Semsar Siahaan, Genoa Tragedy (2001),
oil on canvas
Semsar Siahaan: New Works
Community Arts Council of Greater Victoria
Victoria BC Jul 25-Aug 7
Semsar Siahaan is an internationally recognized artist, human rights activist and a prolific expressionist painter of social narratives. Since the late 1970s, he has been one of Indonesia's foremost contemporary artists.
His work is inspired by the suffering of ordinary people, particularly the poor and oppressed in industrial countries. Like his exemplars Kathe Kollwitz and George Grosz, Siahaan's paintings express a demand for social realism in art.
His large-scale acrylic canvases are explosive and emotionally intense. Painting in his trademark mural style, Siahaan takes on issues from clear-cutting and Indian rights to political torture and poverty. He abruptly confronts cool contemporary approaches to art-making with larger-than-life statements about civil liberties and political atrocities. For example, within glorious abstract swirls of deep-hued colours can be found a montage of Goya-like figures and body parts. In another, within a deep, moody setting of blues and blacks, a splayed figure hangs inverted from a cross like meat.
In the current show, his third in Victoria, Siahaan portrays themes of his adjustment to life in Canada. His images contain a swirling melt-down of graffiti art, autobiographical figuration, and topical themes and characters like George Bush and the twin towers of Manhattan.