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Interview with Eddie Hara

Project-open-art: What kind of techniques/ means of expression do you use?

Mr. Eddie Hara: I use the very basic technique in my paintings. It’s layer by layer of either opaque or transparent colors. The dark color lines of my figures are very obvious as I often use my drawing technique too on most of my works. For me the background colors are as important as the main figure colors on the paintings.

Project-open-art: Can you describe this closer? Do the different colours have any

symbolic meaning for you?

Mr. Eddie Hara: I said so because so many artists just don’t do much with background after finishing the main figure(s) on the paintings. They are often too concentrated on the main figure(s) only. Look at "High Art is Dead" or "Five of a Kind". The background colors often try to juxtapose with the main figure’s colors. Imagine if there are no dark figure outlines, the whole colors on the canvas would be an abstract composition. I would simply say my background colors has the same intensity as the main figures. I don’t have any symbolic meaning on the color difference.

Project-open-art: What are the topics of your artworks?

Mr. Eddie Hara: I often dig out "irony behind the humor" as a topic of my works.

Project-open-art: Do you have any role models?

Mr. Eddie Hara: I don’t exactly know whether I have role models or not. But Joseph Beuys often comes to my mind as Mr. Smartass who often mixed up humor, irony, politics, the dark side of human beings, and yet, his works depict a sort of intellectualism too. He was a genius. Some artbrut artists also influence me in their ways of expressing the raw ideas and visualized them in a raw, pure, honest and diabolic way.

Project-open-art: What are your sources of inspiration? Where do you get the impulses/ stimuli for your work from?

Mr. Eddie Hara: In my documentary movie we finished 2 years ago, I mentioned many

sources for my inspirations such as: children drawings, modern and contemporary comix, folk and primitive art, graffitis, streetart, bold designs printed on surf and skate gears, cartoons, horror and science fiction movies, MTV and CNN news, artbrut or outsiderart works, and youth subculture life style. I get my impulses or stimulants for my works mostly from being in places like museums, exhibition spaces, books, places with bright sunlights like South France, Italy, Southern California and Indonesia. Even our first son`s room gives me such impulses.

Project-open-art: You said one of your sources of inspiration is primitive art. What kind of primitive art do you refer to?

Mr. Eddie Hara: Yeah, primitive or tribal art. I love those cave paintings of any prehistoric men. The way how they simplified all kind of animals, gods, beasts and human figures is so simple but really portrays the truth. You could really see they are bisons, mammoth, whale, deers, serpents and so on only from the simple essential black lines.

Project-open-art: Can you give us some information about the context in which we have to see your work?

Mr. Eddie Hara: Of course politic, environmental and gender issues are themes I dig out from time to time. As an artist living in a modern complicated world I am concerned about those issues and want to express them through my art. Funny, witty and sarcastic titles often appear on my works to as: "Good Morning Mr. Blowjob" (about Clinton-Lewinsky affair), "Wanna Dance With Me, Herr Blocher?" (about that silly right wing Swiss politician), "As Seen on TV" (about the Twin towers collision on the 11 September), "Stop Killing the Fuckin Whales..." (about Japanese whales hunting at Pacific region), "Hot Tuna" (it’s a surfing gear brand, but I used it for reminding my public of those over fishings and the empty Mediterranean Sea), and so on.

Project-open-art: Do you use any traditional elements in your work? Do you use any global elements? If yes, can you give us examples?

Mr. Eddie Hara: No, I don`t use any traditional element in my work. And yes, you could see

I use many global elements like using robotic like figures or figures which look similar to Mickey Mouse.

Project-open-art: Why do you choose Mickey Mouse as a model?

Mr. Eddie Hara: Why Mickey Mouse? It’s simply because the figure is so known as an

American icon that almost every modern or contemporary artist use the icon as their source of inspiration. Either you like or hate America, you can easily use the Mickey as the language of your expression. I guess pop art brought the Mickey to its fame in the art world.

Project-open-art: Can you tell us something about the genesis of your work?

Mr. Eddie Hara: The genesis of my work often comes from the combination of various

drawings and the sudden inspiration as the first step. The next step will be some new figurative drawings as the basic sketches or study. Then I will transfer them on a larger size canvas and complete the work with color compositions. While working on the large canvas I would definitely improvise with adding or minimizing more figures on it so visually it will look more or less in a balance.

Project-open-art: How and where do you localize yourself? E.g. do you see yourself as a local artist / as part of the global art community?

Mr. Eddie Hara: I consider myself both as local artist (Yogyakarta and Basel) and

international artist from Indonesia. Although my home base is Basel, I still often exhibit or do projects in Indonesia or other countries.

