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Agustian Supriatna, Artist, Musician, Fire Dancer (Tari Api) – Mark Ulyseas
On the outskirts of glittering art galleries, congregating culture chameleons, ‘production line’ art and self appointed guardians of an incestuous art world exists a small band of men and women who work with whatever materials they can collect from the refuse of mankind; metal scrap, bottles, spoons, wood et al to create avant-garde installations that appear to look like beautiful works of rearranged garbage. Sometimes they even sell these creations. Their lives are simple and their wants limited to a packet of cigs and a hot cup of Bali coffee. Meals are often Nasi Campur interspersed with a chilled glass of beer offered to them by eager visitors who want desperately to be a part of their world.
To assist lesser mortals in understanding their philosophy of life we present a member of this community of fringe artists…
Agustian or Agus as he is called by his friends was born in Lampung, Sumatra, in 1981. His grandfather, Datuk Raja Jaksa, was a well known Shaman. From the age of 15 he wanted to become an artist because he thought it was cool. However, unlike many contemporary artists he has no formal training in fine arts.
In 1999 he set up ‘shop’ in Ubud hobnobbing with kindred souls.
His studio looks like a scrap yard; nuts, bolts, chains, blow torches, gas cylinders for welding and large oil drums sliced into pieces. The paintings on canvass reflect a soul searching for paradise within and the used tyres lying around gives it the feel of a motor mechanic’s workshop. But lurking somewhere in the metal scrap is an installation waiting to be born, exhibited and (hopefully) sold.
Agus’s guru is the universe that teaches him a lesson or two every day. His inspiration for his paintings comes from images of daily life that he encounters. The metal installations mirror Agus’s endeavor to constantly recycle and recreate beauty from the debris of social excess.
In his words, “Fire dance or Tari Api burns the dirt from my mind, my heart, my body and my soul. It cleanses me time and again. When I play the guitar or percussion, sing or make things with my hands it is a kind of prayer, a prayer to the God which resides in me. It reminds me of my place in the Universe, that I am just a small creature. That I should be happy and content with whatever I possess. “
Last year Agus married Rachel a lass from Melbourne. His daughter Indah (which means beautiful Indonesian) was born eight months ago.
“When I hold my daughter in my arms it is like magic…I cannot describe the feeling, it’s too intense. My wife and Indah live in Melbourne. I will be travelling frequently to meet them. However, I also need to create to make money so that I can buy nice things for my family,” he says while lighting the blow torch to cut away parts of an oil drum to make a ‘art’ door, “Rachel has a beautiful heart and I am blessed for she understands what I am trying to do. I dream for the time we can travel the world together, to see and meet other people and to learn their language, their culture. I want to learn. But for now I have to create this door because it’s in my head.”
His advice to contemporaries, “Don’t surrender to the stomach”; translated it means not to compromise their creative work by commercializing artwork to boost sales.
As one was leaving the ‘studio’, Agus shouted above the rushing sound of the blow torch, “Brother, Bali has a two way door, one must learn how to open it, when to go in and when to go out for many use it like a revolving door and therefore are often caught in it…going around in circles…never entering never departing”.
Khuda Hafeez Agus