In his arresting solo presentation “Plastic Democracy” at Arndt Art Agency, Berlin, leading Indonesian artist Eko Nugroho presents viewers with the topic of democracy within a global context that speaks to his own Indonesian environment. Exploring binary ideas through black and white imagery contrasted with vibrant colourful organic compositions across paintings, murals and embroideries, Nugroho offers A3 Editorial an exclusive insight into his inspiration for this project and the ongoing challenges he takes on as an artist.

Galerie ArndtInstallation view: Eko Nugroho, Plastic Democracy, Arndt Art Agency, Berlin (2018)

Plastic Democracy is the title of your presentation in Berlin. Could you discuss your inspiration and starting point for this project?
The last exhibition I held with Arndt Fine Art in Berlin was in 2012. It had a totally different title “Threat as a Flavour” but it was concerned with the same topic of democracy itself – what is happening today regarding democracy specifically in Indonesia, but also what is happening in the global sense.

So you are dually investigating what that means for us across the world as a global community, but also what that might mean for individuals in local settings.
Yes exactly. So with the title “Plastic Democracy”, I like to talk about the idea of “plastic” itself which represents a big problem in our lives, posing a threat to the future of our environment. When you combine this with “democracy” you can also consider that democracy itself is man-made and that is also presents situations and problems that are difficult to solve.

Many people say or believe they have the solution – but a lot of people are saying and talking in this way without any action or conviction. For example, in Indonesia, we have only found ourselves in a democracy since 1998 after the fall of Suharto regime. We hold this status of democracy, this period of transition “Reformasi” as the crown of our country and something to be really proud of. Becoming democratic and conveying this ideology is still in process and we are still trying to understand democracy itself. I lived for 21 years under different system of military control. It was a totally different way of living. It was a scary period where you could not criticise anything and everything was heavily censored.

Galerie ArndtInstallation view: Eko Nugroho, Plastic Democracy, Arndt Art Agency, Berlin (2018)

In your compositions you depict anonymous faces amongst imagery that towers above, over, and even consumes these individuals. What do theses faces represent within your paradigm of democracy.
It represents us. It’s you, it’s me, everyone. These faces are presented within the composition of a kind of a Batik style, with Batik fabric motifs and patterning that in visuals and text articulate ideas about war, peace and hope.

You successfully achieve in communicating these complex topics in extremely uncomplicated, direct visuals. You are never shy to tackle big topics and this is not the first time you have decided to engage with political issues and power systems in your work.
Politics is above and across everything. It is in business, in art, in everything. Politics is always in the background. For me it is attractive to explore these topics.

Opening Eko NugrohoLeft-right: Matthias Arndt, A3 Founder; Perry Pada, Chargé d’Affairs, Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia, Berlin; Eko Nugroho

Your work is characteristically known for very colourful content. In this show, you are employing very strong black and white visuals in your murals, but also some embroideries and paintings. What is your motivation behind this choice of a monochrome palette?
For me, this is the most extreme way in my mind to present ideas about the good and the bad, the right and the wrong. Binary ideas. When I make this work, I am aiming to protest about something, in doing so, I decided the most direct and simple way to do this was to present my ideas visually in black and white. It can be seen as chaotic, but in fact it is also colourful through the flavour of the expressive lines alone. With a black and white palette the image also becomes more like democracy in a way. These monochrome works reflect on the perceived simplicity of democracy ‘on paper’, as a system. Black and white, true and false, however, in between black and white – black bleeds into white and white drips onto black in my canvases and embroideries presenting democracy in Indonesia as far from simple. It is also a challenge to work only in black and white. I have found that working in this way has also forced me to make new decisions and find new solutions about the way I work and gives me a lot of energy.

Galerie ArndtInstallation view: Eko Nugroho, Plastic Democracy, Arndt Art Agency, Berlin (2018)

In your embroideries, this process is obviously a lot more premeditated as opposed to the very directness of brushstrokes for example, however your embroideries do appear to convey this same sense of flow with simulated drips. Could you describe your working process with your embroideries as I understand your starting point is in fact a painting.
Yes, so I start with a painting. I paint directly on a plain canvas and then I select threads for the embroidery with the same colour and the threads are sewn directly on top the brushstrokes. The thread of the embroidery is sewn over the top, translating these paint “drip” elements. The painting is then in fact encased inside the embroidery. A playful surprise.

Part of the importance of the production of my embroideries is also about engaging the artist with society. I connected with local craftsperson who had lost their jobs with the advent of computerised technology in the embroidery industry. As the industry changed, people become only interested in the fast digital production of embroideries en masse and this  manually operated craft industry became lost. With my embroidery work I aim to bring together these craftspeople with their experience and skills as a way of collaboration in order and expose them to art, but also to share and learn from each other. In the beginning, they only knew how to embroider in small sizes such as 1 x 1m, but I tried to push them into new ways of working and experimenting in my studio to find new solutions and new ways of working. Now together we can produce larger 6 x 5 metres embroideries. I have developed the embroidery studio since 2007.

Opening Eko NugrohoOpening Eko NugrohoEko Nugroho x DGTMB Merchandise Pop-up Project in front of Arndt Art Agency during Gallery Weekend Berlin 2018

How many people are you providing jobs for in your studio across the board?
In total, across the many different divisions of my artistic practice there are 30 people. DGTMB Merchandise Project, Wayang Bocor performance group, Eko Nugroho Art Class and my Studio team.

