The Indonesian contemporary art scene has been bombarded by the presence of young artists working in variety of styles, with works reflecting the issues of their era. This exhibition attempts to assemble fifteen young artists from four creative areas namely Bali, Solo, Semarang, and Bandung. These artists from four cities were selected not for political reasons or to form an axis, but the locations presented in this exhibition will provide a map that represents a overall view of the ongoing development of the arts in each of these areas.
First, art on Bali has so far been recognized as a representation of its cultural identity. However, since the beginning of the millennium a re-evaluation is taking place not only at the level of discourse but also in the artists’ awareness as presented in their works. There was a period where Balinese art demonstrated its “Baliness” through iconography and its cultural symbols and became a trend followed en masse by Balinese artists. Today, however, representations showing icons and cultural symbols appear to have lost their appeal to the younger generation of artists.
Second, in the past the Indonesian art scene has not heard any resounding echoes from the Semarang art community. Not many artists from Semarang have been seen in the visual art movements but nowadays the ripples produced by the art community are growing continuously stronger through the presence of young artist who bring forth new exciting ideas that appear relatively distinct from the general trends. This change came about through the emergence of several communities of young artists who regularly initiate, manage and organize exhibitions at their own cost. In spite of the small scale, these exhibitions that are held routinely have succeeded in producing a substantial impact and provided a meaningful contribution to the art dynamics in the city of Semarang.
Third, in spite of the existence of the Indonesian Institute of Fine Arts in Solo, that has for some time opened a visual art department, not many are aware of the emergence of young artists in this city. Upon delving deeper in the situation, however, one will notice that in the Solo art scene, too, some new creative movements have emerged where young artist are actively gathering initiatives in visual art. Although they have to cope with infrastructural limitations in fine ats, these young artists have initiated new activities. The ideas they offer are quiet interesting and relatively capability of becoming alternatives in the discourse of fine art.
Fourth, Bandung paintings are presently going through an era of awaking from quite a long sleep from a stigma that was typical to Bandung, particularly because the Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB), said to be the “laboratory of the West”, has been producing formalist-abstract works in which one can sense the strong formal influence absorbed from the western schools of art. Since the last two years, however, fine art in Bandung has seen a new growth caused by the emergence of young artists with new ideas that have become a relatively strong reference in the discourse of contemporary art. It is indeed in line with Bandung’s character that finds its roots in the strong traditional discourse of its fine art educational system at ITB along with a change in orientation from the formal modernist discourse toward post-modernism. These movements in discourse and creativity has strongly colored the creative awareness of the young Bandung artists.
Made Muliana usually called Bayak by his friends, present paintings developed using a stencil or mimeograph technique using art objects that were his previous works. His works entitled Made In China Toy (repainted the object series) and The Sounds of Penggorengan (=frying pan) (repainted the object series) are paintings of art objects he produced in the past. Those objects were constructed using material such as a doll made in China, a frying pan, wood, a nose mask and a helmet.
As with Bayak, Handy Hermansyah from Bandung also did the same thing namely produce paintings of his three dimensional art works which he constructed from fruits, vegetables, fish, tempe, tofu (bean curd), etc. Before taking up painting, Handy produced three dimensional art works from food material from which he constructed a fish with fins made of vegetables or bananas, or a piece of tempe assuming a human pose, or a car made of tempe, and others.
In the two-dimensional realm Agung Fitriana also worked in a similar manner. While Bayak and Handy are producing paintings of their three dimensional art works, Agung is painting scraps of words and sentences that were written on a white board and subsequently erased. This resulted in images of colors, lines and text, which he then painted back on canvas. In his works Agung shows indices that invite the viewer’s curiosity to read what was written. As a matter of fact, the objects that Agung presents in his paintings are things we often see, ordinary objects that may be considered junk. But in Agung’s paintings these neglected objects draw our attention, such as erased text that touches our memories together with the faint colors left behind by erased markers producing attractive aesthetic visual effects .
Kiki Rizky Soetisna Putri or Kimung as her friends call her is showing something else again. She paints objects such as electricity cables and poles, such ordinary objects that we see around us, entangled in a mess, on the streets and buildings. Things so ordinary, it would never enter our mind that a cluster of cables turns out to produce certain sensations in us. Kimung again presents us with a series of electricity cables (that may have appeared to us merely as something that pollutes our view of the sky above) that have become aesthetic objects reminding our imagination of certain past experiences.
