The Fash­ion­able Artsy LIFE Si­mon Tan

Harper's Bazaar Art (Indonesia) - - Fashionable Life - Pho­tog­ra­phy by Rici Linde

This con­tem­po­rary-style house lo­cated in Ke­lapa Gad­ing will be hard to ig­nore when you hap­pen to pass it by. One of the main rea­sons is its out­stand­ing de­sign. Soon you will fig­ure out that the peo­ple liv­ing in this house have a dis­tinct taste and are not afraid nor hes­i­tate to show it.

A stair be­hind the en­trance gate is the main ac­cess to this four storey house. And when Bazaar ar­rived at the last stair­case, we are greeted by an ab­stract paint­ing on the size­able can­vas in the foyer. “The ti­tle is Bu­ruk (Foul), it doesn’t seem truly foul, how­ever, does it?” Si­mon Tan, a fine art col­lec­tor, greets the us as he walks out from the main en­trance. Apart from this amaze­ment, ev­ery­one visit­ing his house will be speech­less to see an­other unique part. The main doors made of solid wood com­plete with artis­tic carv­ing, mak­ing it eas­ily be­long to the art­work cat­e­gory. But it is be­hind these doors, when Bazaar’s jour­ney ex­plor­ing Si­mon Tan’s col­lec­tions be­gins.

While ac­com­pa­ny­ing us ex­plor­ing his col­lec­tions, Tan starts telling us about his in­ter­est in fine art which has lasted since 22 years ago. If some col­lec­tors started en­joy­ing or be­com­ing fa­mil­iar with fine art since the early age, it did not come so to Tan. “The first time I knew about fine art was be­cause of my cousin, Biantoro, the owner of Nadi Gallery. At that time, I used to stay at his house when­ever I went to Jakarta (I pre­vi­ously lived in Se­marang) and saw many arts here. Fi­nally I started to be

His in­ter­ests in fine art, es­pe­cially works of the artist

of Yo­gyakarta, Handiwirman, are also ex­hib­ited at his

house. By Stella Mailoa.

very fond of them,” he ex­plains. He also adds that he was in­ter­ested in con­tem­po­rary arts since the be­gin­ning. He loves vis­ually non­con­ven­tional works. “I truly love works with al­lur­ing and dec­o­ra­tive color com­po­si­tion. Let’s say that I love any out­stand­ing works.” He then adds, “But, I think the out­stand­ing point is about per­sonal sub­jec­tiv­ity.” In line with this, he also men­tions some names of artist he ad­mires a lot; two of them are Heri Dono and Nasirun.

Since he was at­tracted by the beauty of fine art, he started to broaden his knowl­edge. “I see a lot, read a lot and dis­cuss about art with ex­perts,” he clearly adds. These ef­forts also in­clude visit­ing mu­se­ums and art gallery and buy­ing some art books, which of course, is all about broad­en­ing his knowl­edge and skill. “The more I learn the more taste I hone at arts,” he ad­mits.

Dif­fer­ent from any vis­i­ta­tion to a house should be, Tan took us to the up­stairs room. We fi­nally got the rea­son why when we reached a room closely bor­der­ing to the rooftop deck. This room func­tions as a per­sonal gallery which dis­plays forty-four works of paint­ing and ob­ject; the num­ber is based on to the quick count of Bazaar. All works staged there are Handiwirman Sa­pu­tra’s.

