ROH is pleased to share the first solo exhibition at its new gallery space in Menteng, Jakarta, tumbuh, by Syaiful Aulia Garibaldi, with accompanying text by Goenawan Mohamad.
The work and practice of Syaiful Aulia Garibaldi (b. 1985, Jakarta, Indonesia) has fascinated the gallery since the artist’s first solo exhibition, Regnum Fungi (2012), which was shown in a small alternative space in Bandung, Padi Art Ground. In that exhibition, Garibaldi was able to present some of the initial aesthetic as well as conceptual interests that have been developed into what it is today. From that first show, it was quite evident that he had a great potential to express complex ideas in a multi-faceted manner, working in paper, living sculptural installations, as well as murals to express the embedded relationships between art and science, especially pertaining to the ways in which biology, even in its most microscopic of scales, has much to inform us of many things about our own selves and our relationship to intuition and imagination.
These initial interests, which were expounded upon further in a number of exhibitions in the years thereafter, Abiogenesis: Terhah Landscape at Pearl Lam Galleries, Singapore in 2014, Quiescent at ROH Projects, Jakarta, Limaciform at Silverlens Galleries, Manila in 2017, as well as Lemniscate at Mind Set Art Center, Taipei, Taiwan, have consequently been carefully refined and developed slowly into the more mature practice he presents currently in tumbuh (grow).
In tumbuh, Garibaldi turns his gaze and concentration upon Eleusine indica, a specific type of grass. He investigates the specimens through magnification, multiplication, and transitions from representation to abstraction in expressing his findings. The works are communicated in a number of different languages he has been building upon throughout his practice, from actual specimens of the grass roots plated in gold to establish electrical conductivity when viewed under an electron microscope, a video installation that incorporates numerous depths of magnification pertaining to different types of specimens and variations of microscopes being utilized, a paper installation of approximately 4,000 unique monotypes on paper, as well as a number of new paintings that express this new branch of Garibaldi’s interests.
In order to understand Garibaldi’s works, this more descriptive basis of mediums and its respective relationships to more scientific functions, as well as artistic functions, acts as a necessary foundation for the work to then be deciphered in a manner that extends beyond the constraints of its constituent components and into the realm of the metaphysical or the imaginative.
The title of the exhibition tumbuh, or grow, hints at this provocation of sorts for the viewer to engage with the works and challenge their own assumptions and presuppositions regarding their own encounter with the individual works in the show, as well as then the exhibition in its entirety. That the diminutive grass roots become the subject matter for tumbuh, is one way in which Garibaldi draws our aesthetic intuitions into the direction or scale of an idea that is small, and perhaps also humble, in its insinuation.
ROH and Garibaldi are also very fortunate to have received the support of one of Indonesia’s leading thinkers and cultural figures, Goenawan Mohamad, to interview Syaiful Aulia Garibaldi pertaining to his interests and aesthetic explorations in the exhibition. Through a series of written correspondences, Mohamad sparked a series of conversations that discuss the confluences of science in Garibaldi’s art practice with Mohamad’s interpretations and correlative postulations connecting Garibaldi’s work with other artists as well as ideas.
In his response to Mohamad, Garibaldi expressed how his exploration and research had led him to the discovery of “allelopathy”, a natural phenomenon that occurs whenever an organism, in this case the Eleusine indica, is threatened by its environment. The said organism will then emit allelochemicals that invade the life and growth of its neighboring plants. Allelopathy, which in literal Greek means “mutual suffering”, is considered as a harmful biochemical infection towards the survival of other organisms.
According to Garibaldi, on the other hand, he sees that this phenomenon is a manner by which ecosystems and ecologies can be resilient through different environmental conditions — in the sharing of suffering between one organism with its surroundings. A mutual suffering is then seen as ways to survive together, rather than to harm or inflict pain. Through the microscopic lenses that allow for many degrees of magnification into what would otherwise be invisible worlds, Garibaldi invites the viewer to what appear to be complex, multilayered universes that are interestingly present around us everyday if we were to pay attention and look deeper.
In this subject, Syaiful’s canvases are lyrical poetry that is subversive – which in its silence speaks the values of nuance and ambiguity, the things that are no longer considered practical and bound to be set aside at every moment.
We are grateful that root reminds us of this. Instead of just looking backwards.
Born 1985, Jakarta, Indonesia
Lives and works in Bandung, Indonesia
Syaiful Aulia Garibaldi is currently pursuing his Master's Degree in Environmental Science at Universitas Indonesia. He obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts, Printmaking Studio from Institut Teknologi Bandung. Syaiful, fondly known as Tepu, previously pursued education in agronomy before pursuing experimental fine arts, where he applies his scientific background to create a conceptual foundation for his art. Tepu’s works in installation, painting, drawing, printmaking and video show a remarkably strong vision of art that collides with science in a graceful manner. His creation of an immersive environment was sparked by his interest in the networked and interconnected nature of ecologies, and the evocative power of microorganisms as symbols of death and decay, as well as life. Infusion between art and science transcends through Tepu’s work and gives way to a new gateway of knowledge, which is illuminated within his prints and installations.
Tepu has been featured in numerous solo exhibitions, the most recent ones being tumbuh at ROH, Jakarta, Indonesia (2022); Sudor at Silverlens Galleries, Manila, Philippines (2020); Lemniscate at Mind Set Art Center, Taipei, Taiwan (2018); Limaciform at Silverlens Galleries, Manila, Philippines (2017), Quiescent at ROH Projects, Jakarta (2016); and Abiogenesis: Terhah Landscape at Pearl Lam, Singapore (2014). He has been a part of major group exhibitions in various countries, such as Indonesia, Singapore, China, Taiwan, France, Italy, Belgium, and Hong Kong. The most recent ones include 1 (2022) at ROH, Jakarta, Indonesia; Chromatic Network at Galeri Salihara, Jakarta, Indonesia; And Life Goes On (2020) at Mind Set Art Center, Taipei, Taiwan; Art Basel Hong Kong 2019, Hong Kong; Natural Capital (Modal Alam), Europalia Indonesia, BOZAR, Centre for Fine Arts, Brussels, Belgium (2018); West Bund TALENT at West Bund Art Center in Shanghai, China (2017); the 2017 edition of Jogja Biennale and Art Stage Jakarta, Southeast Asia Plus (Sea+) Triennale at Galeri Nasional Indonesia, Jakarta, Indonesia (2016), and Prudential Eye Zone at ArtScience Museum, Singapore (2015). Tepu with Lokus Foundation is also currently part of Iron Placenta (2022), an ongoing research project by Irwan Ahmett and Tita Salina; had residencies at ABC Learning Town, Siheung, South Korea in 2015 and Centre Intermodes, La Rochelle, France in 2014. He is awarded Best Artist for Tempo Magazine Award in 2016 and Bandung Contemporary Art Award (BaCAA) in 2013. Tepu is currently living and working in Bandung, Indonesia.View Artist
Copyright belongs to The Artist
Photography by Andika Auditya R., courtesy of The Artist and ROH