Art with a message displayed in Yogyakarta
By Ahmad Solikhan
YOGYAKARTA (JP): To get their art exhibited for public viewing can sometimes be a daunting endeavor for young artists vying with one another for the limited available space.
While many exhibitions can be seen in the lobbies of large office buildings, some famous artists prefer to exhibit their works in galleries or even abroad, just for the sake of their prestige.
The Public Gallery of Comic Dispensary, locally called Galeri Publik Apotik Komik, has for the past three years made available public space on the outer gallery wall for works containing criticism for the period of one year.
This unique exhibition attracts those, young and old, who pass along Jl. Langenarjan Lor 2, some 2 km to the south of Yogyakarta Sultanate Palace.
In 1997, a mural comic painting exhibition titled Sakit Berlanjut (The Sickness Goes On) was held there. At that time, the painting on display depicted changes in the political situation, marked by the reform drive, the convening of the general session of the People's Consultative Assembly, the general election, the general election commission along with the difficult and twisted legal processes.
The mural comic exhibition this year explores humorist themes, full of criticism of present social and political situations.
A good example is the painting with the theme Labirin (Labyrinth) by Narpati Awangga. The graphic art student of the Indonesian Fine Arts School created a painting highlighted in bright colors. The 30-square-meter wall is filled with comics in acrylic-oils especially attractive to children. This fair-haired artist intentionally expressed his ideas in a way that would make it suitable for children.
Another painting, titled lifeinwhat, features vertical and horizontal lines forming a winding road in black and white. At the four corners of the painting, one can see the incumbent president and the three former presidents: Soeharwarhol (Soeharto) at the top right-hand corner, Guswarhol (Gus Dur), at the top left-hand corner, Habibwarhol (Habibie) in the lower right-hand corner and Soekarwarhol (Sukarno) in the lower right- hand corner.
In the middle of the lifeinwhat painting, there is a box leading towards power, which is surrounded by the devil's boxes. The only one failing to enter the box to power and consistently entering into the devil box was Soeharwarhol.
"This painting has nothing to do with politics, it's just a coincident that I placed the four presidents there," explained Awangga, the artist.
The four presidents, he said, were not free from criticism. The addition of the word "warhol" after the presidents' names is simply a reminder of the famous Andy Warhol, a legendary pop artist from New York in the 1960s to 1980s.
"There are many children playing through my works and they keep asking, 'why does Soeharwarhol always go into the devil box while others do not?', or 'is Soeharwarhol so ugly he has never been able to get into the power box?'" Awangga quoted the children.
Established in 1997 by Samuel Indratma, "Popok" Triwahyudi, Bambang "Toko" Witjaksono and Ari Dyanto, the comic gallery wants to do more. For instance, Indratma wants mural comics not only on the gallery's wall but everywhere.
"I've never felt satisfied with what has been done so far. I don't want anybody to say that GPAK (the comic gallery) has successfully reached its target," he said modestly.
Their main constraint is not money but mostly the fact that the artworks displayed on the gallery's wall are works of concerned artists.
"To display paintings, the artists do not need a large space in the middle of the city but rather how to make use of the existing public spaces without disturbing other people. The location must be right," Indratma said.