Popok Tri Wahyudi’s works in his first Malaysian solo exhibition are stories about commuting, travelling, human mobility and migration. Presented in a wide range of media, from paintings and drawings to woodblock prints, silkscreen on canvas and mini sculptures, these bittersweet and sometimes macabre narratives negate the glamorous images of the jet set that one may associate with travel ¬–when people wined and dined and slept on bunk beds and were charmed by the allure of flight stewardess. Instead, his work narrates the grittier realities of travelling ‘cattle class’, locally and internationally, in the 21st Century, particularly in the context of Southeast Asia.
Popok’s vivid colours, simple forms and comic style compositions are powerful storytelling devices that can be easily accessed by his audience. Popok’s comic inspired work is very much rooted in the everyday. They address the socio-political issues of Indonesia’s charged environment through social satires and an inimitable brand of ‘Jogja comic style’, characterised by thick black outlines and bright bursts of colours, stylised depictions of human figures against part dystopian part science-fiction settings.
Exhibition runs from 15 - 30 July 2010 at
The Annexe Gallery
2nd Floor, Central Market Annexe, Kuala Lumpur
T: 03 2070 1137
Opening hours: Mon - Sun: 11am – 8pm
The years of living dangerously
By Adeline Ooi
Have you ever had gory “fantasies” about accidents and crashes? Ever imagined the aircraft you’ve just boarded exploding during takeoff, or wondered if a head on collision might be imminent while your taxi driver is madly overtaking during rush hour? Have you ever been stuck in a terrible storm in a boat and wondered about sinking to the bottom of the ocean like the Titanic?
Popok Tri Wahyudi’s work in his first Malaysian solo exhibition taps into some of our darkest fears and imagined visions about commuting, travelling and migration. Presented in a range of media, from paintings and drawings to woodblock prints, silkscreen on canvas, etchings and mini sculptures, these bittersweet and sometimes macabre narratives negate the glamorous images of the jet set that one may associate with travel ¬– when people wined and dined and slept on bunk beds, charmed by the allure of flight stewardess– or the usual happy pictures one associates with travel – adventures in exotic locations, leisurely vacations in picturesque towns. Instead, his work narrates the grittier and darker realities of human mobility in the 21st Century within the Southeast Asia context.
Popok is based in the city of Yogyakarta in Central Java where this subject is a familiar one. Here, contemporary and traditional modes of transport co-exist. Becaks and horse-drawn carts, known as dokar share the busy streets with the latest four-wheel drives, MPVs and the ubiquitous Honda 90cc motorbikes and bicycles. Jogja is often the first stop for most East Javanese in their rural to urban migration. At the same time it is a campus town that receives thousands of students from all over Indonesia with the start of each academic year. And like the rest of Indonesia, this city also has its fair share of migrant workers with plenty of stories to tell.
Derived from numerous sources – some based first-hand encounters when travelling to foreign countries on residency programmes, while others are personal observations of his surrounding, or inspired by stories of migrant workers, travel reports, movies, video games and the artist’s wild imagination – Popok’s images are “stories told from the ground.” They reveal complex layers and realities of human mobility that touch us on different emotional levels. A number of the images presented in this exhibition relate to our Malaysian experience, particularly in Kuala Lumpur where we are reliant on the services of migrant workers, either at home or outside. His paintings offer a view from the ‘other side’, through the eyes of people who are forced to uproot from their homeland to seek better fortunes overseas. “My paintings are the largest format in this show and I’ve used it to present ‘global portraits’ about travelling. I try to explore the emotional aspects of departure and arrival, such as the sadness of bidding farewell to loved ones, the uncertainties of arriving in a foreign land, as well as events that may take place during a journey. I also wanted to explore the intentions, hopes and aspirations that have inspired or forced people to leave.”
Popok’s vivid colours, simple forms and comic style compositions are powerful storytelling devices that can be easily accessed by his audience. The artist’s stylistic sensibilities also reflect the popular images that grace the city’s numerous flyovers, concrete fences and public spaces. An ex-member of the now defunct Apotik Komik, a collective that made its mark in during Indonesia’s Reformasi era, known for their refreshing murals and site-specific projects using local recycled materials during the late 1990s, Popok’s comic inspired work is very much rooted in the everyday. They address the socio-political issues of Indonesia’s charged environment through an inimitable brand of ‘Jogja comic style’, characterised by thick black outlines, bright bursts of colours and stylised depictions of human figures against part dystopian part science-fiction settings.
One of the gems of this exhibition is a series of black and white drawing using white Pitt pastel sticks on black paper. They present ‘the more ‘human’ and at times absurd stories about our experiences on the road’. Effortless yet dramatic, the stark contrast of white lines against black background and clever play of positive and negative forms, transport our imagination into a world of dangerous driving and speed demons where different forms of transportation face the inopportune fate of head on collision, flipping in midair or exploding. “Imagine a train that is about to crash and cannot be stopped; the ‘annoying’ yet cocky behaviour of most bajaj and/or bimo who consider themselves ‘king of the road’ as they fearlessly weave through heavy traffic, nearly causing horrible accidents; or the speedy tukang ojek who tries to ferry us to our destination in a matter of minutes; or even just the simple joys of a leisurely bicycle ride.”
Meanwhile, a series of disturbing yet humorous woodblock prints draw our attention to some of our travel nightmares and fantasies. “There are people who fear being on a ship as they fear they may sink like the Titanic, there are also those who have flying phobia due to the fear of heights, or that an airplane may explode.” The artist also fantasises about ‘jumping’ (as seen in the movie “Jumper” (2008) where characters in the movie ‘jump’ from one destination to another in a split second) and the iconic (“beam me up Scottie”) teleportation thanks to the Star Trek series and movies we have come to know so well.
His charming series of 3-d objects, reminiscent of model cars, made out of wires and used beer cans are low-fi miniature representation of Indonesia’s most popular forms of local transport. “I’m trying to highlight their unique characteristics and forms of the different types of vehicles we use as public transport and also the different kinds of methods of transportation we have… at times these modes of transport are not for transporting human, they are for goods and personal possessions. In rebuilding them, I have also come to understand the difficulty of the construction process of the actual vehicles.”
Popok Tri Wahyudi (Indonesia, 1973) is a one of the founding members of Apotik Komik, the group responsible for the Public Comic Art Project. Inspired by local comics and the urban landscape, he has gained a reputation for himself as one of the emerging forces of the contemporary Indonesia art scene. He has widely exhibited in Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, Hong Kong, Italy, Germany, Netherlands, and Australia.