And that is very important to you isn’t it?
Yes it is. Because there are many different projects, from the embroideries, my art studio itself, DGTMB, my shadow puppets project and arts education for children program. It is all about art and bringing people together to learn and have fun.

It makes me think that you get bored easily. You are always re-inventing.
If I feel bored, then I have to find another idea!

Galerie ArndtInstallation view: Eko Nugroho, Plastic Democracy, Arndt Art Agency, Berlin (2018)

Can you talk about some the imagery in these very colourful paintings in the show? They are very organic.
These colour burst works, such as the “Garden full of Blooming Democracy” series present democracy as a sprawling garden – where politics, culture and religion grow alongside, in competition and entangle one another like climbing vines, wildflowers and weeds. Colours offset, clash and contrast; as diverse as international cultures and people. These colours are still contained in strong black lines, demonstrating the pressure of containment of so much diversity and difference in systems of democracy and questions if the strength of people without systems of democracy will ever be enough while we wait for these systems to stick. It is like a plant that grows unpredictably – like the things found in your backyard. I use this imagery to talk about democracy itself again: democracy is also colourful and multifaceted. In Indonesia specifically, everyone was talking about democracy, but at the same time, everyone was also ignoring how it was being upheld. With these colourful works I aim to express many different things in the name of democracy. The black outlining structure unites all of these images and is indeed chaotic, but also beautiful. That is democracy and we cannot predict how it may evolve.

Do you think your work is positive.
I try and work with optimism on my side. Bad things have happened and I always try and look at what we can learn from those things. I try to bring this energy into my work.

So you see it as an important role for you as an artist to convey these messages?
First of all, I convey these messages for myself and from this I hope that people feel and think about these ideas located in my works. But I think starting in a positive way allows for a lot of opportunity.

Opening Eko NugrohoPlastic Democracy exhibition opening, Arndt Art Agency, Berlin, 27th April 2018

You always integrate something from a local setting where you work when you travel around the world. What has been your take away from being in Berlin?
I think because I am not staying long in Berlin this time, I appropriated some quite symbolic imagery from historical things, such as the Berlin Victory Column monument that you can see here in my large mural “Plastic Democracy #1”. It conveys a strong message for my topic through this mural also for people from Berlin. After the show this mural will be gone, the idea of the painting on the wall reminds me of the wall itself in Berlin and the dark and scary history of Berlin. In Indonesia, I think we have the same feeling, we divide the past by a wall so to speak – we are divided by the ideologies such as religion, politics, many different things. By the black and the white. These are other types of walls. You can also discern this in my text from my piece “Plastic Democracy #3”: “We offer trust, you give us borders”. It aims to convey that a lot of people try to do good, but a lot of people are also doing bad. This kind of chaos is so human.

For me, you are just posing the questions for your audiences to consider.
It is exactly like that.

Galerie Arndt
Eko Nugroho “Plastic Democracy #3” and “Plastic Democracy #4”, (2018), acrylic on paper, each: 250 × 98 cm
Opening Eko NugrohoLeft-right: Matthias Arndt, Arndt Art Agency Founder; Russell Storer, Senior Curator National Gallery of Singapore; Eko Nugroho; Enin Supriyanto, Indonesian curator; and June Yap, Director of Singapore Art Museum.

A3 EDITORIAL | Marina Cruz


A3 Editorial spoke to Marina Cruz upon the occasion of her solo exhibition “Mend and Amends” art Arndt Art Agency, Berlin. Representing her European solo debut, the show presents a suite of new paintings that continue the Filipino artist’s central topic of dress and the depiction of fabric.

In these works a strong sense of nostalgia is conjured in Cruz’s imagery of worn and used clothing that enlivens connections to her family heritage, but also domestic crafts. Despite being devoid of the human figure, each of her highly detailed paintings of garments spark imagination concerning the life of the absent wearer. In this exclusive interview, the artist discusses her path to becoming an artist, her working processes, and the concept behind her solo exhibition.

Marina Cruz – Mend And Amends

Marina Cruz, Mend And Amends solo exhibition opening at Arndt Art Agency (A3), Berlin, November 2016

What was your path to becoming an artist?

When I was very young, I helped my mother, who is a public school teacher, make visual aids to be used in school. I enjoyed making crafts and projects. At the age of ten I started joining art competitions and then by the time I got to high school, I joined the school art club. When it came to choosing which path to take in college I was pretty convinced I wanted to pursue a creative career. I studied painting at the University of the Philippines, majoring in painting. I always find myself enjoying making art even if it is challenging or difficult at times. It gives me a feeling of accomplishment whenever I get to finish a work or body of new work.

Did you have any inspirational teachers?

The University of the Philippines one of the top Universities in the Philippines. It allowed me to be exposed to different artistic persuasions. The professors have very varied points of view; traditional and conceptual. I got very good training in painting through Prof. Sustiger who taught us the classical ways to paint, following the Masters like Rubens and Rembrandt. We were also taught the very traditional ways of casting by Prof. Madrinan, and printmaking by Prof. Rey Conception. I also had very talented, young professors teaching drawing and visual composition such as José Santos III and Pam Yan. Not to forget the mentorship of Professor Roberto Chabet regarding conceptual frameworks.

