S. TEDDY DARMAWAN, Ink on My Face #4252, 2014, ink on paper, 152 × 90 cm. Courtesy Sin Sin Fine Art, Hong Kong. 

S. Teddy Darmawan: A Tribute

Sin Sin Fine Art
Hong Kong Indonesia

Indonesian artist Stevanus Teddy Darmawan (1970–2016), or S. Teddy D as he was better known, is fondly remembered for his energetic art practice which extended to a variety of media including drawings, paintings, sculpture, installation and performance art. Entrenched in humor and satire, Teddy’s work incites inquisitiveness and aims to generate greater dialogue surrounding deep-rooted social and historical issues of his home country.

Born in 1970 in Padang, West Sumatra, Teddy began his art studies at the Indonesia School of Arts, Surakarta, in 1992, and continued at the Indonesia Institute of the Arts in Yogyakarta, where he quickly became a prominent figure in the local art community. Teddy’s passionate personality and expressive art led him to establish an international presence with exhibitions from Singapore, Japan and South Korea to Hong Kong, Australia, France and Germany, where he was an artist-in-residence at the Ludwig Art Forum in Aachen in 2000. This was followed by another residency, at the Australian National University, Canberra in 2011.

At Hong Kong’s Sin Sin Fine Art, gallerist, artist and entrepreneur Sin Sin Man has mounted an intimate memorial exhibition to pay tribute to Teddy—a long-time artist of the gallery and a personal friend—who had sadly passed away in May after a long battle with cancer. A selection of ten works hung cozily around the space, with three of his more recent works displayed near the entrance. Let’s Peace Free (2016), a bronze sculpture of a man holding a dove in each hand, one of which appears ready to take flight, may be easily overlooked due to its petite size. A strong advocate for peace, Teddy’s symbolic use of doves enforced his unwavering belief in diplomacy in hopes of a better world—one of love and harmony, and away from the violence and power struggles plaguing many countries including Indonesia.

In the main space, Ink on My Face #4252 (2014), an ink-on-paper self-portrait, exuded energy in its splotchy strokes, which serve as a reminder that people are not one-dimensional, but rather made up of a multitude of selves. On nearby walls are a series of mixed-media installations, which were originally exhibited as part of “Sandiwara,” the artist’s 2010 solo show dedicated to his mentor, the late Indonesian thinker and poet, WS Rendra (1935–2009), who inspired the political activism that are characteristic of Teddy’s artworks. The individual works appear like they form a theatre stage, with a backdrop image and miniature objects as props atop a protruding canvas. This layout is reminiscent of Rendra, who embarked on numerous theatrical projects during his lifetime.

S.TEDDY DARMAWAN, Midnight Act #2, 2010, mixed media, 80 × 100 × 20 cm.  Courtesy Sin Sin Fine Art, Hong Kong. 

In the backdrop of The Messenger (2010) a raven stares afar, symbolizing a mediation between the living and the dead, while a strand of light bulbs and a megaphone tower sit as props in the foreground, representing the amplification of knowledge and thought. A black-and-white checkered pattern overlap a face in The Superior (2010), a metaphor for the moral dichotomy between good and evil, while in front, objects consisting of stacked wooden tables and collapsing chairs criticize the incompetence of authority. Where Your Spontaneity (2010) presents a profile of Teddy’s face, lying horizontally in a sickly red color with paint running down the side of his face like tears. Blank eyes and parted lips stare unseeing into the darkness that surrounds the image. Meanwhile, in front, curled red fists arranged as props underneath a wooden table represent the struggle and oppression that Indonesians have experienced under colonialization and the Suharto regime (1969–1998). A wooden rocking horse with dual heads mirror the dichotomy of The Superior.

The aura of Teddy’s work starts to lighten in Midnight Act #2 (2010), which presents a brighter interpretation of Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night (1889). Framed in bright yellow outlines with the words “Dear Theo” scrawled across the landscape in cursive, the painting references van Gogh’s younger brother. Adding to the scene is a lone swinging chair and a telephone, which sits on top of a bed, and to one side a yellow skull represents memento mori, a Latin expression for an object reminding one of their own mortality. A painting of a brick wall broken up by two profiles of faces, possibly Teddy’s own, is filled in with light blue skies and serves as a backdrop to an aluminum tree of life, presenting a hopeful image in Planting Seeds in the Sky #2 (2010).

The selected artworks display an interpretative narrative of his soulful journey battling illness and ultimately finding peace. An intimately visual memoir, the exhibition captures the essence of who S. Teddy D was as a man and an artist, and, although he is no longer with us, he leaves behind a legacy and a reminder of his passion and commitment to life.

S.TEDDY DARMAWAN, Where Your Spontaneity, 2010, mixed media, 80 × 100 × 20 cm. Courtesy Sin Sin Fine Art, Hong Kong. 

“S. Teddy Darmawan: A Tribute” is currently on view at Sin Sin Fine Art, Hong Kong, until July 18, 2016.