"This series is an exploration of my past."
It's surprising it's taken this long for Bandung artist Riandy Karuniawan to hold his first solo show. His art is seemingly everywhere.
Riandy's art is a technicolor dreamscape that mixes equal parts dime-store sci-fi/fantasy, Dungeons and Dragons, and classic 80s anime. It's the kind of art that works perfectly on album covers or dorm-room posters, but with a sophisticated art school vibe.
The artist's first solo show runs at the World End Gallery and Store, in Bandung, West Java, until January of next year. Riandy is calling the show "Sathar Vol.1: Past"—the first in a trilogy of shows that will eventually cover the past, present, and future of his art. He says that of these earlier works are a "reflection of my inner self," a sort of subconscious stream of imagery that combines both futuristic and primitive motifs into a style that wouldn't look out of place between the covers of the influential French comic anthology Heavy Metal.
VICE: You said a lot of this deals with the subconscious mind. Can you explain this a bit more?
Riandy Karuniawan: This series is an exploration of my past. The initial idea of this exhibition was to find an answer to my existence as a restless human being. My way to find this was to create a character called Sathar as my alter ego, and then through the collection and exploration of my memories, to visualize them in the form of artworks.
You're known for using a variety of mediums to get across these ideas.
I realized that people sometimes need a different kind of stimulus to get outside themselves and experience a certain spiritual point. For instance, I try to use 3D glasses as a stimulant to achieve the kind of body experience you would normally get from ingesting something hallucinogenic.
This show is sort of a greatest hits for you. Which paintings are your favorites?
There will be seventeen of my personal paintings as well as original works for albums covers and band merchandise. Many of these feature Sathar—a character who I believe is a reflection of my inner self. This work ("Faith: Ababil") was inspired by the Islamic story of Allah sending the Ababil Bird troops to destroy the elephant troops because they intended to attack Ka'bah. I heard this story a lot as a child, and I decided to depict it as a battle between good and evil. In this other work ("Myth of Heroism") I used my artistic freedom to reinterpret the story, to question the concept of heroism. The word hero is often used to support certain selfish interests. The concept of heroism that I understood since childhood through myths, folklore, religious stories, and mass media doesn't hold much relevance in modern society. Today's heroes are on the side of the powerful, not on the side of truth and justice. This work was influenced by the heroic stories from manga, animation, and Japanese superhero series of the 80s.
A lot of your work focuses on the ideas of nature either as a friend or foe of your fantasy elements. What are you trying to say with these ideas?
As an artist, I have great respect for our unconscious mind. I believe a lot of our actions are reflections of what's happening underneath the surface—reflections of things like childhood memories and repressed emotions. For me, freedom of expression should be as easy as breathing.
I ask people who don't know my work to try to suspend their expectations and biases before they make judgement They shouldn't seek answers to some sort of preconceived question. They should suspend their realities. As an artist, I'm currently on a journey where surrealism is my guide. The process of creating art allows the unconscious part of my being to express itself.
I want people to know that my love, respect, and appreciation of our natural world makes me who I am as a person. My creative process starts by being submerged in the most peaceful and serene places in nature—places where I can hear myself clearer and the ideas flow to me.
So nature plays an important role in your life. What message are you trying to express in your art?
I hope my art can inspire a person to reflect not only on their own views and opinions, but also on the material world around us.