A Chat with Teguh Ostenrik

Known for his sculptures in St Mary of the Angels, paintings in the Fukuoka Art Museum and on the Berlin Subway, artist Teguh Ostenrik shares how he found Christ while sketching for the Pieta.

Even before Teguh Ostenrik was baptised, he was already creating Christian artwork for churches. He is best known in Singapore for his uplifting sculpture of Christ floating with triumphantly outstretched arms above the congregation at Church of St Mary of the Angels in Bukit Batok (SMOTA).

For the celebrated artist, this was his first expression of Christ in his art and it became a catalyst for his search of the divine. Following this, he was commissioned to sculpt the 14 Stations of the Cross. He recounted that while he was making sketches for the Pieta (the 13th Station) at 4 a.m., his tears started falling inexplicably. Yet, Teguh was still not quite ready to become a believer.

smota1
Sculptures around the Church of St Mary of the Angels, crafted by Teguh

One day he was sitting with his wife in his garden in south Jakarta. She mentioned out of the blue that she wanted to become a Catholic. He felt like he had been slapped in the face. As it turned out, thoughts about becoming a Catholic had been chiseling away at his conscience, which he had kept hidden from everyone. He knew there and then that he had to be baptised; he became a Catholic on Easter 2011.

“I am now a tool of the Holy Spirit.”

Since baptism, Teguh continues to experience a profound change in his approach to art. Before becoming a believer, he felt “funny” and was puffed up with pride whenever he visited SMOTA and saw the faithful praying before his sculptures around the Parish.

After finding Christ, a similar scene today elicits a different response. In a certain sense, he feels like he has “returned home”. Now, when he works, he shares that his hands are “guided by a spiritual force”. In a certain way, he has learnt how to surrender to the Lord. He says, “I am now a tool of the Holy Spirit.”

As a painter and sculptor, doing good works becomes literal for him. He has cast foot-long stainless steel crucifixes for a church fundraiser. Moving up the scale, he has completed a five-metre Corpus Christi sculpture for a Catholic church in Cilangkap, Jakarta.

corpuschristijakarta
A Corpus Christi sculpture at 5.3m high is made completely from scrap metal. This sculpture is a commissioned work for St John Maria Vianney Church in Cilangkap, Jakarta. Photo: teguhostenrik.com

This latter project was crafted from scrap metal. The use of discarded material alludes to Christ’s humble origins. It is also an indirect reflection of how today’s society generates excessive waste, echoing Pope Francis’ call to be mindful of ecological destruction and environmental preservation.

Teguh is also known for the ongoing ARTifical Reef project in Lombok, Indonesia which he started in 2014. This involves submerging a metal sculpture electrified with low voltage into the sea. As minerals are deposited onto the sculpture, an artificial reef is created over time. Through art, with science and engineering, Mother Nature is restored. Here, Teguh uses his sculpture in a practical way, heeding Pope Francis’ call to heal the Earth.

IMG_2427_zpskfydeno8
An underwater installation of “Domus Musculi” which means House of Mussels, as a remembrance of what Teluk Jakarta has been famous for: its mussels, which nowadays are no longer exist due to heavy pollution. Photo: teguhostenrik.com

By Benjamin Szeto

Top photo: Committee members with Teguh Ostenrik (fourth from left) at the opening of the Angelico Art Award Exhibition. 

2018-02-08T11:55:20+00:00Encountering God, Faith in Action|