In his latest exhibition, ‘Dari’, Alexander Sebastianus creates a space that is quiet, modest, and almost barren—a minimalist landscape that well captures the vastly evocative themes of origin and belonging, accented with easter eggs of the artist’s life hidden amongst the work’s details.
Showing at ISA Art Gallery in Wisma 46, ‘DARI’ is an immensely personal excavation into the self. Localising points of origin or ‘from’, the artist makes aware the profound connotations of ‘Where are you from?’, stretching its meaning beyond just geographical location, but beckoning a deeper sociological and philosophical inquiry into the otherwise innocent question.
For followers of the 28-year-old artist, weaver and anthropologist, a pleasant surprise awaits as he turns away from his signature woven threads to traverse into new mediums, experimenting with installation, video, and batik-making on prints. The artist expressed that, unlike his textile work, ‘Dari’ is a “continuous threadwork of belonging in which its form doesn’t necessarily materialise or have an end product, but rather it is a process and philosophy.” His works therefore showcase a perpetual probing into one’s roots, accepting that origins eventually point in no particular direction, and bodies are ultimately reduced to particles.
For instance, in an attempt to physically map out his serpentine roots—a Chinese-Indonesian Catholic with traces of Dutch, and strong ties to Javanese culture—Alexander conceives ‘Akar Temurun’ (2023), or a “genealogy of froms” as the artist described it. The installation of archived documents, family photographs and belongings are linked by a network of red tubes, quite literally evoking bloodlines. They eventually converge into one and stream into a water-filled basin, gesturing towards the next artwork, ‘Rahim Tirta’ (2023).
Like every component of this exhibition, water finds profound philosophical and spiritual significance in the artist’s life, a thread extending to his artistic practice; every ‘from’ has an unknown destination, and every point of origin can be traced back to the undefined cosmos. Thus, Sebastianus’ bloodlines eventually flow back into the pool of water, returning as an amalgamation of particles, free from any cultural, religious, or social institutions.
In his series of prints, ‘Particles of From’ (2023), the artist directs the focus to photographs from his camera roll. Employing the Javanese wax-resist dye technique of batik, an art form he was taught at the young age of 14, these collaged photographs are imprinted onto cloth and then waxed over before they are dipped into dye. The process unearthed patterns ranging from random ‘particles’ and rock shapes to the form of a Barong, which alludes to the Barong statue Sebastianus’ father placed in front of their house as a symbol of protection.
With a batik artisan for a great-grandmother and a textile merchant of a mother, batik was always closely intertwined with Sebastian’s roots, allowing his interest in traditional art to “grow ethnographically”.
Through ‘DARI’, Sebastianus embraces a journey of self-discovery as explored through a collection of images, objects and memories that represent different sources of ‘froms’. Meditating on this inquiry of origin and metaphor of various particles piecing together our existence, the artist invites the audience to acknowledge the ebb and flow of belonging and concludes that it’s an ongoing journey with no fixed answer.