The present lot, playfully titled Left-Right, depicts two molar-like objects sat alongside one another, symbolically joined not only as symmetrically placed objects but also by what seems like a yellow rubber band stretched across the pointed ends of both objects. As a picture, it discloses no obvious moral or social messages. Not that all art has to be comprehended further than what is presented before viewers on the picture surface - the pictorial format of the still-life, which critics have occasionally tried to see Handiwirman Sahputra's works categorized under, is about form, depth, volume, spatial and compositional integrity and arrangement; it concerns itself with esthetic matters, and shys away from philosophical inquiry or social polemics which other kinds of art aspire to.
Handiwirman Sahputra paints without a particular concept in mind, thereby removing any references or allusions to reality in his works. Instead he reacts and explores the work plainly through mental visualization. The form and shape of his subjects defy regular compositions and he experiments with positioning his subjects in a variety of spatial arrangements stimulate different reactions from audiences - wonder, indifference, critical questioning. For this, Handiwirman Sahputra's work stand distinguished amongst peers in Indonesian contemporary art.
Along with 5 fellow artists, Handiwirman formed Kelompok Jendela (The Window Group) whose exhibition Membuka Kemungkinan in 2000 suffered heavy criticism for their lack of aesthetic quality and energy in their works and for deviating from the norm of making works with a social bearing. This resistance to the ethic of creating artworks with its representational meaning is what makes Handiwirman's art interesting and appealing.
Left-Right is the outcome of a purely aesthetic pursuit, a exercise constituted in itself to befriend and acquaint objects, not peering at their social lives or their hidden histories but just enjoying them as objects - objects with a certain physicality, with a certain material presence. How does such physicality and materiality exist amongst other objects with equal or similar modes of existence? Handiwirman seems to be balancing such a question as he transfers the presence of these three objects onto canvas. The objects seemingly take on a life of their own - the rubber band is precariously stretched across two forms whose hardness and durability is unknown. Will they hold? Will one buckle? And if it does, what will happen to state of equilibrium established in the picture.
These are questions that Handiwirman has started to question from as early as 2004 which gave rise to his solo exhibition, apa-apanya dong? (something appears nothing?) at Nadi Gallery in Jakarta. In that exhibition, he raised a tantalizing question - can a painting create a same mental perception with that of three-dimensional object? Left-Right is one among a series of paintings to address this question. The painting is sanitized, cleansed of a context. The drama in the tense equilibrium of the objects is what the artist wants us to observe.