Featured Image

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Boedi Widjaja, Sungai, Sejarah, 2012
Acrylic, graphite and stone deposits on paper
image used with the artist’s permission

The above image is but one in a series of 99 by the Singapore-based artist Boedi Widjaja. The genesis of this series of works is explained on the artist’s website:

“The work was made after the artist’s travel to Yinchuan, Ningxia, northwest China, where a new international arts centre is being developed near the historic Silk Road. Though situated in proximity to the dry desert plains of Inner Mongolia, Yinchuan is well-irrigated by the Yellow River that runs through it. The latter changed its course frequently and in the process created lakes and wetlands across the city; the arts centre is situated beside such a lake. The Yellow River’s strong currents carry and leave behind geological deposits along its banks, its flow interacting with the geographical condition along its path. In situ at Yinchuan, the Southeast Asian artist of Chinese ethnicity reflected on the confluence of historical and cultural origins.

Back at his studio in Singapore, the artist handled stones sourced from the Yellow River, Ningxia and Fort Canning Hill, Singapore – both sites linked to stories of origin and the beginning of civilisation/settlement in its surroundings. Touching, ink-washing, placing, outlining and removing the stones repeatedly, the artist entered into a process that involved the aleatoric and the intentional to make the work. An important part of the process was resting the inked stones onto the paper, and letting time wash over them.”

Born in Surakarta, Indonesia, Boedi Widjaja now works and lives in Singapore. At a young age, the artist suffered from geographical displacement, having been forced to leave home for an alien city due to ethnic tensions. Living apart from his parents in his new home, he had to move four times among “stranger-families” in the first five years. It is little wonder that he should experience the world as a “fractured construct.”

He has transformed this forced movement into a long-term artistic practice. INSITU.ASIA, conceived in 2010, is an on-going “artist travelogue.” Together with dancers, musicians and film-makers, he visits “poetic places” in Asia to create original works as a way of mapping his locations first-hand. He has mapped historic Fort Canning Hill in Singapore. In Tenganan, Bali, he mapped a  village where more than 400 native Balinese still live. The next stop is Beppu, Japan. On a recent recce trip, he marveled at the evaporation of the hot springs caused by the activity of local volcanoes.

About Jee Leong Koh

My book of poems Steep Tea (Carcanet) was named a Best Book of 2015 by UK's Financial Times, and a Finalist by Lambda Literary. I also wrote three other books of poems and a book of zuihitsu. My work has been shortlisted for the Singapore Literature Prize, and translated into Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, Russian and Latvian. Originally from Singapore, I live in New York City, where I edit the arts blog Singapore Poetry, and run the Second Saturdays Reading Series and the Singapore Literature Festival in NYC.

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