Erica Hestu Wahyuni, Vacation in Prosperity, 2003, acrylic on canvas, 150 x 200 cm
In Erica Hestu Wahyuni’s works, elephants, overlapping figures, crowds, and a sense of the childlike still abound.
For many artists, consistence is still understood as the ways in which they preserve their works’ form and style. Especially so, for those artists with a steady market (collector) base. One of them is Erica Hestu Wahyuni. Since her work came to be in huge demand in the 1990s, Erica appears to be comfortable with her style. From year to year, her works do not show significant differences.
This was also the case with her solo exhibition at Fang Gallery, Jakarta, 3-28 June 2013. As if made to suit the holiday time that falls around the months of June to August, Erica had Summer Vacation as a theme. Showing five works, the exhibition displays similar looks as with Erica’s previous works. As if they were created according to a mold, with only their stories altered.
Although the current works are difficult to distinguish from her previous ones, there are still devout followers of Erica’s paintings. One such works is titled Vacation in Prosperity. Scenes of nature that Erica often conveys remain visible. What is added, referring to its theme of prosperity, is the Louis Vuitton symbol on of the suitcases depicted there. “This painting has been sold for Rp 78 million,” as Sin Yang, from Fang Gallery, mentioned to Sarasvati.
The presence of elephants – a favourite animal of this artist who graduated from Indonesian Institute of Art (ISI) Yogyakarta – is still to be found here. One of them was in the painting Blessing Time with Lovely Elephant. The holiday atmosphere is depicted in the works through images of iconic sites from various tourist destinations, on canvases the size of 150 x 200 cm. Among them is the Borobudur Temple in Magelang, Indonesia, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France, the pyramids of Egypt, the statue of Liberty in New York, and many others. Amidst the hustle and bustle, there is a pink giant elephant. It is as if Erica means to express how she misses the elephant during her travels to the different parts of the world. The same elephant also appear in many of Erica’s other paintings.
According to Felicia Guo, owner of Fang Gallery, the elephant is called Ganica, which Erica has adopted since a long time ago. “Ganica has been part of Erica’s life that often inspires her working process,” said Felicia Guo, who also acted as a curator for the show.
The name Ganica stands for Gajah Seni Erica (Erica’s Art Elephant), a name that Erica gave to a 6-month old female elephant, offered to her for adoption by Taman Safari Indonesia. “For a week Erica was at Taman Safari in order to get to know Ganica better,” Felicia mentions, while explaining further Erica’s routine during that week. From waking up at seven in the morning until accompanying Ganica as she bathed in the river.
Erica’s commitment to this particular style makes her works easily recognizable: childlike, with bright colours, a disregard for spatial dimension, anatomy, volume and perspective. Erica frequently uses many phenomena, dreams, imagination and events that she encountered in her everyday life as a source of inspiration for her. According to Sin Yan, Erica is one of those artists who must immediately pour her ideas onto canvas.
For the 1971-born artist, it is not difficult to express her thoughts as an adult into paintings in the style of childlike sketches. She believes that every individual possesses a childlike disposition hidden underneath his or her adult bodies. And, for Erica, this spirit for play and jest has an important role in her work. Her commitment to this style makes her work distinct from other artists of the same style, such as Eddie Hara and Heri Dono. If the works of the two senior artists appear sophisticated and insightful, the Erica’s works seem lighter and unburdened.
In comparison to Paul Klée and Faizal who tend towards the naïve but never quite innocent, it is obvious that Erica’s works have a prominent sense of being childlike. This is also true of the world’s most popular childlike painter, Alexandra Nechita, who in fact has matured in her thematic aspects.
As a solo exhibition, Summer Vacation does not provide us with a new artistic direction in Erica’s career, although her works are still desired by collectors. This aside, for the common visitor who does not yet know much about this painter who was educated at the Surikov Institute of Art in Russia, the information provided by the gallery is lacking. There was no catalog available, and the Fang Gallery website does not provide any explanatory writings about the exhibition.
Parade of Happy Harvesting, 2013, acrylic on canvas, 150 x 200 cm