Fandi Angga Saputra spent most of his childhood in Lampung, a province in the Southern tip of Sumatra in Indonesia, growing up in a modest family with a father who worked as a palm tree tapper and was surrounded by nature. He was also surrounded by advice; ways of looking at the world that went beyond just your normal parental or elder observations. Fandi recounts that his childhood was marked by Javanese proverbs, called “unen-unen”, which comes from the word “unen” meaning sound. Unlike the West, where the idea of proverbs seems to be an antiquated, if not distant, type of metaphorical advice or rule to live by, Fandi says “unen” can also be interpreted as a saying or speech, where the word indicates the importance of the person who utters it. Proverbs can find their way into everyday conversation, through stories told by our elders or instruction given by them. 

This is the title of his newest solo show at Thinkspace, UNEN-UNEN, his US debut. The imaginary characters are engulfed in otherworldly natural settings and magical places. Elements of nature, specifically flora and fauna, inspire all subjects in his paintings. In his artistic statement, Fandi speaks about how human relationships are similar to symbiosis in nature, particularly how each interaction can have a good or sometimes bad influence. Whether this comes from the advice of his elders or the way Fandi has internalized the proverbs he was told as a child, the responsibility to be a messenger himself seems to come through in UNEN-UNEN. We should all listen. —Evan Pricco