Farhan Siki is an urban artist whose acquaintance with art doesn’t come primarily from formal art education; his background includes history and language. Farhan’s art projects in public spaces – often startling in that the artist works on them all by himself in months – leave almost no distance between artistic autonomy and the public space. This is indeed a new phenomenon in Indonesian art.
Since 1998, almost all Indonesian public-space art has involved Farhan Siki in initiatives, ideas and implementation. The visions of the public artists behind those projects are parallel with the critical perspectives of city planners that take note of the diminishing relationship between citizens and the city as an entity.
Following his gigantic mono-print of “Repertoar” (2003-2004) on unbleached cotton, Farhan has developed the tendency to give his panels more independence in generating little stories that reintroduce the image of human life in an urban setting represented by the mega city of Jakarta.
At this point we see the two major themes in his work. The more obvious is that his public art is based more on the intention to generate open communication or narratives connected with the issues taking place around where his works are conceived and executed. Yet, however much public space is available to house such communication and narratives, the urban environment still has its own varied appeals in the artist’s personal viewpoint.
In the works which could be taken as the continuation of his big theme of “Repertoar”, Farhan adopts more conservative media of panels or canvas for the execution of his idea of public (-space) art. Obviously, the spraying or stencil style has been snatched from the free urban street art; the texts seem to follow the forms that seem anomalous, without compromises or any definite ‘school’ just as in the case of graffiti, enamel paint leaving glows that suggest the dashing pace of the urban environment, and the adoption of lettering, cutting, printing, and spraying techniques reminds us of posters or ad banners – referencing the artist’s many years in the advertising industry.
In these big and small repertoires, we sense that urban experience is something fragmented, discontinuous, pain and pleasure juxtaposed from one moment to the next; all of them may simply exist as unconnected splinters. Such experience is offered by Farhan Siki in a thematic firmness and singleness, and his public-art ambition which keeps him boiling, even helps vitalize the small crater of his personality in these works.