Art: Interview with Indonesian Accomplished Artist Pramuhendra

ME, MYSELF AND I. Indonesian artist Pramuhendra addresses intriguing themes by using a symbol he is most comfortable with: himself


“The Thrones” (2011)

In the midst of colorful and highly imaginative artworks, Bandung-based artist Pramuhendra’s understated yet vivid charcoal paintings really stand out among his peers. Just a quick browse through his works and you will notice a face appear repeatedly: his own face. Be it as Jesus, a pope or a surgeon, the 1984-born artist eloquently investigates controversial topics such as religion while reflecting his own quest for identity on canvas. With exhibitions in Berlin, London, Paris and Hong Kong under his belt, Pramuhendra is undoubtedly one to watch in the contemporary art scene

Hi Pramuhendra, why do you always stage yourself as various different figures in your works?
I view it as a self-meditation—something that reflects my life’s stages. At the same time, it symbolizes how everything has its base on your personal point of view of the world. Social, political, religion or war issues … everything depends on how you perceive it.


“In the Dark Field” (2003)

You drew yourself as a pope. Is religion a central theme of your art?
As a matter of fact, it is more about questioning identity rather than discussing religion. But in my case, a part of my identity is influenced by my religion. I grew up in a Catholic family, and through that work I wanted to criticize my religion: The pope and the people who sit in the church organization are also humans who can make mistakes.

Why do you opt for charcoal as your drawing tool?
I have actually used it since college. My major was printmaking, so I had to create sketches and lithographs using pencil. Then I experimented with my drawings and developed a liking toward charcoal for its simplicity. It amazes me how such a simple medium can produce something so strong and complicated.


“Behind the Bible and Scissor” (2013)

Indeed, your works look incredibly alive in black-and-white contrasts.
In the graphic world, everything begins with monochromes, which is probably why I am already used to monochromatic nuances. However, the most important thing is the content—what the work wants to voice. I, therefore, could care less about adding other colors to my works because I can already draw what I want. Furthermore, the limitation of color—although I never see it as limiting—can entice the imagination. Take blackand-white movies from the earlier days, for instance. People had to imagine the real colors because the technology did not allow them to see the movies as they were.

Nowadays people are much more open when it comes to art. What’s the implication for you?
Although a lot of people visit galleries or museums not because they understand art, but because they want to take beautiful photos with the artworks, that openness is positive. At least, artists are no longer seen as aliens, and it motivates us to develop ourselves further.


Text Gabriela Yosefina

Images Pramuhendra