Heri Dono

Heri Dono (Born Jul 12, 1960) is an Indonesian visual artist as artist painter, sculptor, and installation artist.

Dono was born in Jakarta on June 12, 1960. He studied at the Indonesian Art Institute (Institut Seni Indonesia) in Yogyakarta, Heri Dono studied at the Institut Seni Indonesia but dropped out of school to study wayang kulit (shadow puppet). He uses this traditional art form and adapts it as his contemporary medium of expression in his art. In addition, the influence of this traditional art form can also be seen in Heri’s installations, performance arts and his paintings.

Heri Dono won the Prize for the Best Painting in 1981 as well as in 1985. He presented his work worldwide in a great number of solo and group exhibitions.

He is mainly active as an installation artist, and works with materials that come from varying places in the world. In his work, known influences can be noticed, like the life of the ordinary man, wayang kulit, becak driver and tau tau sculptures of the Toraja in Sulawesi.

Dono, who lives and works in Yogyakarta, mixes humoristic comments in his work on political and social problems in Indonesia. In 1998, he won a Prince Claus Award.

His style is often placed in the art form of new internationalism, which is a recent art form of artists in the world that challenge the Western hegemony of art, in contrast with the New Art Movement in the seventies and eighties that chose in favor of a Western expressions in art, with it taking leave of local traditions.

Heri Dono’s figurative paintings give a complicated picture of Indonesian society and politics that is intertwined with larger international issues and concerns. Having grown up in a tumultuous period of Indonesian history, Dono often confronts violence and social turmoil in his work, as well as Western culture as it is viewed in his country. After leaving art school, the artist began studying shadow puppetry, incorporating puppets in his installations and drawings to probe darker elements of human experience. Dono, who has participated in multiple editions of the Venice Biennale, has said: “Art is not just about exploring the beauty or the aesthetic but to give awareness to the audience. Artists have a moral responsibility to add to the conversation, to make people aware of injustices.”

Works:
Two Party Border 1998 National Heritage Board, Singapore
Heri presents a collage, painted over by paint and the formulation of figures in ‘Two Party Border’. The red triangular peak in the center divides the work into two. The left side of the work shows chaos and violence, suggested by the broken limbs and an overall sense of mayhem while the right side shows order and military. In the red triangular peak, covered by a layer of paint, is a list of events around the world.

Superman dan Wanita 1992 National Heritage Board, Singapore
‘Superman dan Wanita’ is that of duality – male and female, peace and violence, good and evil – personified by the two figures. The male figure, wearing a vest with an “S” emblem of Superman, and the female figure are depicted on either side of a narrow middle ground, where the figures negotiate their antithesis. Here, a personification of evil and aggression, the paradox between the Superman of popular fiction and the evil that he personifies may be intended as a commentary on false appearances. The stylized manner of wayang kulit puppetry is adopted in their poses and hairstyles. Despite the difficult theme, the work is injected with a bawdy humour and wit.

Badman 1991 Fukuoka Asian Art Museum
Heri Dono, who spent his students days in Jogjakarta which has an old history, avidly absorbed the traditional culture of Indonesia during this period and studied the traditional performing art called wayang kulit (shadow-picture show), yet his world of art appears to have various sources that cannot be explained by tradition alone. In this work entitled “Badman,” dolls installed with electronic circuits are hanging from the ceiling in a row. They somewhat remind us of the wayang dolls, but the idea comes more directly from characters in cartoons and computer games. Heroes of justice never die even if they fall from a skyscraper. Abiding by the absolute rule that ‘Enemies must be destroyed!,’ they bury the enemies away for sure. Contrary to the cute images of the dolls, this work makes us aware of such exaggerated dreams and cruel attacks of the masses.

Barong’s Imagination of the Drunkard 1991 National Heritage Board, Singapore
Heri Dono studied at the Institut Seni Indonesia but dropped out of school to study wayang kulit (shadow puppet). He uses this traditional art form and adapts it as his contemporary medium of expression in his art. In addition, the influence of this traditional art form can also be seen in Heri’s installations, performance arts and his paintings. In Balinese mythology, Barong is the king of good spirits and the enemy of Rangda, the demon queen. Here, Heri depicts a creature controlled by a human like figure in its mouth and a fox like creature in its chest. Another character stands on its back, draining the alcoholic drink from its tail. Brightly coloured, these creatures capture one’s attention against the plain and dream like background.