Sun, 07 Mar 1999

Animals are the prima donnas of painters' fantasies

By Lilia Syarif Naga

JAKARTA (JP): Voltaire (1694-1778) once said, "Animals have these advantages over man: they never hear the clock strike, they die without any idea of death, they have no theologians to instruct them, their last moments are not disturbed by unwelcome and unpleasant ceremonies, their funerals cost them nothing and no one starts lawsuits over their wills".

Voltaire's envy is definitely understandable, since it is obvious that animals are the most spirited and dynamic as well as the most spontaneous creatures in the universe. As a matter of fact, animals are involved in substantial areas of human life: as friends, enemies, or as nourishment.

Untold books, songs, artworks and other kinds of praise have been dedicated to animals.

Many artists have sculpted, painted and visualized creatures great and small in all manner of mediums. The attraction is logical: since the beginning of time, animals have provided an inexhaustible supply of forms, of shapes, of inspiration for artists.

Satwa Sang Primadona (Animals the Prima Donna) is an exhibition with an animal-based theme currently showing at Santi Gallery in South Jakarta.

Works have been selected from 11 prominent Indonesian artists: Lee Man-fong, S. Baharrizki, Robby L, I Wayan Asta, Ayung (Lim Hui Yung), Lucia Hartini, B. M. Wibisono, Ketut Sepi, Dwijo Widiyono, Josephine Linggar and Tio Tjay. The exhibition at the elegantly decorated gallery was opened by Christien Suriadjaja, a well known art lover.

Santi, who represents the gallery, said the joint exhibition was expected to encourage Indonesian artists to continue to be creative and productive in spite of the ongoing economic crisis. She believes that artists have an ability to respond to any circumstance in an imaginative manner.

Despite leaner circumstances, art exhibitions have continued to be held in major cities throughout the archipelago, with the public remaining as appreciative as ever and sales reportedly as encouraging as figures 18 months ago.

Agus Dermawan T., the renowned art critic commented that works depicting animals are gaining popularity in Indonesia, with some painters -- following the trend -- developing a niche market in the field.

Delineated mainly in a realistic style, a menagerie of creatures are depicted: cat, fish, bird, leopard, lion, monkey, dog, rabbit, chicken, duck, tiger, deer, elephant, horse and many more.

All the artists share a uncanny ability to delineate their chosen creatures, such that this reviewer was astonished at their ability to mimic nature so accurately.

Their vivid illustration is further enriched by the placement of their subjects in a range of spirited and playful poses. Each creature is distinctively realized on canvas. As a result of the artists' highly skilled techniques, the images exude warmth and affection and sometimes evoke hilarity.

Some of the works can even transport the viewer to a mythical dream land.

Balinese painter, Wayan Asta, is one of these magical painters. His artistic skill was developed under his uncle, the maestro Nyoman Meja. For some time I Wayan Asta has devoted his canvases to images of monkeys. Here he presents many of our simian friends in neat and intricate detail.

This enchantment is also traceable in the works of Ketut Sepi and Lucia Hartini. The two painters -- who are exceptions to the realist mode which holds sway -- depict their creatures in a surrealistic and tranquil manner.

S. Baharrizki, Robby L, Josephine Linggar, Ayung and Dwidjo Widiyono and Tio Tjay are masterful in their realization of perfect anatomical description and posture.

The artists use a variety of mediums. Some use oil and canvas while some others prefer ink, acrylic, water color on canvas, paper or board.

B.M. Wibowo submitted a unique piece made of fiberglass while all works by I Wayan Asta involve ink on canvas.

The influence of an oriental style is very strong in the artworks of Lee Man-fong and B.M. Wibisono, both of whom coincidentally chose the same subject matter: smooching birds.

Works of an entertaining nature were offered by I Wayan Asta, Robby L, and Ayung (Lim Hui Yung). The images have striking names like KKN (corruption, collusion and nepotism) Awards, Don't Move, Partai Bebek-Bebek Iseng (Playful Duck Party), Gerakan Bebek Asuh (Coopted Ducks Movement) by Ayung, and Balap Motor (Motorcycle Race), Tarik Tambang (Tug of War) from I Wayan Asta and Satu Kali Rp 1.500 (Rp 1,500 for once) from Robby L.

Indonesians use the expression bebek (duck) to refer to someone who will agree with their boss no matter what.

This enchanting exhibition will entrance not only animal lovers, but all visitors.

Part of the proceeds from the exhibition will be donated to the Citra Baru Foundation, an organization which works with the disabled community.

The exhibition runs to March 14.