Wedhar Riyadi's paintings are made up of grotesque versions of popular cartoon characters, inhabiting a fantasy wonderland of grime and absurdist landscapes. Somewhat reminiscent of the 1970's lowbrow art movement, the Yogyakarta artist's work are embodied by strong visual tones and colors, no doubt a reflection of his backround in street-art.
There are no boogymen in Wedhar's twisted world. He says his pieces reflect the best and worst of our digital lives—a world where the bizarre seems normal and the grotesque can even seem beautiful.
VICE Indonesia: Your art has grown into something a little more dark and somber, can you talk more about this change?
Wedhar Riyadi: As an artist, I need challenges and new experiences during the creative process. I think I need to get out of my comfort zone once in a while. My old stuff was influenced by comics, cartoons, and these illustrations that tend to be flat. With my new work, I tried to develop it more and bring out conventional visual elements during the process, through texture, brushstrokes, and depth, in order to build an emotion out of spaces and flat colors.
How would you describe your evolution as an artist?
I try to start with an idea or thought before deciding what technique, medium, or object to use. For now, my old comic and illustration style is something I am trying to leave behind. I just don't feel it's a relevant fit with my current ideas and theme.
There's a lot of bizarre characters that you made—what are the stories behind them? Do they represent you?
I see it as a reflection of the world we live in. Culture clashes, emotions, and human beings with all their problems and tension. I start with a collage made out of magazines, as well as digital images that I arrange in a way so that they become anonymous figures with looks that can be considered off and out of left-field. These things then get reproduced into a canvas painting. It's like this digital era phenomena where everything becomes easy, easily-attainable through applications and gadgets, easy to be manipulated, modified and reproduced as we see fit.
You've said that your characters also represent the Internet age.
It's like this other face of social media, a medium we are supposed to use to socialize and interact has become a platform for division that is filled with tension and brass. There's a lot of information which can't be told from truth or lies.
What does "When I think about the death of painting, I play" mean to you?
The contemporary art world goes through dynamic changes and many consider painting a dead art form. There are questions around the relevancy of paintings made in the digital era. The title talks about the echo out this discussion on painting and classic issues around it. For artists, it's a new way to play.
You're still using pop culture characters like Bart Simpson, but this time with a lot more realism. What is your continued fascination with these characters? And do you want them to feel a little menacing, or do you want prefer to retain a cartoon-like feel?
I've actually used this mixture of realism and fantasy before, but I felt like this was too jarring. What I'm trying to do now is to blend them together more seamlessly. I want it to feel more real but alien at the same time.
To learn more about Wedhar, visit Ark Galerie.