Heri DONO, Flying angels Enlarge 1 /5
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Heri DONO

Java, Indonesia born 1960

  • Indonesia, Jogjakarta

Flying angels 2006 Place made: Indonesia
Materials & Technique: sculptures, polyester resin, clock parts, electronic components, paint, wood, cotton gauze

Dimensions: each approx. 59.0 h x 140.0 w x 15.0 d cm
Acknowledgement: Gift of Gene and Brian Sherman, 2008
Accession No: NGA 2008.925.1-9.A-D

Heri Dono is among Indonesia’s most prominent and innovative contemporary artists. Working in sculpture, installation, performance, paint and print, he brings together elements of Indonesian artistic tradition with his own distinctly contemporary concepts and playful imagery. The intersection of these constituents, and the tensions that ensue, are recurring features of Heri Dono’s work.

His Flying angels 2006—an installation of nine whimsical electronic angels with elaborate headdresses, impish painted faces, broad cotton wings, tiny red boots and exposed genitals—is part of an ongoing series begun in 1995. Since their first showing at the 1996 Bienal de S�o Paulo, angels from the cluster have been exhibited in various configurations in many parts of the world, including Japan, Indonesia, Switzerland, Singapore and Australia. Invited to participate in vast numbers of biennales, triennials and residencies internationally, Heri Dono is a constant traveller who creates and recreates his work on the move.

Stylistically inspired by Flash Gordon cartoons and American robots from the 1950s, the Flying angels also draw on the Indonesian theatre tradition of wayang puppetry, an art form long associated with social commentary and political expression. After graduating from the Indonesia Institute of the Arts in Jogjakarta in 1987, Heri Dono trained in wayang kulit shadow play—using two–dimensional, perforated leather puppets—under the modern master Sukasman. In contrast to many Indonesian artists active in the 1970s and 80s, artists from Heri Dono’s generation have tended to embrace rather than reject local artistic practices. While much of his work, particularly painting and performance, draws strongly on the aesthetic and form of wayang kulit, Flying angels and the related series Bidadari turun dari langit (Fairies from the heavens) 2004 have greater affinity with the three–dimensional puppet dolls used in wayang golek.

For the artist, whose work expresses his particular experiences and concerns, the dangling angels represent human vulnerability but are also uplifting personal symbols of freedom, conscience and hope. Actively opposed to oppression, injustice, violence and abuses of power, Heri Dono is interested in the role of the individual in society and has referred to his angels as a replacement for the garuda, mythical man–bird, as an emblem of Indonesian identity. He has described the garuda as ‘a symbol of collective identity and propaganda to prevent individuals from developing their intellect and personality freely’.1

As it is in much of the artist’s work, the subversive spirit of Flying angels is shrouded in incongruously quirky cheer. Powered using temperamental low–tech motors constructed from discarded clock parts and electronics, the angels flap their wings while emitting discordant sound; their chorus brings together contemporary popular music with birdsong, insect chirps and the voice of the artist chanting in several languages, including old Javanese.

Flying angels is a gift of Gene and Brian Sherman, who are long–standing supporters of contemporary Asian art and the National Gallery of Australia. It is an excellent complement to the Gallery’s small but high–quality collection of contemporary art from Asia and, especially, to the single Heri Dono angel acquired by the Gallery in 1999. Created in 1995, the single angel was one of the first such sculptures produced by the artist.

Previous works of art acquired with the support of Gene and Brian Sherman include Red rain (Hujan merah) 2003, a popular installation by Brisbane–based contemporary Indonesian artist Dadang Christanto, and Taiwanese artist Lin Shu–Min’s holographic installation Glass ceiling, both purchased through the Gene and Brian Sherman Contemporary Asian Art Fund.

Melanie Eastburn
Curator
Asian Art

1Heri Dono, ‘Watching the logic through an upside–down mind’, in Yasuko Furuchi (ed), Heri Dono: dancing demons and drunken deities, The Japan Foundation Asia Center, Tokyo, 2000, p 83


Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

Heri Dono is among Indonesia’s most prominent and innovative contemporary artists. Working in sculpture, installation, performance, paint and print, he brings together elements of ancient Indonesian artistic traditions with his own distinctly contemporary concepts and playful imagery. The intersection of these, and the tensions that ensue, are recurring features of Dono’s work.

His Flying angels 2006—an installation of nine whimsical electronic creatures with elaborate headdresses, impish painted faces, broad cotton wings, tiny red boots and exposed genitals—is part of an ongoing series begun in 1995. Stylistically inspired by Flash Gordon cartoons and American robots from the 1950s, Flying angels also draws on the Indonesian theatre tradition of wayang puppetry, an art form long associated with social commentary and political expression in Java. After graduating from the Indonesian Institute of the Arts in Jogjakarta in 1987, Dono trained as a wayang kulit shadow puppeteer—using two-dimensional, perforated leather puppets—under the modern master Sukasman. While much of his work, particularly painting and performance, draws strongly on the aesthetic and form of wayang kulit, the angel figures have a greater affinity with the three-dimensional puppet dolls used in wayang golek.

Powered using temperamental low-tech motors individually constructed from discarded clock parts and electronics, the angels flap their wings while emitting a discordant chorus of chirps and squeaks.


Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2014
From: Collection highlights: National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2014