Galerie ArndtInstallation view: Marina Cruz, Mend and Amends, Arndt Art Agency, Berlin, 2016

Have you always worked with painting?

Although my major really is painting, I do work with various art forms such as sculpture, prints and installation, and also with objects, photographs and video work. I remember Professor Chabet asking me why I was straying from painting when I was working on my undergraduate thesis. I was working with installations, prints and cast dresses at the time and he reminded me that my strength lies with painting. I love to paint, but also love to explore other art forms at the same time.

You achieve such detailed, realistic smooth surfaces. Can you discuss your working process and technique.

I learned a lot of painting techniques in college. My recent works are photo-based and object-based, like still lifes. I take photos as source material and work on them grid by grid. However, after the initial painting, I focus on the details, looking at the actual material as reference also. There’s a particular methodology in my actual painting process. I work more spontaneously with my compositions. I try a lot of shots and angles with my source photography before I arrive at the image I hope to achieve

MCRU0008_Whites and Blues Torn and Mended by dragonflies_48in x 36in_oil on canvas_2016_opt.jpgImage caption: Marina Cruz, Whites and Blues Torn and Mended by dragonflies, 2016, oil on canvas, 121,92 × 91,44 cm

Your works depict a central subject of clothing and fabric. Can you discuss why you focus on this imagery? You have mentioned that this topic relates to your personal history.

I discovered this central subject; clothing and fabric quite by accident. In 2002, I was looking for a material to add to my printmaking plate, just something for texture. I looked inside my grandmother’s old cabinets searching for mosquito net material that I had in mind and I came across my mother’s old baptismal dress. It was a very surreal experience to unearth this artefact. I was looking at the fabric and the dress and imagining my mother as a tiny fragile baby. The dress was very fragile and brittle as well. It was discoloured and no longer in pristine condition. I found the connection between the ageing of the material and the wearer fascinating. I became fascinated in the ephemeral quality of people and objects.

Marina Cruz – Mend And AmendsMatthias Arndt and Marina Cruz, Berlin, November 2016

Clothing can certainly have strong associations to the memories of the people who have worn them.

Yes, and clothing is the object nearest to the body, its intimate relationship is like a second skin. It hides vulnerabilities and accentuates what we think is beautiful. I made an installation project in 2008-2009 called “Un/Fold” at Ateneo Art Gallery, Manila, where I created a personal archive of almost 100 dresses. I took these dresses, photographed them, and wrote stories and memories that my mother and her siblings told me about the garments on the photo prints. One by one, it was like a revelation of a personal history.

Do you intend to make any comment about the hand craft of making clothes versus the global mass production of clothing? Is this a topic that interests or motivates you?

At first I was just very occupied with working on the theme and subject of clothing as an archive and metaphor for the body. However, if you place this narrative in the global context of mass production you see a lot of contrast and differences in values. This discussion concerning over consumption and production, versus frugality and mindful production and consumption can be read into. I guess I like the questions the work could elicit, but primarily it is not a concern when I make these works.

Galerie ArndtInstallation view: Marina Cruz, Mend and Amends, Arndt Art Agency, Berlin, 2016

What do you hope audiences take away from your work?

At first, I do hope they enjoy the work in its composition, tactile quality, colours and patterns. My hope is for viewers to meditate and look more closely under these garments. Hopefully people reflect on the ‘life’ of things, viewing fabric not just as dresses, but also documents. I encourage audiences to accept and see beauty in the imperfect qualities of the garments, in the tears, the mended areas, stains and colouration changes.

Marina Cruz – Mend And AmendsMarina Cruz, Mend and Amends, Arndt Art Agency, Berlin, 2016

How do you continue to develop and evolve your artistic practice?

I work back and forth with themes that I find authentic for me and work I enjoy. I look closely at works I have created before and develop how I can improve my art practice and subjects. It is always a working progress and discovery along the journey.

Marina Cruz – Mend And AmendsMarina Cruz, Mend and Amends, Arndt Art Agency, Berlin, 2016

You have exhibited extensively throughout Asia in recent years, holding some impressive solo exhibitions. Your solo exhibition art Arndt Art Agency in November 2016 represents your European debut, exposing your work to new audiences.

“Mend and Amends” exposes and explores the idea that imperfections can be beautiful, that one can find alternative meanings by looking closely at an object. It celebrates our vulnerabilities through metaphors of stains, folds, creases, and tears. This exhibition is special to me because this body of work was developed while my grandmother, who made most of the dresses, was still alive, and when completed, my grandmother passed away. Personally something changed in the way I look at these works now. It suddenly dawned on me that “Mend and Amends” is part of my own mourning process.

Galerie Arndt

Mend and Amends continues until the 3rd of March, 2017 at Arndt Art Agency, Berlin.





A3 EDITORIAL | Entang Wiharso


A3 Editorial interviews acclaimed Indonesian artist Entang Wiharso about his professional career path that is strongly intertwined with his fascination in the human condition.

Viewing Indonesia as a nation in transition, Wiharso cites this notion of flux as a trigger, and also inspiration for his work. In the transfer from one medium to the next, and regular travel between America and Asia, this re-assessment of materials and roaming geographical perspective informs the artist’s thought-provoking work. Describing his practice as “full of tension and awareness”, Wiharso’s visual language often engages in critical global issues, at once, enlivening curiosity and disturbance in the viewer. Articulating ideas in paint, sculpture, performance and video work, the artist talks to A3 about the power of recurring symbols and his interest in the language of different materials.

dsc_6432Entang Wiharso at Black Goat Studios,Yogyakarta, 2016

Can you discuss your evolution as an artist?

