As an adolescent, Dadang Christanto was deeply traumatized by the disappearance of his father in the mid-1960s anti-Communist purges taking place in widespread areas of Indonesia. Together with thousands of others deemed as political enemies and dissidents, Christanto's father was killed. The trauma of this experience has come to assume a central place in the artist's practice. The themes of trauma, human oppression and suffering, memory and forgetting surface in his art practice which ranges across sketches and paintings as well as installations and performances.
His work is largely symbolist in nature, employing visual signs and codes to signify universalistic human values and the socially-oriented messages that he wishes to transmit through his paintings. Some of the installations like Cannibalism: The Memory of Jakarta - Solo 13, 14, 15 May 1998 (1998); and Red Rain (2000) are lyrical and poetic visual renditions on the themes of war, persecution and human suffering. Many of the works speak eloquently for the victims of oppression and social injustice and the need for compassion regardless of differing faiths and political systems.
The present lot, Untitled, continues in this long-standing line of inquiry and articulation, exhorting the need for memory and remembrance. Untitled is composed of a number of repetitive pictorial symbols. White heads "represent the soul or spirit of dead body that would always recall the dark period in the past and also about what happened recently violence has continued and victims continue to be traumatized" (Artist's email to Christie's April 2008). The darker triangular forms that each of the white heads seemingly resides in are symbols of memories, collective and unerased. Each of the cells is a meditation on the conditions of suffering and memory; gathered as they are, they speak of the profound unrest and pervasive suffering that we find in our world today.