Cinta Mati #6, from the series Cinta Mati
Val Wens is an Indonesian-born graduate of Fine Arts at Art and Design UNSW and currently resides in Sydney. His background in film informs his art practice that ranges from photography and video to performance. This series of 6 photographic self-portraits invoke the memory of early 20th century Russian avant-garde artist, Kazimir Malevich (1879-1939) whose painted compositions of geometric forms, frequently realised in white, red and black, explored a spiritual relationship to the world unencumbered by devotional imagery. Equally, Wens’ work pays homage to the type of contemporary performance practices in which the artist’s body is foregrounded through acts of endurance and audience participation, including the works of Marina Abramović (b. 1946) and her Indonesian student Melati Suryodarmo (b.1969).
Speaking about his photographs, Wens observes, ‘I have always been interested in what people believe; I question religious belief in the context of joking and role-play. My alignment with Malevich is a critique of the idea of spirituality and man’s superiority – of the male painter as the hand of God.’ 1.
The use of red tape, while providing the key to the photograph's formal and philosophical borrowings from Malevich creates a striking contrast against the black background and Wens’ own flesh. For as much as Wens’ work occupies itself with the ongoing tension between secular and spiritual concerns as manifest in global art history and contemporary Indonesian politics, this work alludes to the complex relationships that exist between religious taboo and sexual desire.
In Cinta Mati (Crazy Love) #1 Wens frames himself naked from the waist up. We are met with his unabashed gaze, assured and steadied by his own performance in front of the camera. As the series unfolds, Wens mitigates our gaze by enwrapping himself in red tape. The strong horizontal movement of the tape as it encircles Wens' face, in as much as it veils and conceals his identity from our gaze, it speaks to restraint, disguise and disfigurement that is both political and sexual.
1.Rachael Kent, Adri Valeri Wens: Cinta Mati, Mop Projects, 2012
pigment on silver rag paper
80.0 x 80.0 cm
Signature & date
Signed l.l.,verso, marker pen 'Adri'. Not dated.
Gift of Andrew Cameron 2018. Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program
Not on display
© Val Wens
Shown in 1 exhibition
Adri Valery Wens. Cinta Mati, MOP Projects Inc, 12 Jul 2012–29 Jul 2012
Referenced in 1 publication
Adri Valeri Wens: Cinta Mati, Sydney, (colour illus.). unpaginated