read more for more background
First name(s): Agus Siswanto
Place of birth: Jakarta (Indonesia)
Date of birth: 20 January 1978
Occupation: Illustrator/Graphic designer
Explanation “Among Friends” 1995.
The painting Among Friends was made by me somewhere in 1995.
It's a sober but clear picture in which I wanted to show guilt, shame and strength. The character in the front, whose face is only half-visible, seems to want to escape from the situation of the character behind him. This character looks straight forward into the emptiness of the canvas. His glance seems to be focussed. However, the viewer doesn't see what he is looking at with starry eyes. The rawness which is used to put the acrylic and oil paint on the canvas gives relief and shape to the environment of the two people. Both of them don't seem to be together in thoughts but definitely on the same side of the story on the canvas, the stage.
‘Among Friends' was painted by me at that very moment when I was insecure about the most important relationships I have had with the people in my immediate environment, people who are family and at the same time no family..
Oil paint/acrylic on cotton, 60 x 60 cm
I have a good relationship with my parents, unlike my brother who has distanced himself from them for a long time.
He too was adopted from Indonesia but had different biological parents.
My parents always made it very clear to us that we didn't have to be grateful for the fact that they had adopted us, and that it didn't go the way others may claim such as an expression of charity or something else, but simply because they wanted to have children.
However, they didn't make this clear to my brother or make him feel different about it. In his own words: “My parents gave me a permanent feeling of guilt--I felt like I had been removed from my original environment.”
This made me think differently and I can relate to the irreversibility of issues where feelings of guilt are created. The fact that two different personalities and individuals such as my brother and I were able to grow up in a similar situation but experience such different things created a lot of questions and doubts in my mind.
By definition, those questions and doubts were about integrity and honesty and the way it could be shown or enjoyed.
The main thing my parents were able to pass on was the feeling of being there for us unconditionally; it was their way of showing us their love for us.
But when will that stop and be no more? That is one of the obvious questions you ask yourself when you're a child, and become aware of the relationship with your parents.
You analyze your life; you're looking for acknowledgement and perhaps recognition. You experience how other people fare in their lives, how they deal with the problems of their youth, and how they are one with their origin. This was the world from up close. However, the well-known misery and poverty outside the nest was less distant than at first sight, since poverty was one reason that there was a possibility of adoption.
Wars and violence in the media showed me how people (sometimes neighbours) kill each other every day based on misunderstandings, dislikes or acquired religions and other theologies.
I looked at these situations in relation to mine. In a war situation in the Netherlands, who would fight for me and better still, whom would I fight for?
The reports and notifications of the conflicts in former Yugoslavia showed me that in my case I have no relatives in my immediate environment
The fact that I had to survive without any knowledge of my environment was something I didn't mind, but how would others think about it? My parents, family are on my side, but what would my chosen friends decide when the moment should come for them to chose to fight on the base of nationality, ethnicity, race or religion?
I felt and behaved as “a Dutchman”, however, I never was able to find the definition for that. Did I deny my origin by doing that? Or did I make the nationality mine (Dutch) so that Dutch people would find me greedy later? Those are questions I asked 14 years ago to which I have partially received answers.