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East – West : Trough Woman at Alila Ubud Gallery – Bali  

by on Tuesday, 23 March 2010No Comment | 5,950 views

East – West : Trough Woman
Curator by: Aminudin TH. Siregar.

Hansen Thiam Sun, born in Toho, West Borneo, is a pioneer artist of minimalism painting in Indonesia. This written evidence can be found in testimonial section at his website. There you can also read that most of his art work have been exhibited in many countries such as Brazil,USA, Japan, Singapore, and Taiwan. Now, in Sanggingan-Ubud, he established gallery with his own name: Hansen Art Gallery.

Through the years, especially since studied in USA in 1980s, Hansen tends to create non-representational paintings. If we compare his latest paintings that will discuss later, esthetically Hansen’s paintings have changed significantly. Or maybe slowly, he begin to leave the genre abstract and minimalist, although if we take closer look at his latest paintings, that footprints still can be seen.

Hansen returned to Indonesia in 1990. He had been living in Bandung for 12 years, before deciding to move to Bali in 2003. Hansen returned from abroad has implicitly related with his future art works, he brought from the USA, the abstract and minimalist syntheses. This combination, especially minimalist, can be considered as art terminology that has not done or has not been clearly manifested by Indonesia artists. For him, the reverse has happened. He has consciously to state that his paintings are in minimalist corridor. This consciousness is important for us to understand Hansen and his art works.

If we check the documents about the history of fine art in Indonesia, we will fine that the tendency of non-representational fine art started in 1950s.Since then, the social field of Fine art began to introduce abstract and cubistic paintings. Non­representational fine art, in simple understanding, is a painting that tends to free canvas from narration or realistic image. Canvas, in non-representational terminology, is only considered as flat field. In general, abstract fine art is then considered as the representation of the non-representational category. However, the practice of non-representational painting in 1950s is still considered unfamiliar. There are only Few artist who understand abstract and cubism at that time.


The introduction of “abstract” and “cubist” has made the fine art in Indonesia goes to another phase. In that decade, there was interesting phenomena where artist-through their art work have given example on how Western style especially cubistic style transformed in to sensitivity with bases and local characters. This phenomenon is called indigenization of cubism, which on the other side is also practiced by other South East Asia artist.

The practice of painting using analytical cubist method is combined with painters, experiment in finding local synthesis. In their view, fine art is something that is bound by space and time, that is the contexts where the artist live. In an effort to transform local context, they realize that as Indonesia artist they still stand on agricultural and the solid views of communal society. These context will differentiate the development of cubistic and abstract fine art in Indonesia as compared to the West.

However, Hansen’s experience in the USA has brought him a different consciousness. He comprehended the concepts of abstract fine art right in the country which become the center of the terminology. At this point, we will see how his paintings compared to other abstract painters in Indonesia, shows its own characteristic. Hansen’s experience in absorbing by constructing the science of art during his journey in the USA has motivated him to ask identity. Surely, there is something that annoys him to ask back the “West” itself. The end of this finding can be return of the “East” as his contemplation. He does not ambitiously make a distinction between “West-East” as black and white does. Moreover, he believes that one day “West-East” will meets on one current. This contemplation is represented in some of his solo exhibitions. Through art, he seem to choose a way for the communication between the two poles that is said to be complement from time to time.

Hansen, with the above consciousness, offers the theme “East-West”: Through Woman in this exhibition. His paintings do not rely on abstract and minimalism as he had offered to the public. In this exhibition, he tries the genre figurative.

Why woman? We know that the history of fine art, whether in the West or in Indonesia, woman has been timeless object in fine art. Woman is always man’s gaze. This subject will be questioned by feminist artist and will become an objection by that gender. For a while, Hansen does not seem to realize this situation. However, “woman” in his paintings is a neutral object. “Human”, wrote Hansen to facilitate the discourse “is something full of paradox and controversy”. One thing for sure, in Hansen’s eyes “woman” is “human” and also a man. A part from his argument, still this kind of problem critically tends to raise debate.


All esthetical materials in his canvas show figure of woman in various poses, painted using acrylic on 100 x 100 cm and 120 x 140 cm dated 2006. Those woman were wearing lipstick, minimum clothing, and painted in single figure. The hairs are short. All of those women looking at us. On the background, Hansen-the artist who graduated in mechanical design from Taiwan-scratches unreadable Chinese calligraphy as he imagined. The calligraphy scratch symbolizes language as a tool for communication and the symbol of “East” itself.

The Hansen’s woman figure is not described as a goal that needs certain intensity or depth as we see on realist painting. On the other hand, by using soft color, he intentionaily leaving the flat impression shows up. In turn, the woman in the canvases showed comical impression (cartoon, in Hansen terminology) that closed to popular culture. This intention is honored by Hansen with one reason, “because some parts of us might be cartoon”.

The impact of popular culture, especially from the USA (“WEST”) throughout the world, are undeniable and are now happen in large scale. The excesses of this culture can be found everywhere, while critics often show up in less sympathy way. The truth is that the popular culture itself contains good and bad things. In the same way, the local culture, or what we understand as “Eastern” culture does not always contain goodness or wisdom. The East culture also has its incompleteness or badness. Hansen use this” dichotomy” where all images on his canvases reflect this problem. “East” calligraphy and cartoon woman which is “West”.

Beyond that, aspect of single figure of woman in Hansen paintings is meant to be a philosophical medium. He started the offer with a motivation that we have to reach a level of spiritual understanding on “alones”. “this does not mean that we have to live on our own, because lonely living does not mean we can reach the meaning” alones”. This also does not mean antisocial because only in “clones” human begin to socialize. “Alones”, mean do not bring self idealism when socialize,” said Hansen.


Closing this article, we remember one thing especially the conversation about “alones” we extended. In reference to Hansen, we have to reflection where he does not make a strict distinction between” alones” and “loneliness”. We can only grab the “alones” he propose, grab the meaning of it, and grab the direction of it. For some people, the meaning between two often strictly different. Some, however, do not care about this distinction. However, we should start to understand the meanings of those two terms are different.

Probably, this problem will return to us. At least we start to understand the meaning to be “alone” and the same time willing to take risk to live with own “loneliness”.


Hansen (Biogrphy)

HANSEN C was born in 1960 in Toho, a beautiful and pristine hamlet in West Kalimantan ( Borneo ). The purity and beauty of the environment in which he grew up stimulated young HANSEN to become deeply interest in visual arts, especially drawing, a hobby that became deeply embedded in his life even in adulthood. He has had his share of overseas travels and adventures. He returned to Indonesia in 1990 and resided in West Java for 13 years until he moved to Bali in 2003. In 1967, HANSEN served as an apprentice to a painter who instilled in the boy’s young mind a solid foundation that later became essential to his artistic development. In 1980, he studied mechanical design in Taipei, Taiwan. Simultaneously, he seized this opportunity to study abroad as a vehicle to further develop his artistic talent. Soon after graduating from college 1984, he worked for an American yacth manufacturing company as a designer and technical drawing specialist. During this time, HANSEN took a Yacht design specialization study at Westlawn School of Yacht Design in Connecticut. While continuing the cultivation of his artistic talent in the United States, HANSEN was directly influenced by a well-known architect and painter, Ms. Georgian. Under her guidance, he developed his own sense of style marked by an original and distinctive play of strokes that are characteristically simple and spontaneous. Yet his works overflow with reflections of life in its myriad manifestations – reflection that are both subtle and philosophical. As a result, the artist developed a unique style that is a mixture of semi abstract and minimalist art.

While refining his painting skills abroad, on the professional side, HANSEN created numerous spectacular designs in the boating industry.

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