Culture / Art Republik

Tabula Rasa: A Clean Slate With Dedy Sufriadi’s First Chinese Solo Exhibition

Popularised by John Locke, the concept of tabula rasa (Latin for clean slate) inspired Dedy Sufriadi’s approach of diving into his work without any preconceived notions of what his paintings would or should look like.

Apr 06, 2021 | By Abram Yum

Tabula Rasa represents an important milestone in Dedy Sufriadi’s career. Prior to this, he had only ever been featured in Chinese art fairs that Artemis Art took part in. Now, with his first solo exhibition in Asia’s largest art market, Sufriadi is showcasing his unique brand of abstract works which express his innermost thoughts through a combination of naïve figurations and texts. Tabula Rasa opened on 2 April and will run till 9 May, featuring 25 specially curated pieces from Sufriadi’s extensive catalogue.

A Master of the Abstract

Born in 1976 in Palembang, Sothern Sumatra, Dedy Sufriadi displayed an affinity for art at an early age and had begun painting seriously while enrolled in Senior High School for the Arts (SMSR) at the age of 15. In 1995, he enrolled in the prestigious Indonesian Institute of the Arts or Institut Seni Indonesia (ISI) in Yogyakarta, majoring in painting. It was during this time that he began to showcase his works through exhibitions. In 2013 he furthered his artistic education and attained his Masters degree from ISI.

He soon gained recognition for his radical and expressive style of abstract art, characterised by a refusal to be forced into any one genre. Sufriadi famously utilises an amalgamation of naïve figurations, symbolism and variations of text to create a distinctly hybridised artistic language.

One especially unique aspect of Sufriadi’s art is his use of text. Since beginning his university education at ISI, Dedy Sufriadi has been an avid reader and is particularly well-read in existential philosophy. He has consumed works form the likes of Friedrich Nietzche, Søren Kierkegaard, and Martin Heidegger which heavily influenced his artworks. This love of reading carried over into his art with Sufriadi including texts as a means to better convey information.

During the early stages of his artistic career which he dubs the Existentialist Period (1998 – 2004) Sufriadi’s use of text was more distinct, allowing the audience to easily make them out. These texts were used as an “added alternative to overcome issues of visual understanding”, as Sufriadi strongly believed that picture stories with texts were easier to understand.

Dedy Sufriadi – Ars Longa Vita Brevis 2b (2016) – Oil, Oil Stick and Marker on Canvas – 150 x 150 cm

This use of text eventually evolved as he questioned when and how texts were used in painting. Following this philosophical study, Sufriadi’s utilisation of text in his paintings became less distinct, featuring a mix of Roman, Chinese, Arabic and other alphabets, randomly layered and placed, replacing the lines and colours typical of abstract expressionist works. As a result, the texts used in each painting had little to do with each other, eliminating the relevance of their literal meanings. Sufriadi’s intention was to give his audiences control over their contextual understanding. The randomised layering of text allowed the creation of an infinite combination of visual cues which viewers could pick up on and interpret the artwork in different ways. Through this, Sufriadi was able to freely express his many philosophical ideas and observations in his paintings.

Clean Slate

This latest solo exhibition is an embodiment of Dedy Sufriadi’s idea of uninhibited expression. The exhibition’s name, Tabula Rasa represents John Locke’s philosophy that all human beings are born without any innate psychological contents, picking up ideas and determining our own roles as we journey through life, making us in effect, organic clean slates. In keeping with this philosophy, Sufriadi begins on his works devoid of any preconceived ideas of how they should be, often intuitively employing some unconscious automatism, and simply flowing with his thoughts, guided by intuition and his 20 years of artistic experience.

Dedy Sufriadi – Am I Rock (2018) – Acrylic, Marker, Oil Stick and Pencil on Canvas – 40 x 40 cm
Dedy Sufriadi – Tabula Rasa (2018) – Acrylic, Marker, Oil Stick and Pencil on Canvas – 150 x 150 cm
Dedy Sufriadi – Hotel 13th (2018) – Acrylic, Marker, Oil Stick and Pencil on Canvas – 40 x 40 cm

Sufriadi lets his imagination and intuition run free, creating different layers of paint and then if the mood strikes him, scraping them off and repainting them, gradually putting his soul onto the blank piece of canvas. After which, he employs his signature use of text, which replaces the line elements so typical of his earliest works and other abstract expressionist pieces. The resulting art, such as the 25 on display, may seem simplistic, random and even messy at first glance. However, every minute spent observing the painting reveals a new layer of expression and emotion as our minds put together the different words and colours into an infinite number of emotional and philosophical equations.

Dedy Sufriadi – Hollow Man (2019) – Acrylic on Canvas – 40 x 40 cm Dedy Sufriadi – Hollow Man (2019) – Acrylic on Canvas – 40 x 40 cm
Dedy Sufriadi – Monalisa (2019) – Acrylic, Marker and Pencil on Canvas – 70 x 60 cm
Dedy Sufriadi – Man From Digul (2018) – Acrylic, Marker, Oil Stick and Pencil on Canvas – 30 x 30 cm

Tabula Rasa, Dedy Sufriadi’s first solo exhibition in China, is the artistic embodiment of the clean slate that is the human soul. Through this selection of artworks, specially curated by the exhibition’s curator Wan Jun, Dedy Sufriadi takes viewers on an introspective journey through his innermost thoughts.

Tabula Rasa is being held from 2 April to 9 May at 326 Cao Changdi International Art District, located in the Chaoyang District of Beijing. For more information, check out Tabula Rasa’s website feature.

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