Tan has ad­mired Handiwirman since 1999 when one of his friends came into his house to in­tro­duce Handiwirman and Yu­nizar’s works. “I of­ten buy some works when I truly rec­og­nize the artist and ev­ery­thing about him. But it turned out dif­fer­ently when I looked at Handi’s (Handiwirman’s nick­name). Once I saw the paint­ing, I was as­sured that the one cre­ated this paint­ing is a great man,” Si­mon says. The paint­ing en­ti­tled An In­de­pen­dence Eve is dis­played in his per­sonal gallery. Tan was fi­nally able to meet Handiwirman in Yo­gyakarta three days af­ter he pur­chased Handi’s paint­ing for the first time. For him, it was a must to meet the great artist him­self. Af­ter meet­ing Handi, Tan got an­other two paint­ings from him, both are dis­played at his other house in Se­marang. These pur­chases has quickly turned into a vast col­lec­tion. When asked about the amount of Handiwirman’s art­works he has, “I don’t re­ally know how many of them pre­cisely, as I never counted them,” he re­sponds.

What ex­actly is the ap­peal of Handiwirman’s art­works that has been cap­ti­vat­ing Tan’s at­ten­tion? “I am very much fond of an artis­tic work. Vis­ual aes­thetic is the most prom­i­nent thing for me and it is about per­sonal taste. In my opin­ion, Handi’s work has in­evitably ful­filled my taste. His work is so artis­tic, es­pe­cially his ab­stract-style works. The com­po­si­tion of the lines seem very ef­fi­cient, the use of col­ors is also spe­cific. His aes­thetic sense makes him special.” Be­sides com­ment­ing on the artis­tic point, Tan is also in awe of Handiwirman’s per­son­al­ity. “I think my mis­take is I never re­ally asked much about the back­ground of his art­work cre­ation. I feel this ec­stasy when I am stand­ing in front of his works.there­fore, I don’t re­ally care about the rea­son be­hind it, be­cause I al­ready love the works, in­stead,” he claims.

As stated by Si­mon Tan, Handiwirman al­ways

ex­presses the prob­lems he went through his daily life. ex­pe­ri­ence, anx­i­ety, some­thing that draws his at­ten­tion among oth­ers, are ex­pressed ex­actly like he wants in his own way and his own taste. “Most of the times, the ti­tles of his works also sound like non­sense, how­ever it does not mean that the words are mean­ing­less. The words cre­ate new mean­ings for him,” Tan ex­plains. The ti­tles of Handiwirman’s works meant by Tan are such as Ujung Sangkut Sisi Sen­tuh, Tak Ber­akar Tak Beru­jung, Tu­tur Karena Air Mata and so on. “In short, I like Handi be­cause his works are imag­i­na­tive, artis­tic, per­sonal, sen­si­tive and the ideas he con­veys are be­yond reach. He be­comes ex­tra­or­di­nary be­cause he is be­yond the reach. He is solid; some­one has to think in or­der to un­der­stand his works,” he ex­plains.

Once Handiwirman vis­ited Tan’s house lo­cated in Se­marang, and he started weep­ing when he saw his own works. Tan thought that the artist was touched when he was look­ing at his col­lec­tions. Yet, when he asked him, “Handi an­swered, ‘I am re­mem­ber­ing the times when I made those works. I won’t be able to go back and do it again.’”

Ac­cord­ing to Tan, he was ex­ces­sively lucky that he got to know Handi at the per­fect time when the In­done­sian art In­dus­try had not re­ally un­der­stand his works yet. Now that Handiwirman has started mov­ing on from ab­stract, his paint­ings look more re­al­is­tic. “Handi is now eas­ily ac­cepted in mar­kets be­cause he’s liv­ing a steady life. And when an artist has a steady liv­ing, it means that other peo­ple who also live in steady life (col­lec­tors) will also rec­og­nize him. He was one of the mar­ginal peo­ple, not only in mar­ket but also in achiev­ing his life goals,” says Tan.

