The Art-Religion Symbiosis originated from the inceptive purpose of commemorating and exalting the divine through art-making. Christian elements in contemporary art are apparent from the previous influence of colonialism in South East Asia. This essay compares Indonesian Artist Ariadhitya Pramuhendra (Pramuhendra) with Singaporean Artist Boo Sze Yang in the use of Christian elements and its extent in their artworks and how this is affected by their individual societal backgrounds and distinct local influences.
Christianity made inroads into Indonesia’s art history during the 9th century with Christian missionaries and traders forming a small community on “Batak” island. (a collection of ethnic groups found in north Sumatra, Indonesia). Today, contemporary Christian art in Indonesia is prevalent within a group known as ‘Seni Rupa Kristiani’(SERUNI), set up in 2010, a vehicle for the development of Christian art in Indonesia. Its conception has seen collaborations with churches, art institutions, reviving the world of Christian art, opening another form of worship other than music. Pramuhendra is part of Indonesia’s new rising contemporary artists which uses his religious beliefs to assess the Self in relation to what constitutes identity, the moral and social in contemporary Indonesia.
The pivotal first step of Christianity in Singapore began within 6 months of Sir Stamford Raffles’ establishment of Singapore as a British Colony; Protestant missionaries came to set up a local ministry, establishing churches with the first Mass in 1821. Singapore’s multi-cultural melting pot results in the promotion of harmonious living as a national interest amongst all racial and religious groups so the 1988 Religious Harmony Act was set in place. While art is slowly growing in importance, themes of cultural or self-identity are preferred by upcoming artists like Sarah Choo or Ang Song Nian to tackle issues concerning the common people. Boo Sze Yang unconventionally uses biblical symbolism in conjunction with his interest in political and social issues of Singapore.
Figure 1 - Seeking the Meaning of Truth by Ariadhitya Pramuhendra
By using formal analysis, we are able to detect the utilization of Christian elements in both artists’ artworks.
Pramuhendra’s “Seeking the Meaning of Truth”, uses charcoal that allows him to create smooth, photo-realistic qualities. There is only the slight visibility of wooden scaffoldings that look like the interior of a stable in the background. Strong lighting illuminates the carcass entirely (hierarchical focus) while major portions of the man remain congruent with the dark background. Chiaroscuro intensifies the mood of the setting as well as provides 3 Dimensionality in muscle modelling.
The artwork depicts him, inspecting a slaughtered pig, hung from the ceiling of a stable alluding to the manger Jesus was born in. The pig sacrifice could be a metaphor for Jesus who died to save sinners. The title is...