Repainted objects (paintings of art objects) as produced by Bayak, Handy, Agung, and Kimung “present a dimension of interobjectivity in the relationship among the objects” quoting Bambang Sugiharto. It is almost unthinkable that those objects that are actually so common and ordinary in our daily life, can contain such high aesthetic value. Repainting such objects may have a deeper meaning of “restoring the auras of those objects” (Bambang Sugiharto),and the relationship between the objects and their interrelationship with our daily activities. It appears as if being reminded that basically our relevance and relationship with those objects have become an integral part of our daily life.
Urban and Identity
Cundrawan presents us with a portrait of an urban city by painting a landscape of the city of Denpasar with its Balinese architecture standing side-by-side with shop houses together with their name boards and products. In his picture Cundrawan depicts two figures namely that of an older person and a child. The two figures that appear photographed from the rear or from the side play a central role in Cundrawan’s paintings, in addition to the separation between a detailed realistic technique applied in painting the figures and a sketching technique for the colored background. In his painting entitled 24 hours” Cundrawan even dramatized the presence of the two human figures, where he presents the figure of a Caucasian holding his child in his arms while walking on the sidewalk in one of the corners of Kuta area. Next to the figure is a sketchy painting of a motorcycle riding around whereas the name board of Circle-K, a 24 hour open shop, and various billboard are shown with realistic clarity while keeping the other parts blurred. Cundrawan is intentionally creating a depth between the figures and the urban city landscape showing, albeit blurred, Bali’s identity in its architecture.
Whereas Cundrawan’s paintings show two dramatized figures of an older person and a child while focusing on the urban landscape, a similarly searching context is presented by Wayan Hendra Kusuma in his paintings but within a different context. Hendra focuses more on portraying the interaction of man within an urban space, particularly a busy main street without thereby placing importance to the identity of the city. Instead he emphasizes the interplay between the figure (object) painted realistically and a digital image in the background with a blurred and fuzzy effect. The focus that he takes does not originate from a photographic camera, but with the help of computer effects. An interesting emphasis in Hendra’s paintings is the focus of the picture such as an old female vendor walking next to her bicycle while being passed by a car and a motorcycle both intentionally painted blurry. In another painting Hendra presents a driver and his Dokar, a two wheeled, horse driven cab that are still found on the streets of Denpasar. This type of traditional transport vehicle is purposely allowed to operate in line with a city administration’s policy as part of the city’s cultural heritage for the benefit of tourism in Denpasar.
Gede Arta’s paintings are slightly different from Cundrawan’s and Hendra’s, the latter both focusing on representing urban life. In contrast Gede is more attracted to scenes in the rural areas. In a village in Kintamani he portrays a figure of a Pekak or old wrinkled grandfather who still appears strong and fit. The figure of aon old grandfather whose face and appearance indicate that he is still productive and capable of working the land. Gede also realistically depicts the figure of the old grandfather while leaving the background blurred showing mountains that are characteristic to the geography of the Kintamani area. The picture of the old grandfather, strong and sturdy, portrays a person who is still capable of performing productive work on the field demonstrating his capability of survival. Here Gede presents the simple and uncomplicated side of Bali’s beauty as an area blessed by being a touristic heaven.
Depth as presented by the three artists, shows the tension that exists to this day as a result of the urban conditions on Bali. This depth often presents a paradox between the modern and traditional both existing side by side with their own respective system of values, as well as a modified traditional in line with the growth of tourism and its implications resulting from the social economical advancement.
Still around the urban problem, Ahmad Basuki from Semarang is demonstrating that with digital processing and manipulation of contrasting color compositions he can produce strong effects. As to content, Basuki is portraying the activities of workers in a plastic factory where he is also working, whereas the other three artists play with sharp realism combined with fuzzy images to create depth. Hence, Basuki’s works that are not entirely realistic – are not meant to show depth, his boldness in using a strong red in his painting Employee #3 can be considered rather as a search of visual effects than representing its content. The color red used to dominate the background abruptly has become central in this work, in addition to the artificial trickling intentionally added, succeeded in creating an increasingly attractive visual effect.