I have strong memories of growing up and living in Indonesia. The strongest memory is always of being in transition and moving. Indonesia is classified as a developing country and during my life, it has been in transition from an agricultural to an industrial nation. My parents also transitioned during that time from being farmers in rural Tegal to entrepreneurs, opening a food stall in Jakarta. This was not only a physical change, moving from one place to another, but it was also a mental paradigm shift. For college I moved to Yogyakarta and later moved to the US. Now I travel frequently while living between two countries. I believe this condition of living a life that is shifting supports the way I work. Each transition brings an entirely different feeling in my life and art.

Have you always worked in different art forms?

I love working with different materials and mediums because it gives me lots of opportunity. I studied painting in art school, but when I was a child, I created three-dimensional work first because my material came directly from nature. I didn’t have paper until I went to elementary school. My mind was always working in ways that didn’t fit with the system that I was being taught in. When I was in art school, painting, sculpture and printmaking were all separate departments. I was in the painting department but I always wanted to mix painting with sculpture or objects and I did a lot of experimenting even with painting itself. The ideas always felt urgent, so there was a rush to express in my early works. But the curriculum discouraged this approach. I felt like I was standing at the starting line, but couldn’t cross it. I remember traveling on a bus, thinking about these issues and this idea came into my mind and it resulted in a work that combined drawing and painting on carved wood; a synthesis of painting and sculpture.


“The ideas always felt urgent, so there was a rush to express in my early works.”


From the beginning I liked to experiment. Each material gives me opportunities to express my ideas with a very specific purpose. Also, each material has its own language, which also allows me to make a strong, nuanced statement. I feel like my paintings come from my subconscious. I take a lot of information that I see around me and I process it on the canvas. There is freedom in painting and it is a very responsive process. Sculpture and installation rely on a technical, step-by-step process that slows things down. There is more opportunity for editing the visual concept. I always feel like I am moving around, going from place to place, so the way I work with a range of media is a reflection of this reality.

wiharso_inheritance_2014Entang Wiharso, “Feast Table – Being Guest” (2014), aluminum, steel, graphite, resin, color pigment, thread, car paint, 180 cm x 400 cm x 170 cm

Is it an easy process for you to translate your ideas in different media?

I like to resolve or deal with problems when working and the challenge of working across media keeps me focused and passionate. This condition steers my practice as an artist. It is a reflection of my mindset and the way I live on this planet. I believe that there are no limits and the consequence of this outlook is that I deal with the unexpected and therefore do not rely on a set way of working. I try to create a state of being which is full of tension and awareness.

bild-064_optEntang Wiharso, “Borderless: Floating Island” (2011), graphite, resin, steel, brass, pigment, thread, 350 × 750 × 140 cm, Edition 1 of 2 + 2AP

You have commented that you are interested in exploring the human condition through figuration. Can you elaborate on this and perhaps provide examples of some key works?

Every day I deal with my interaction with people and also my interaction with global situations. I want to bring that knowledge and feeling, and also my own opinion and concerns into art. My art is a form of evidence. It is evidence of my experiences and thinking about the world. Part of the evidence I try to capture utilises imagery of the human figure.


“My art is a form of evidence. It is evidence of my experiences and thinking about the world.”


In my work I want to talk about the structure of society. For example when I did the large installation “Indonesia: No Time to Hide” for the Venice Biennale in 2013, I used distortion of the human figure to talk about questioning what is real and what is perception. When I distort portraits of former leaders, I change the orientation of the portrait. Also, people become more curious because there is something disturbing and attractive at the same time. There is an uncomfortable feeling that arises from looking at these portraits. Another example is the way I portray figures in my paintings. I always create figures that are naked to show the marks on the body and psychological impact of events. You can see the skin and through the skin to the blood vessels, muscles and bones. This is a way to show my deepest feeling through a visual code.

wiha0079_installation-view-art-stage-sg-2014_4Entang Wiharso, “Crush Me # 2” (2012), graphite, thread, pigment, lightbulbs, electrical cable, steel, 340 × 650 × 90 cm

What other key themes do you hope to convey in your work?

The human condition is an endless story. It is like standing in front of a mountain and deciding to explore every rock. For a while I’ve been looking at issues of migration and geography as a way to understand the historical underpinning of our current situation. Much of my recent work has an autobiographical content, some of it obvious, while some of it more hidden. The work is about something coming to me or something already inside of me, like history, experience, family, geography, people, politics, culture and so on, and how to deal with that. Those factors run through all of us, they change us and define us.

0024617Entang Wiharso, “Expanded Dream #2” (2011), brass, aluminium, resin, colour pigment, thread, 62 × 200 × 57 cm, edition of 2

Are there recurring symbols that you draw upon in your work?

I’ve been creating bodies of work over time that draw on a visual language and set of codes that carry specific meanings. One example of a recurring symbol in my work is that of the table, which you can see in my paintings, sculptures, performance and video work. I’ve spoken about the table many times, but what I continue to find most interesting and useful about it is that it is an extremely familiar object. It is present at so many important moments in human history and in individual lives. It’s a site of negotiation, of coming together, of sharing. Its design over time reflects cultural norms, fashion and politics. So while it is simple and common, it is quite flexible and can act as a stage upon which I create action. Another recurring symbol, particularly in recent years, is the car which also functions as a platform or stage in my work.


