University of rest and relax, Liem Keng Sien in retropsective


Liem Keng Sien (1954 – 2014) called his home cum studio the university of rest and relax, a creative place that goes unsupported by government, and unrecognized by public.

Less serious in nature, perhaps it is this aphorism “Art is long, life is short” where Keng Sien took an inspiration to create his final art series, interestingly, in the shape of many laughing expressions based on earth material, a notable shift of base materials from ceramics he was so well-known of.

And it is this back-to-nature pure art that the curator Nukila Amal and Hanafi tried to reconstruct the Salihara Gallery to the closest condition with the artist’s studio. Keng Sien’s works of faces, some disfigured, laid on sands, hanged on bricks, and stood in front of giant scribbles on the wall, a mockup of evidence found in Keng Sien’s studio.

Berhasil Lagi. Stoneware. 2012.
Berhasil Lagi. Stoneware. 2012.

The Jakarta-born Liem Keng Sien studied architecture in Brussels, Belgium in 1976 – 1980, during which he came across ceramics art, and moved to art faculty in ceramics in Leuven. Returning to Indonesia, he immediately set up ceramics workshop, and made his first exhibition with Indonesia Earthenware Union in 1983. Since then, not only he exhibited craftmanship, but also

a personal quest to understand the base material he use to make his art. Keng Sien actively went on excursion to geological sites across Indonesia to study the nature of earth materials. His first solo exhibition was entitled Bibit Untuk di Tengah (1997). He last made a clay joint-exhibition in 2012.

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