In his paintings, Adam Wahida is “playing” with visual symbols taken from the daily environment such as batik symbolizing the city of Solo (Central Java), a muslim head scarf and fashion, as well as other symbols. In his painting “Kudung (Ter) kurung” Adam presents a local cultural dilemma namely batik as part of the existing traditional garment (Solo) in its relevance to muslim female dress. Adam places these symbols in a row and composes their relevance to issues which he is attempting to put forward, although those symbols do not directly speak about those issues. Adam intentionally plays with a frontal composition wrapped in two different symbols positioned next to each other in order to find their relevance. Adam presents a reality that we are facing today by showing the two symbol next to each other, regardless of their relevance and their differences, they both compete for recognition and demanding attention.
The World of Images
Singgih Adi Prasetyo presents figures which he names Okto, in the form of bees that in their course of life undergo an evolution. During a certain phase hands and feet grow out of the body, and they even talk. Okto can also perform various activities, they can play and can act like human beings. In his works Singgih is saying that “this is the initial stage in Okto’s life” an imaginary being he created following his experience of being stung by a bee. Nobody expected that this experience made such an impression on Singgih inspiring him to create the figure of Okto.
Mochammad Salafi Handoyo “Rido” shows images about the world of children, full of freedom and happiness. This was the most important feeling he experienced in his life when he had a child. This experience awoke an conscious awareness and aroused his imagination about his own childhood experience, which subsequently brought forward an awareness in his creations. Rido attempts to reconstruct his childhood experience through his position as a father. Slowly and one by one he compose those memories and realities into his paintings, ultimately resulting in collages comprising figures of clowns, little children, a ball, a bicycle, a dog, a cat, and a playhouse positioned side by side in his paintings. Adding bright and contrasting colors, he integrates them with a drawing technique using a ballpoint pen thereby creating a distinct character in his works.
Dewa Wirya obtained his inspiration from “melayangan” or flying kites according to Balinese tradition that originated from an agricultural culture and grew into a yearly festival. Like most children raised in the Balinese culture Dewa used to enjoy playing with kites in the rice fields with friends of his age and even with adults. In his further development, this kite flying tradition gave birth to a creativity and an art of its own. Kites are now seen in a variety of creative forms and during the festival this creativity is presented and evaluated for their creativity and subsequently given an award. Dewa raised this artistic creativity of the kite-flying festival in his works, the artistic forms considered different from “serious” art. In his painting Dewa presents a conventional Bebean kite and also a creative kite in the form of Patrick, a cartoon character from the animation series SpongeBob loved by children.
Tri Wahyudi, a young artist from Solo presents sketches of stories about weddings and of loneliness that she tells through naïve cartoon characters of her own creation. Those characters she created although they appear quite attractive with their shapely bodies and wide eyes, in fact they do not look funny and even tend to come across as being satirical. Trough these characters Yudi means to present the issue of urban young children full of paradoxes with passion and joy in which another side is hidden containing fear and terror. If this is not clearly recognized it will culminate in negative implications for the future generation. Yudi presents quite unique contents, unlike other paintings that contain strong contents. In her works Yudi is able to present form and content that together are no less in strength.
Rofikin from Semarang presents an apple, a banana and a mannequin in close interaction playing with the apple in entangled lines resulting from the effects of colored strokes. The effects of these strokes form a composition of twisting lines that cross and meet each other thereby creating imaginary spaces which sometimes appear real.
Tradition and the Digital Era
Irfan Winoto “Dechan” brings forward a traditional wayang (shadow puppet) story with its characters such as Hanuman (the white monkey from the Ramayana epic), Dursasana, and others presented in a setting of digital games. He converts the setting of the story into the realm of a Sega computer game (the earlier 2D games version) and presents it on canvas. His painting about the wayang game is quite interesting as it provides us with images about what it would be like seeing them on a monitor screen. It is as if these static scenes shown as wayang games in most of his paintings are able to draw us into a limitless space of imagination, not our physical selves but our minds.
Close to Rido, Ratri Inayatul Basyarah also presents images from her childhood through cartoon figures describing scenes where she played with her friends. Interesting about Ratri’s painting is that she shows the figures of children in overlays with ornaments that became the background of her work. In her works Ratri shows layers, in which the first layer shows figures of children and the second layer ornaments. Ornaments are considered a decorative tradition and a crime in modern art. The two layers are painted as overlays and emphasize the decorative character of her paintings.
The paintings of artists presented in this exhibition not only represent a search for visual effects and techniques, but they also show contents taken from issues they encounter every day.
Translated by: Eddie R. Notowidigdo