oil. Air and Water Pollution is among the body of Pujiarto’s works that delves more intriguingly into his personal stance toward social and moral issues. Like Dirty Mind (2008), a critical and abstract portrayal of an indeterminate figure losing control over his addiction to pornography, Air and Water Pollution expresses Pujiarto’s feelings towards the devastation of the societal environment caused as a result of human activities.

Upstairs is another exhibition highlight, Meditation (2015), a 200-by-150-centimeter canvas depicting a ghostly, standing figure—whose form is outlined by brown, densely overlapping stitches—that Pujiarto admits is his own reflection, an image he conjured while meditating. Stitched all over the acrylic-painted surface are white, simple strokes of thread, abstractly dissolving the figure into its surroundings.

GATOT PUJIARTO, Meditation, 2015, canvas, acrylic and thread, 200 × 150 cm. Courtesy Pearl Lam Galleries, Hong Kong. 

Born in 1970 in Malang, East Java, Pujiarto has been widely exhibited throughout Indonesia and is now bringing to Hong Kong a refreshing form of collage that skillfully juxtaposes realistic and abstract elements. With his ten works at Pearl Lam, which collectively explore abnormalities, weirdness and tragedy, Pujiarto poignantly communicates a reality that is heightened by the works’ fragmented texture, in a unique and personal manner. The broken cloths, hanging ends of thread and skeleton-like features of the figures all point to a somewhat disintegrating world that urgently requires our attention and care.

Installation view of “Gatot Pujiarto: Stitching Stories” at Pearl Lam Galleries Soho, Hong Kong, 2016. Courtesy Pearl Lam Galleries. 

“Stitching Stories” is on view at Pearl Lam Galleries Soho, Hong Kong, until March 7, 2016.