How important is it for your work to include an Indonesian context?

I never think that I want to include an Indonesian context in my work. I do not need to perform my “Javanese-ness” or “Indonesian-ness” in my art because it exists inside me. I think the presence of an “Indonesian-ness” can be a form of resistance to the uniformity of global art. An Indonesian context is not a strategy to explore identity issues or to create a sense of “localness”, or a negotiation with the market. It is a dissection of the issue of history and tradition through a new investigation, a new survey. Through my work I want to apply history and tradition in a new formation. Even when I travel far away from my home, or move around the planet for my work, people want to tie me to an Indonesian context. This is a heavy burden for me as an artist. I don’t want to be put into a box or have people create borders around me. In my work, I resist the ways that tradition and history are normally perceived, explained and used to frame my identity and ideology.


“I don’t want to be put into a box or have people create borders around me.”


What are some of your proudest career moments to date?

There is no doubt that participating in the 55th Venice Biennale in 2013 was an important and historical platform. The interesting thing for me is that all these stages are important. When you get there it is a real achievement, but once you get there, you have to move on. I am always looking forward and thinking about how to engage and create a dialogue with the audience. I think today artists have to be free thinking and ready to work in a variety of ways and take risks.

11_opEntang Wiharso, “Indonesia: No Time to Hide”, Indonesian pavilion, 55th Venice Biennale, 2013

What do you attribute the recent rise in interest in Southeast Asian contemporary art to on an international scale?

The platforms have changed. People recognize that the centres of production that they understood to exist 30 years ago are no longer isolated or dominant, either geographically or economically. And so they are finally curious to look beyond the familiar.

You founded Black Goat Studios based in Yogyakarta in 1993. Can you explain a bit about it and what you hope to achieve through this initiative?

Black Goat Studios is a mechanism and framework to accommodate my creative practice in both the US and Indonesia. The name came about through work I was doing around issues of identity. I was thinking about my status in both these countries and my inability to fit into either comfortably. It was a way to change my feeling of being an object to being a subject.

My studio is a flexible institution because it is personal and transformable; it can expand and contract to suit my projects and needs. My studio is a laboratory for work in progress, where I conduct experiments, make observations, analyze and collaborate. The function of my studio is also more than a workspace – it is an office, library and workshop. In my creative process I often use my studio like a laboratory, testing materials, making observations about my data, analyzing and experimenting to make well-developed conclusions that support my intentions. I also support my community in Yogyakarta by creating projects that facilitate other artists’ practice.


Entang Wiharso, “Coalition: Never Say No” (2015), aluminium, car paint, 200 x 300 cm

You are very interested in collaboration and were recently included in a two-person exhibition in Jakarta with Australian artist Sally Smart. Can you discuss the concept behind this show and collaborative project?

Sally and I decided to create this project together. It came out of our friendship and a desire to produce a joint project where the collaboration stems from intensive conversation rather than through collaborative art work. We wanted a framework where the collaboration expands, rather than contracts. The collaborative aspect was through conversation and a joint exploration of ideas that have been discussed endlessly through human history. We picked up these threads and discussed the exploration of essential ideas that we all experience and struggle to understand. From conversation to conversation there was a growing consciousness and a meaningful proximity that led to the first exhibition in Jakarta. We are moving the project to Australia this coming November and I will be in Melbourne working on Sally’s turf as we continue our conversation.

double-headedEntang Wiharso, “Double Headed” (2016), aluminium, care paint, resin, colour pigment, thread, 145 × 240 cm

What are you working on currently?

At the moment I am working on a series of aluminium reliefs that are a form of self-portrait. They are painted and highly detailed featuring images from my personal archive, including many cars relating to my American family history. With this new direction, the glossiness has the quality of painted ceramic which is in contrast to areas where the raw material is exposed. This highlights two different characteristics of being simultaneously covered and exposed. I can see the tension between these two aspects and want to keep pushing in this direction.




A3 EDITORIAL | Philipp Bollmann


Appointed curator the of the prestigious Berlin Masters exhibition in 2016, Philipp Bollmann speaks with A3 about his new role and the changing face the show in its fourth edition.

Berlin Masters runs from the 9th to the 23rd of October 2016 at Arndt Art Agency, Berlin, and includes the work of: Franziska Beilfuß, Walker Brengel, Lisa Drost, Timon & Melchior Grau, Henri Haake, Rafael Ibarra, Yuni Kim, Manuel Kirsch, Lilia Kovka, Phillip Lüttjohann, Olivia Parkes, Anja Spitzer, Björn Streeck.

Galerie Arndt

Installation view: Berlin Masters 2016, Arndt Art Agency (A3), Berlin

Can you discuss your background in the arts and working as a curator?

My passion for art was triggered during a school exchange in America when I was 16. I had such an inspiring art teacher who made me want to study art history. So, after finishing high school I went to Berlin to do so. I also worked for a well known gallery, but most importantly for me was meeting Heiner Wemhöner at that time who asked me to work for his collection. This was eight years ago. Since then I have been very happy to see how the Wemhöner Collection continues to develop and grow. I publish books about different focal points of the collection and curated exhibitions – also for galleries and museums. My next upcoming exhibition for example will open in October. It’s about how important contemporary artists are influenced by Joseph Beuys.

