Born in 1975, Wisnu Sasongko began painting as an adolescent, and then enrolled in the Faculty of Fine Art Institut Seni, in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, graduating in 2002. He came to New Haven, Connecticut in 2004-2005 as the Paul T. Lauby artist in residence. Still an emerging artist, he has already exhibited in Asia, Europe and North America, and his work has been featured in several Asian Christian Art Association publications. A very prolific artist, he had nine exhibitions in one year while he was artist in residence in New Haven, and he was one of five artists featured in the 2007 exhibition, “The Christian Story: Five Asian Artists Today” at the Museum of Biblical Art (MOBIA) in New York City.
Sasongko differs somewhat from many other Asian Christian artists in that he rarely depicts biblical events or stories, placing more emphasis on precepts of the Kingdom of God, or infusing his work with redemptive content or Christian themes. His concerns have more to do with “…how Christian people apply love and ceremony to transform this culture.”
He has exhibited in Asia, Europe and the United States in the six years since, and continues to be a very prolific artist. Unlike many Christian artists, Sasongko does not depict traditional Christian iconography in the idioms or styles of his native country. His paintings and drawings are expressions of life as he experiences it, and they are often shaped by the religious conflicts taking place within Indonesia. His experiences as artist in residence at OMSC for a year in 2004-2005 were also influential, as he was able to visit some of the great museums of art in Chicago, Boston and New York.
I paint what I can see, what I can touch, what I can feel…I don’t want to paint the biblical stories because I’ve never seen them…As an artist, I can only imagine Jesus.
— Wisnu Sasongko
Wisnu was raised in a Christian home, but only became a practicing Christian in 1997. The spiritual and artistic mandates of his life were transformed, and he eventually began to express Christian themes in his work. Despite an initial conflict between faith and art, he now sees his talent as a gift, and not a burden. Wisnu has said, “I have a vision…God called me to share the spirit of love through art.”
His art functions within a framework of love and faith, but this does not prevent him from depicting harsh realities, nor from offering cultural and political critique. His work has met with some opposition in his homeland, and he freely admits that being a Christian and an artist in Indonesia is not easy. It is also difficult to express abstract theological concepts visually, but he strives to do so nonetheless, as one can discern from the titles of his many works. Wisnu continues to be involved with the ACAA (Asian Christian Art Association) and to exhibit internationally. He was one of five artists chosen for the Summer of 2007 exhibition “The Christian Story: Five Asian Artists Today,” held at the Museum of Biblical Art (MOBIA) in New York City.
More biographical information and critical appreciation can be found in the OMSC monograph on Wisnu Sasongko, Think on These Things: Harmony and Diversity, published in 2007. This book also includes a DVD showing Wisnu in the studio and talking about his life and work. You can also visit the artist’s YouTube page.