Artist Andy Wauman has fled these shores in search of the real Indonesia. He spoke to Tony Stanton about his latest ventures in life.
Andy, what have you been doing since we last spoke?
November last year I decided to stop shooting for brands and moved to Sumbawa with my wife. I shot over 40 campaigns worldwide and it was time to stop and to leave it to the next generation. We got our hands on 50 are of beautiful farm land in Alas Barat, and now we are in the middle of building a chili farm. The house is a traditional wooden rumah pangung on stilts, and in time we’ll most likely put the property on Airbnb so open-minded travellers can come and stay in our traditional house in the real Indonesia.
How did you guys meet?
I met my wife Baiq Dewi Yuningsih (she’s from the original Sasak tribe in Lombok) a few months ago and everything went on a rollercoaster. We travelled together all over Java, Lombok and other islands, and when we got back to Bali we got married. It’s been the most exciting time of my life. Some of the images you selected for this article are the result of my travels with my wife. Some of them where taken in Malang, in the Mount Bromo area, Sidoardjo, Sumbawa, Lombok …
Why did you leave Bali?
Honestly it had just got to the point where it was really hard for me to witness what was/is going on. It took thousands of years to build this beautiful and one-of-a-kind culture and now it is completely overwhelmed and destroyed by fashion trends and yoga-headed vegan hipsters … now the surf jet set is kicking in … what is all the fuzz about? All these people running around like chickens trying to be cool for a moment. Real life is elsewhere.
What is it like living in Sumbawa? What is a typical day for you there?
I naturally wake up around 5am and I start my morning run while the sun rises beyond the mountains. If I don’t do my morning run I go for a swim in the ocean. After that I do a bit of stretching. I spend some time in our garden and water some parts of the land and my wife and I have a nice breakfast.
Every second day we go to the local markets to get fresh veggies and other foods. We grow most of the veggies and tropical fruits ourselves on our land. Lots of good fish here as it’s close to the Ocean. In the afternoon I do a bit of Yin Yoga and a bit of Hatha. The rest of the time goes to the property and my work. I’ve been reading into all aspects of Hinduism lately and fully studying everything related to Vedic culture, with full support from a university in Mumbai, India.
Recently I started doing pencak silat with a local master here in Sumbawa. After my skateboard career I went into tai chi and fencing for a few years and I started missing that, and pencak silat popped up. It’s been very inspiring. We use Kundalini energy to dance/fight/move and we meditate for hours in caves. Pencak silat was created by local tribes to defend humans from attacks by animals. It’s a beautiful tradition. My Master is trying to find me the right kris. Very exciting.
How has the move affected your work?
I redirected my energy back onto my contemporary art (www.andywauman.com). Lots of good stuff started moving around. I went into full focus on research and study of tribal cultures, anthropology, alchemy, Buddhism, Hinduism, Yogic culture, Vedic culture … my spiritual and devotional practice became more and more important to me and my contemporary art started shifting.
Just getting to your Gutterdust work, what is it you love so much about palm trees? Or the sea? Or the sand? Or any of the repeating themes you use?
The Palm Tree is a metaphor for my ‘Atman’, which is a Sanskrit word that means inner self or soul. In Hindu philosophy, especially in the Vedanta school of Hinduism, Atman is the first principle, the true self of an individual, the essence of an individual. In order to obtain liberation, a human being must acquire self-knowledge (Atman Jnana), which is to realise that one’s true self (Atman) is identical to the transcendent self Brahman. It’s part of the spiritual journey that I am on.
When I look back on what I did as an art director / film photographer for www.gutterdust.com I noticed thousands of shots of palm trees, shot on film all over the world during my travels. So I decided to turn Gutterdust into a Palmtree Collective. I closed my Instagram down, removed everything that was related to brands and launched a new website www.gutterdust.com with prints for sale. Everything has been shot on film, and as my friend Ano Mac wrote on the site, “knobs have been twisted, chemicals used and mechanical mistakes made”.
[He also wrote: “Splashed with light leaks, and the brush strokes of multiple over exposures the images are authentic and evocative with strong scents of summer breeze and fresh cut lawn. They are a refined collection of wonderfully tactile textures with a top-down wind-in-the-hair feeling that Gutterdust has developed into the Palmtree Collective.”]
I’m also about to launch several full editions (prints) with Exhibition A in New York and Twyla in Texas for the US market. Gutterdust Prints are already in a few hotels in the US and Europe.
What new directions have you taken?
I just had a big show in the Museum of Contemporary Art in Belgium, where I launched my most recent film ‘The Palmtree Diaries’, an experimental silent film shot on Super 8. [check it out here https://filmfreeway.com/projects/941594]
Again it forms part of the spiritual journey I am on. We have spoken about the Palmtree Collective aspect of my work, but the second layer in this film includes traces of spiritual writing, where I wrote elements out of ancient texts straight onto the film.
The third layer is a collection of sacred symbols from Vedic culture, Hinduism, Buddhism, combined with Runes, an ancient Germanic alphabet used for writing, divination and magic.
The film is reverently dedicated to all seekers of truth and lovers of wisdom.
Ok we’ll check it out. One final question – who were you in a former life, do you think?
That’s easy. In my former life I was a street dog.