Sugiri Willim, sparrow

"Have no fear, then; you are of more consequence than many sparrows."
Matthew 10 : 31

Focusing on the Essential

August 21, 2014

A small bird rests at the feet of the crucified Christ; even the smallest of creatures are not spared from His protection. How much more for humans, who are capable of more of things. Indonesian visual artist, Sugiri Willim takes comfort and inspiration from this thought. He is driven by a sense of purpose to share his God-given talents.

Suguri was born to a Buddhist family. He was first introduced to Christianity when he entered a Christian school. Later he fell in love with a girl (who became his wife). She told him about the Christian way of life. He fell in love with it too! Then he got married not only with his wife but also with Jesus.

Sugiri is a self-taught artist but had a natural artistic talent. He started with pencils and watercolors then later moved to oil paint. He experimented with the use of sponge in application of acrylic paint. It resulted in a unique stipple-effect that became a feature of his works. Another interesting characteristic of his works is that they are painted on round canvasses. For Sugiri, the circular shape is an allusion to Christ's omnipresence. Human and animal figures are used as subtle representations for different social conditions or events.

"Yohannes 8:7"
acrylic on canvas, 60cm diameter, 2014

TOP: "Matthew 10:31"
acrylic on canvas, 50cm diameter, 2014

*Click on image to enlarge
Sugiri's artworks often take inspiration from contemporary issues in Indonesian society. His work "Yohannes 8:7" was based on his opinions on a crucial political event in his country. It reminded of a passage from John 8:7:

and they kept on questioning Him He raised himself and told them, "Let the sinless one among you throw the first stone at her".

This verse refers to an event when some Pharisees tried to frame Jesus. They made Him judge an adulterous woman; and this (John 8:7) was His response. The peacock feathers recall the imperious nature of the Pharisees and the politicians. The composition invites the viewers to see themselves as holding the stone. It makes them reflect on their actions; on whether they are sinless enough to hurl the stone at other people.

His other work "Matthew 10:31" is for people who are always worrying about mundane matters. It is also based from his personal experience. Last year his wife was confined in the hospital for three months. The surgeon accidentally cut through her intestines. During his time of distress the passage from Matthew 10:31 became a source of encouragement. In this passage Jesus reassured his disciples that he will provide and protect them as they go through their mission.

Like a camera's view finder, Sugiri zooms in to the details. The framed images are devoid of setting and the human figures are given no faces. The lack of a recognizable time, venue and person in Sugiri's paintings seem to place his images nowhere and anywhere at the same time. It seems to suggests a recurrent or even unchanging condition that occurs across space and time.

Sugiri considers it his mission to be a messenger through his art. He recognizes the enduring relevance of the Bible. For this reason he depicts present conditions intertwined with Biblical passages. Through this method he hopes to remind his viewers about the purpose that drives their life.