Not only in gal­leries, but Handi’s art­works are also spread in al­most ev­ery cor­ner of the house, em­bel­lish­ing al­most all part of the walls. For Tan, there is no par­tic­u­lar strat­egy in ar­rang­ing art­works in his house. He sim­ply tries to put them in such an or­der so that the walls do not look over­crowded, leav­ing some spa­ces to “breathe”. On the sec­ond floor which is the area of main bed­room and kids’ bed­room, there are five paint­ings that are nicely

dis­played. A cou­ple of paint­ings on blue and pink round can­vas are put strate­gi­cally. each of them is placed in front of the bed­rooms of his son and daugh­ter re­spec­tively. Step­ping down the main stair in­side the house head­ing to the ground floor, Mella Jaarsma’s pho­tog­ra­phy work greets us. It might be the only work hang­ing on the wall that is not Handiwirman’s cre­ation. This pho­tog­ra­phy art­work is di­vided into three sep­a­rated frames, giv­ing a dif­fer­ent vibe from the traver­tine wall back­ground.

Whenasked about his fa­vorite art­work, with­out a doubt Tan an­swers while point­ing at the paint­ing in­side the foyer on the turn­ing area from the main door head­ing to the liv­ing room. “His work at that mo­ment had quite a lot of col­ors and lines painted on the can­vas. But this one is dif­fer­ent. It does not have a lot of lines and shapes. The ob­ject looks like a sim­ple draw­ing of a tongue; but like a tongue, it is ac­tu­ally an in­cred­i­bly com­plex ob­ject. The com­po­si­tion of its lines is also ex­treme: in­cor­po­rat­ing the curved ones and the firmly straight ones. Very artis­tic,” he ex­plains while look­ing at the paint­ing with an ad­mir­ing stare. And of course, the paint­ing en­ti­tled Bu­ruk which won the phillip Mor­ris Art Award in 1998. It has ac­tu­ally been a long time since Tan bought Handiwirman’s art­work, although he says: “More or less, 80% of Handi’s works might be mine.” Handiwirman’s art­work which now is lean­ing into re­al­ism does not catch his eyes as much as the ab­stract one.

Among Handiwirman’s art­works, a num­ber of Anusap­ati and S. Teddy sculp­tures are also dis­played in strate­gi­cally in his house. He also shows sev­eral Bob Sick’s paint­ings that he have not been dis­played yet. “I was given a lot of paint­ings by Bob Sick be­cause he said ‘it is only you who can ap­pre­ci­ate my works,’” he adds.

At the end of our visit, Tan leaves us some tips in start­ing a col­lec­tion of fine art our­selves. “Start with af­fec­tion and love. Be your­self. Find out what type of art you like and where your taste usu­ally leads you, then find the im­por­tant and re­spon­si­ble artists with a good record ac­cord­ing to your taste, and those are the artists whose works you want to buy,” he ex­plains. He then con­tin­ues by giv­ing him­self as an ex­am­ple. “For in­stance, I like sur­re­al­ist paint­ings, thus I look for the great and im­por­tant sur­re­al­ists who are ac­knowl­edged by in­de­pen­dent art in­sti­tu­tions,” he states. How­ever, what if the art we like is too ex­pen­sive to buy? “We def­i­nitely have to know our lim­its and ca­pa­bil­ity. And, the artist who works on a par­tic­u­lar style or the one we like can’t be merely the only one,” he an­swers.

“So, be your­self, learn a lot, see a lot. And the most im­por­tant thing is to buy an art­work. Be­cause you train your­self and you learn by buy­ing art­works. If you ex­pe­ri­ence the risks, the ex­cite­ment, and ev­ery­thing in it, then you will be­come smarter. You can’t just be some­one who’s watch­ing from the side­line all the time to start col­lect­ing,” he says, end­ing our con­ver­sa­tion on that lovely evening.

A pri­vate art gallery oc­cu­pies the third floor of Si­mon’s house; Some parts of an art­work of Handiwirman; Si­mon Tan and his wife, Henny Mu­lia.

Anusap­ati’s sculp­ture is placed strate­gi­cally

with Handiwirman’s

paint­ings hang­ing on the


Bu­ruk by Handiwirman, is one of Tan’s fa­vorite art­works in his house. Hence its po­si­tion at the house’s foyer.

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