One of the most prolific and respected Indonesian contemporary artist, Agus Suwage is noted for appropriating images of renowned and iconic personalities in portrait paintings and his wide-ranging interest in Western and eastern philosophy, religion, art and culture. Oftentimes, faces, names and poses of celebrities, politicians and other luminaries who have achieved international renown and recognition are cited and refigured into his works.
However, the appropriation of images does not derive from a methodical intent to seek associative meanings or fully plumbe the personal, social and historical contexts of his references. Suwage is more typically reticent to discuss references and meaning in his works. The present lot Swimming is characteristic of this mode of picture-making. Executed with deftly placed paint swirls, Suwage composes a naturalistically-rendered figure of a swimmer, captured in a backstroke position. The subject's head is slightly cropped from the pictorial space, with flaying limbs keeping abreast in a sea littered with the names of major western and eastern philosophers and noted cultural theorists - Socrates, Herbert Marcuse, Simone Beauvoir, Lau Tse etc.
Like in the ocean or the sea where organisms and elements exist in a state of flux and impermanence, these names are referenced and cited in seeming randomness, cutting across cultures, historical periods and fields of specialization. The juxtaposition of the fields of philosophy and cultural theory with the sea seemingly embeds a tantalizing observation on the nature of philosophical enquiry - an acute knowledge of predecessors and key ideas that have held sway in the past is essential to one's sense of place and ability to forge new enquiries and formulate new branches of knowledge. Suwage hints at the observation that one almost never beats a solitary path and instead feeds upon and reacts to a priori states of knowledge. The breadth of philosophical knowledge is infinitus, alluded to through the ocean which harbours deep, dark and unexplored recesses.