Berlin Masters

Matthias Arndt, officially opening Berlin Masters 2016 at Arndt Art Agency (A3), Berlin

You have been appointed curator of the prestigious group exhibition Berlin Masters that is in its 4th edition in 2016. Can you tell me a little about the concept of the exhibition, its history and what it hopes to achieve?

Berlin Masters was initiated in 2013 by Matthias Arndt and the curators Lisa Polten and Lydia Korndörfer. The project aimed to provide a platform and talent show for Berlin’s young artists. The main objective of the project is to facilitate the entry into the professional art world for living artists in Berlin after their completion of their studies. Now after three successful years, we think it’s time to build an even bigger base for the exhibition format. Every show, starting with this year’s edition, will have a curatorial theme for example. Currently, we are also in negotiations for a bigger space next year and we are planning a Berlin Masters Award.

Berlin Masters

Berlin Masters 2016 opening party at Arndt Art Agency (A3), Berlin

How important do you feel it is to support the emerging next generation of artists?

Very important of course. I think if you are interested in contemporary art you are a very curious person. And what is more exciting, is being able to discover the new Gerhard Richter or Peter Doig of tomorrow. I also think that each generation at each time has certain questions to ask and certain walls to tear down. So we all have to focus on young art for a better understanding of where we art right now – in culture as well as in society.

Galerie Arndt

Installation view: Berlin Masters 2016, Arndt Art Agency (A3), Berlin

Can you discuss the curatorial rationale behind BM 2016?

I was a little bit irritated when I visited the two art schools in Berlin searching for talent. We live in very tense times today. You may think of the Brexit and the emergence of nationalism all over Europe. You may also think about the refugees and about someone like Donald Trump who has a chance to become president of the United States. So I was questioning why none of this seemed to have any impact on the young artists. My explanation for that is that they don’t want to engage in “political art”, but of course everyone is very aware of what is going on. They just don’t want to directly communicate with daily politics. All displayed works in the exhibition are united by the idea of understanding silence as an attitude, from which a certain strength originates. Silence, as a point of departure, is a recurrent aesthetic throughout the last hundred years which is not, as one may believe, characterized by absence and disinterest, but which takes a firm stand – albeit a subtle and quiet one.

Galerie Arndt

Installation view: Berlin Masters 2016, Arndt Art Agency (A3), Berlin

Can you describe some of the works in the show that embody these ideas?

Manuel Kirsch for example reacts with his large-scale, monochrome screen printings of toilet paper patterns, on the one hand humorous towards Minimal Art, on the other hand, he directs our attention to everyday commodities and ennobles the aesthetic of a throw-away-product to a work of art. Another artist participating in this year’s edition of Berlin Masters is Phillip Lüttjohann who presents a similar gesture. He “abstracts the colour” of commercially available food packaging and therefore reduces the function of product design and advertisement to absurdity, which aims to attract the consumer’s attention. Moreover, the question arises for the viewer as to whether the objects actually contain the contents outlined on the food packaging. The reference seems likely to Piero Manzoni who proclaimed with his artwork “Merda d’artista” (1961), filling his own excrement in cans.




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Film credit: Gerard Wood

Filipino visual artist, Rodel Tapaya, is a self-confessed storyteller who draws upon his close connections to his home country for inspiration. Integrating ideas of the sublime and the everyday in his work, Tapaya is recognised as a socially-minded artist who offers insights into the lived experience in The Philippines. Utilising traditional folklore and symbolism as a point of departure, the artist animates characters from mythological narratives, both human and animal, in complex mural-style compositions.

Allegorical scenarios that tap into the primordial imagination are juxtaposed with imagery relating to current-day social issues. His recent 7-metre wide painting “Adda Manok Mo, Pedro? (Do You Have a Rooster, Pedro?)” (2015–16) included in the 20th Biennale of Sydney depicts a rural scene disrupted by soldiers with bird heads and instruments of war, enlivening Catholic-Muslim conflicts within his homeland.

A3 Editorial spoke with Tapaya about the increased critical attention his work is attracting, his working methodology, and his participation in the 20th Biennale of Sydney in 2016.

Why are you so drawn to enlivening mythological narrative and how did this become part of your artistic focus?

I think my interest in the stories, myths, folktales started when I was seven years old. As a young boy I really believed in the the Filipino myth about Bernardo Carpio. This tale is about a giant who tried to stop two mountains fighting against each other, and in doing so, got buried underneath and trapped in the mountains in the northern part of the Philippines in the province of Montalban. People in our village would talk about the handprints that the giant left on the mountains. I personally went to hike on that mountain to see it. As a young imaginative and gullible boy, I was convinced this was true. My interest in this ‘giant’ continued when I went to university where I researched this story and its historical significance. I found out that one of our heroes during the war would go to the mountain to strategize about how to conquer the Spaniards at the time we were under Spanish colonial rule.

I really enjoy reading these kinds of stories not just because they offer another perspective to the way we view our world, but also, because one can consider the origin of these narratives. I am fond of reading stories because they are just words and I am free to imagine the story using my own vocabulary of images.


“I use stories to create another world. Stories guide me, inspire me and enrich my creative process.”


