Wulang Sunu’s works, using a wide range of media, are filled with the bizarre and off-beat.  (Photo courtesy of Wulang Sunu)

Delving Behind the Boundless Imagination of the Artist Wulang Sunu


FEBRUARY 20, 2015

Still in college, Yogyakarta artist Wulang Sunu may be relatively young but his pieces evoke a mature conviction with their balance of joy, sorrow, and humor — all wrapped within the artist's grotesque, mildly cartoonish aesthetic.

Working with a number of different mediums, Wulang's talents have brought his art to international exhibitions in Sydney, the Netherlands, and Malaysia. He is most active, however and unsurprisingly, in his city's thriving art and design scene.

Having grown up, like most Indonesian twenty-somethings, on Japanese children's entertainment like Ultraman, Pokemon and Kamen Rider, Wulang's artistic endeavor began with peculiar imaginativeness.

Wondering how it would be if he had "friends" like those fantastical creatures and characters he was obsessed with, Wulang began drawing his imagined companions. Every day after elementary and middle school, Wulang would come home and immediately begin drawing, lunch and naps be damned. Though he began by mimicking his Japanese influences, he slowly tried to develop his own style, even if he didn't particularly know how it would turn out.

Things changed dramatically when he discovered the graphic novel" L'Ascension du Haut Mal " by David Beauchard. A tale that perfectly blended emotive personality with the fantastical, the novel, published in English as "Epileptic," turned Wulang's world around. From then on, his sense of composition and characters would follow the same aesthetic path, filled with the bizarre and off-beat.

"Through the novel, I found a different way to tell my stories, in such a fun way with creatures and monsters," he recalls.

In university, Wulang found further influence in established Yogyakarta artists such as Iwan Effendi and Eko Nugroho, all of whom also worked with similar sense of the absurd.

He also began delving deeper into recognized names such as Iranian-French graphic novelist Marjane Satrapi, multimedia artist Christopher Sickels, South African artist William Kentridge, and illustrator Allison Schulnik.

"I dove deep into 3-D animation, and those names really influenced the way I shape characters, story line and nuance," Wulang says.

To satisfy his imaginative mind, Wulang uses everything from charcoal, soft pastel, pencils, Chinese ink and various kinds of paint, to paper clay and wires to create his pieces. With that arsenal, he creates paintings, drawings and other artworks, his most recognized being his characteristic stop-motion films.

"Recently, I've really been focusing on water paint and ink. Water paint in particular because of its playful and unexpected nature, which I've used on my 'Desire' series," Wulang says.

"The series represents my exploration in creating characters based on human desires. How do you evoke those various desires into monster or creature forms?"

He also crafts masks from paper parts.

"Using these different objects to create with feels like you have a weapon arsenal to work with. The medium that you use will add another dimension to the piece; for instance, the way I drew Bocah Bau Matahari (The Boy Who Smells Like the Sun) on cardboard using charcoal and soft pastels, which was based on a chance meeting with a boy who had Down syndrome who I saw playing with a box."

Another important aspect of Wulang's art is his sense of humor, which he attributes to wanting to instill a sense of "fun" into his pieces, as well as his childhood spent watching comedy troupe Srimulat.

Wulang also spent time in a variety of Yogyakarta's numerous creative collective. One was the multi-platform Sip Club, and another is the increasingly respected Papermoon Puppet Theater.

For Wulang, the process of creation is an endless one. He continues to exhibit all around the country, both as artist and art director. While he still needs to finish his studies first, Wulang aims to indulge fully his art in the near future.

To learn more about Wulang and his art, visit Wulangsunu.tumblr.com.