S. Teddy Darmawan (1970–2016)
By Lili Nishiyama
On May 27, Indonesian artist Stevanus Teddy Darmawan passed away in Semarang General Hospital after battling with cancer. Known by most as S. Teddy D, the news of his passing arrived on the same night as the opening of ArtJog9 in Yogyakarta where his fellow artists, and peers, paid tribute with a moment of prayer.
Teddy was born in 1970 in Padang, West Sumatra, Indonesia. His art education began in 1992 at the Indonesia School of Arts, Surakarta, then later to the Indonesian Institute of Arts in Yogyakarta (ISI) in 1997, where he studied painting and quickly became an exciting and vibrant fixture of the city’s art scene. He later went on to complete residencies abroad in both Germany (2000) and at the Australian National University in Canberra (2011).
The subject of a number of solo exhibitions throughout his prolific career, the artist regularly showed his work at Sin Sin Fine Art, Hong Kong (2010), the National Museum of Singapore (2009) CIGE, Beijing (2008) and also partook in numerous group exhibitions including at Tokyo’s Museum of Modern Art (2008) and Wallworks Galerie in Paris, France (2011).
Looking at Teddy’s legacy it seems there were few mediums the artist left untouched. From sculpture to performance to painting, the artist was known for his energetic, self-expressive works that often used humorous idioms to provoke a greater dialogue surrounding the deep-rooted social and historical issues of Indonesia. In his two-story installation, The Temple (2009) commissioned by the National Museum of Singapore, the artist stacked a series of pink army tanks covered in flower and heart prints, to create a tiered pagoda like those of Indonesian architecture. It was a confluence of east and west, symbols of war and peace, and an observation of his country’s violent past. The personal was also intertwined in his art, he often featured family and friends as figures in his work, and his symbolic language also extended to the ink inscribed on his skin—the artist was drawn to tattoos for their countercultural significance and as a form of personal emblem.
Speaking on the loss of her artist and friend, Sin Sin Man told ArtAsiaPacific, “Teddy once said, 'Art saves my life.' Creating art made him stronger, motivated him to live and enjoy life to the fullest. His honesty, directness and spontaneity are always inspiring me. He is an authentic artist without an ego, full of madness, with a huge heart always giving and sharing. He is a true gentlemen.”
At 45 years old, the multi-talented artist leaves behind a huge hole in the Indonesian art community and global art world.