I use stories to create another world. Stories guide me, inspire me and enrich my creative process. A number of stories can act like a seed where a picture can grow and transform and relate with the other parts of the painting. Sometimes I will first make rough sketches, almost abstract, fluid and random. Then I will isolate a story and an element such as a character that is used as the main focus. Most of the time the story becomes invisible.

One artist that saw my work told me that he doesn’t see the stories and doesn’t need to know about them, but senses that there is a tale behind my imagery. He views my work through the formal sensibilities and elements of colour, form, composition, pattern, and repetition. The works stand alone and the stories act as a reinforcement. The narrative aspect is inevitable as the work is figurative.  


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Installation view: Rodel Tapaya, “Adda Manok Mo, Pedro?” (Do you have a rooster, Pedro?), 2015–16, 300 x 700 x 5 cm, acrylic on canvas, the Art Gallery of New South Wales, 20th Biennale of Sydney, Sydney, Australia, 2016


Could you discuss the context of your striking 7 metre wide work “Adda Manok Mo, Pedro?” (Do you have a rooster, Pedro?) that was exhibited recently at the 20th Biennale of Sydney?

This enormous work is basically about war; the constant struggle of power, conflicts in ideologies, and challenging the boundaries of territories. It’s interesting for me to look into this topic in various ways through some current events, myths and folk stories, religious and ideological perspectives, and also through children’s games where power struggles are evident and in constant battle. In the end, war, like games and battles, is a harsh reality where no one ends up the winner.

Within this work I reference four historical events and stories that include:

1. Events that took place on January the 25th, 2015, at Mamasapano, Mindanao in the southern part of the Philippines: Forty-four elite police officers died in a clash between two groups called Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Since the 1960’s, the Muslim Mindanao region dreams of having autonomy. It is during the present governmental administration that the lawcalled the Bangsamoro Basic Lawwill be finally passed, which compromises the new proposed autonomous political entity known as the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region. But because of the deadly clash, this law is now being opposed by many legislators and also the public. This situation illustrates the peace struggles and civil war in the Philippines between various differences in ideology and cultures. 

2. Myth of the Origin of Bird from the Tagalog Region, in Bulacan where I live: The story’s inspiration came from a myth called “Origin of Birds”. The chickens that existed before humans are ones that wage war and fight against people. The god, Bathala, got angry and transformed them into chickens because they are unjust and unruly, but also so that they cannot fly.

3. St. Peter’s Rooster: The rooster is an animal associated with Saint Peter, manok ni San Pedro. This biblical animal was depicted when Peter betrayed Jesus three times with cock crowing. The animal was also believed to guard the gates of heaven.

4. A Philippine game called “Adda Manok Mo, Pedro?” (Do you have a rooster, Pedro?) – specifically an Ilocano game from the northern part of the Philippines. I chose this title because I find it appropriate in the topic of war and the irony of the children playing these ‘games’ while falling victim to conditions of war. This particular game is a game of power where there is a strong assignment of roles. The leader briefs the players on the correct answers to questions he will ask them when the game starts. The players are expected to memorise the answers.  Players who give the wrong answers will eventually be punished by the leader. 

Do you often create such large-scale mural paintings? 

Large-scale mural like paintings, yes, I always see to it I have one large piece in the studio. They act like playground for me visually.

Your compositions are extremely complex and detailed, with many layers and individual scenarios that make up the greater whole. Can you describe your process in developing your compositions and how you are able to harmonise the various elements within each painting? 

Initially, I make rough sketches that do not resemble anything in particular; just lines and biomorphic shapes. Then later, after ‘meditation’, I will discover how I will approach the visual problem by using images from the stories, which I sketch, and then add the main figure and the other details such as plants and animals. However, my “study” is never finished, it is only like a guide in my composition. Additional images will branch out like a Banyan tree, or a mind map as I work on the canvas spontaneously. I often also integrate references to commentary about social issues and historical events. Lately, I have tried working on studies using the aid of pictures of natural forms like mountains, trees and rocks, taking on forms from this process to either retain or abandon in order to complete the picture. It can be a tedious process, but it is also exciting as the work evolves and transforms before my eyes.


Rodel Tapaya

Installation view:  Rodel Tapaya, Bato-Balani, Installation view, Ateneo Art Gallery, Quezon City, Philippines.


You are well known for your paintings, however, this is just one facet of your practice. You also create sculptural work and installations. Could you talk about this element of your work?

I have always been fascinated by dioramas, maybe it is the scenic representation of using painting and objects to create reality. I indulge myself sometimes and make sculptural works and installations to create a more experiential dimension of the work. 

For example in my work “Modern Manananggals” (2013), I think my artistic voice is strong through this installation because one can move around the pieces and reflect on its message. A manananggal is like a vampire, but what is unique about this creature is that it can divide itself into two. Leaving half of the torso on land while the upper body can fly, looking for its victim. It is a famous folk belief that when you see a half torso of the manananggal you can put salt on it and the winged creature could then no longer join its body anymore and it will die.
This piece is my take on the Filipino Overseas Workers. It is a reminder and a warning. As the worker leaves half of its body – his or her family and homeland to look for work and money – one must be cautious to ensure there is a reunion with one’s family. Otherwise, if the person leaves for too long, family relationships can suffer.


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Rodel Tapaya, Deep Thoughts, 2015, reverse painting acrylic on acrylic sheet with wooden frame, 74 cm x 59 cm


Your experimentation with new techniques continues with your recent “under-glass” painting technique which is a reverse style of painting. What other techniques are you experimenting with currently?