Project-open-art: Can you describe this more detailed?

Mr. Eddie Hara: It’s not only because I live in Basel, but also because I often do several solo shows, group shows with local artists, and few small projects at the local art events. The strange thing is although I’m 50, they still consider me as a "young" artist. The young alternative circles often involve me to join their projects. Especially the street art and comix circle of Basel. And of course I go to countless parties too and hang out with art students, artists, young fashion or graphic designers, punk and rock musicians, few activists, and other weirdoes, hehe. If they talk about Indonesian artist, it must be me. I feel I’m well integrated with the alternative local scene being part of it.

Project-open-art: Do you participate in local and/or global art discourses?

Mr. Eddie Hara: As art discourse moves slowly to "the other side" and art Meccas are not only New York, Berlin, Tokyo (but also Basel, Sydney, Istanbul, Beijing, Sao Paolo or Johannesburg), I always participate in both local and global discourse.

Project-open-art: What kind of previous experiences do you have with anthropologists, gallery owners, organizers of exhibitions?

Mr. Eddie Hara: I often had different experiences with anthropologists, gallery

owners and exhibition organizers. But as I mentioned before that art discourse is moving to the other side, all these art lovers are also changing their mind in looking at my work. That they don’t see me as an outsider anymore and that they are much more open to something new from Asia. It was totally different in the early 80’s.

Project-open-art: How was the situation in the 80’s? You said you were an outsider? How and when did things and the way people judged you as an artist change? Why did they consider you as an outsider?

Mr. Eddie Hara: I was rather an outsider in Europe then in the end of 80`s when I

travelled and studied NL. As a non-western artists I was consider as an "exotic" who must have produced exotic decorative Asian art. You know Holland was the colonist in our country for about 350 years. And they didn’t know much about the progress in South East Asian region then. So there were a lot of prejudice. Only good sensitive gallerists knew my art has nothing to do with batik, traditional woodcarving or tribal art. Mine was totally contemporary. That was why some Dutch art historians were shocked that we also did installation, videos, performances, minimal or electronic music. And surprisingly some of our dancers were sent to Martha Graham dance school in NY and to Pina Bausch (?) theater in Germany to study modern ballet and post-modern body movements. But it changed rapidly in the early 90’s when "globalism" came to the surface and became an important issue. I was very lucky to witness the change. And now we are living in a borderless world. We could easily see Joseph beuys works in Jakarta, and see Chinese artist work hanging on the wall of MoMa New York. Or a Cuban artist could easily join Venice Biennale or Dokumenta Kassel. Everything is possible.

Project-open-art: How was the situation like for you at the beginning of your career?

Mr. Eddie Hara: At the beginning of my career in Indonesia, in the mid 80`s, it was

quite hard. The Indonesians did not appreciate my artworks at all. They thought it was too European. Too modern! Hehe But I kept on going. Thanks god, those ex-patriates or tourists who lived in or travelled to Yogya like mine and I could sell to them. Even in Yogyakarta there was no modern art gallery at all. There were only art shops who sold kitschy crappy art or crafts. We didn’t have any infrastructures for contemporary art scene.

Project-open-art: When did you start painting/drawing/sculpturing?

Mr. Eddie Hara: I started drawing when I was 9, and did painting when I was 14, and my first sculpture was in 1991.

Project-open-art: In what way did your style, your art changed / developed until now?

Mr. Eddie Hara: My art changed technically and conceptually. Technically it has been

more complicated than just doing the outline figures and fill it with colors. I also use drawing technique, collage sometomes, expressionistic brush strokes and even using the abstract elements as background. Conceptually I’m not thinking "beauty" as my main target anymore. And I often use texts on my paintings too to strengthen the message.

Project-open-art: Can you tell us more about your previous experiences with anthropologists?

Mr. Eddie Hara: I think the science of anthropology came from the western academics of mostly how Europeans look upon races from the new world (Asia, Africa, America and Australia) as their new field of knowledge. For us (Indonesians) the term came along with colonialism. Am I right? hehe, sorry I mixed up with Ethnology. Well, I have no problem with anthropologist. Some good American or Australian anthropologists even wrote good books about Indonesian cultures, politics and religions which are still actual and used by Indonesian students for their research (sorry I forget their names). What I feel strange is when a western anthropologist tries to deal with Indonesian modern or contemporary art with his/her "conservative" way without knowing a lot about nowadays art discourse and what’s going on in the international art scene.

Project-open-art: Why do you participate in our project?

Mr. Eddie Hara: I participate in this project because it’s simply an effective forum

to introduce my work to a broader audience. And it would be an effective forum to get to know other artists too.

Date: May 2007


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