Yes, I am still working on reverse paintings or under-glass paintings on the different approach and presentation. I always try to stretch myself to challenge my painting process. I am also currently working on sculptural work that can compliment my folk narrative works, while at the same time looking into the additive and subtractive aspect of paint and form.

You draw upon broad universal topics within your work such as life and death, human rights and politics, religion and spirituality. In this sense your create works with a very human dimension that everyone can relate to in some capacity. Would you agree?

Yes! Universal topics on human relationships and values. For me it is simple, I see there are different forces, some good and some not, just like in society. It is because of our choices we make that we are able to create reality. Ultimately, I believe there is goodness in everyone and in everything.

A3 EDITORIAL | Heinz Mack

Heinz Mack: A Work in Progress

Throughout an illustrious career Heinz Mack has become synonymous with the avant-garde artist group ZERO. Co-founded with the late Otto Piene in 1957, the art movement continues to resonate today. Garnering recent global attention in the past year, Mack’s work was exhibited in the major ZERO survey exhibitions at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; the Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin; and the Sakıp Sabancı Museum, Istanbul.

Since the artist’s early beginnings he has maintained a career spanning over six decades that has transitioned into an independent career beyond the ZERO movement. Continuing an an interest in the key tenets of ZERO – the exploration of light, movement and space – Mack became known for his kinetic light pieces, public sculptures and chromatic paintings. Today he has staged almost 300 solo exhibitions and his work is housed within 136 public collections worldwide.

Upon the occasion of the German art pioneer’s 85th birthday, A3 Editorial spoke with Mack about his career and current solo exhibition “Heinz Mack: Review and Outlook” held across three locations in two continents.


Galerie Arndt

Installation view: Heinz Mack, Review and Outlook, Arndt Art Agency, Berlin, 2016. Photo credit: Bernd Borchardt


Galerie Arndt

Installation view: Heinz Mack, Review and Outlook, Arndt Art Agency, Berlin, 2016. Photo credit: Bernd Borchardt


A3 Editorial: To mark your 85th birthday you have developed a landmark exhibition in three venues entitled “Heinz Mack: Review and Outlook”. Has this milestone provided you with the opportunity for reflection?

Heinz Mack: My career is still in progress. I continue to go on with my work in my studio and workshop. I am of course proud to have the chance to show my work in different places worldwide. A birthday is a day like any other, even if it is celebrated just for one day.



Heinz Mack, Arndt Art Agency, Berlin, February 2016. Image credit: Hannes Wiedemann



Heinz Mack, Arndt Art Agency, Berlin, February 2016. Image credit: Hannes Wiedemann


A3: Each of the venues showcase a range of your works from different time periods providing audiences with a unique overview of your practice.

HM: The selection of works gives a very short overview of about 60 years of my work. I do not think it can be considered as a retrospective as such because my production is so rich. However, each work within the three exhibitions does indeed indicate a particular element or moment in my development and one has to take this very seriously.



Installation view: Heinz Mack, Review and Outlook, ARNDT, Singapore, 2016. Image courtesy ARNDT Singapore.



Installation view: Heinz Mack, Review and Outlook, Samuelis Baumgarte, Bielefeld, 2016. Image courtesy Samuelis Baumgarte


A3: Do you still hold a strong identification towards the ZERO movement and its core values?

HM: After the recent ZERO exhibitions in New York, Amsterdam, Berlin and Istanbul, a significant proportion of ZERO works have been seen by almost 700,000 visitors in total. It is really a highly successful result. This recognition proves the importance of the ZERO movement as a historical fact that still continues to hold relevance today. The core values are now not only an object of the international market, they also have a spiritual and artistic dimension by its apparition.



Installation view: Heinz Mack Installation, Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin 2015. Image courtesy Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin


A3: What did you learn from collaborating with fellow ZERO group member Otto Piene? How important is collaboration as part of the artistic process for you?

HM: When starting to explore and uncover new ideas, the artist does depend on other artists, who are sometimes the only other ones at the time who might understand what you are doing. If you enter the emptiness of the desert, the tabula rasa, you should not go alone. However, at the same time, you cannot avoid being alone.


“What remains constant for any artist is the recognition that you cannot stop your work.”


In his studio 2015

Heinz Mack in his studio, Mönchengladbach, 2015. Image courtesy the artist


A3: Over many decades you have proven an extremely dynamic ability to re-invent your practice through a range of different media and techniques. What do you feel has remained a constant in your work?

HM: What remains constant for any artist is the recognition that you cannot stop your work. The expectation of your wishes are like a horizon which is never ending.

A3: What is something valuable you have learned about maintaining your career over such a long period of time?

HM: The time and the space of the arts is dynamic enough unto itself. As an artist your motions are in movement and the movement is your motion.



Heinz Mack, “I like the colours of your mind” (2008), Chromatische Konstellation (Chromatic Constellation), acrylic on canvas, 160 x 130 cm. Image courtesy ARNDT, Singapore


Heinz Mack: Review and Outlook continues until: 

23. April at Arndt Art Agency, Berlin

 30. April at Samuelis Baumgarte Galerie, Bielefeld

 30. April at Arndt, Singapore 

The 124 page exhibition catalogue is available for purchase direct through Arndt Art Agency, Berlin.