Sun, 21 May 2000

Artist depicts series of tragedies through his art

By Ipong Purnama Sidhi

JAKARTA (JP): An artist usually expresses his emotions through his work. The artist Sunaryo reveals his anguish and anger regarding the series of tragedies that have stricken Indonesia in his latest works.

Two years ago, he held an exhibition entitled Titik Nadir, the Nadir Point. The exhibited art pieces were dominated by the color black, symbolizing darkness and uncertainty in his attempt to try and convey the agony of the May 1998 tragedy--the shooting, looting, killing and rape.

Sunaryo once wrote a kind of manifesto in which he said that he wrapped his art works in black cloth and would only uncover them if the sun rose in the east, meaning that the country was in peace and was prospering.

Now, in the year 2000, Sunaryo feels the need to exhibit his newest creations at Decorous, the Jakarta Design Center, an exhibit which will run through May 31.

The title of the exhibition is Puisi Titik Putih, the White Dot Poem. Sunaryo presents aesthetic issues similar to his previous exhibitions.

He has created an installation room and is artistically using various mediums in expressing his artistic ideas, ranging from ready-made objects, like Phillipe Stark's chair and lamp, to wood constructions, dry leaves, stones, twigs and video presentations.

Yet, the focus of the exhibition is the 30 paintings which share a thematic unity but which can also stand on their own.

The subject matter of the paintings are divided into various categories -- earth, sky, city life and then more abstract, metaphysical ideas involving spiritual enlightenment.

In his artistic explorations, Sunaryo has been influenced by the societal conditions in Indonesia.

He was not productive for quite some time, but, in a recent burst of creativity, he whipped out the 30 paintings that now comprise the meat of his newest show.

Entering the exhibit room, visitors are able to view three small paintings of cats, reminiscent of Popo Iskandar's cats.

The cat paintings are entitled Homage to Popo, and are dedicated to the painter Popo Iskandar who passed away recently.

The exhibition room is divided into three themes. The first theme is called Antara Bumi dan Langit, The Space Between the Earth and the Sky.

The spirit behind the theme is predicated on the notion of the space that exists between the earth and the sky, which is in many ways synonymous with the Chinese concept of balance, Yin and Yang.

In a painting entitled Nelayan, fisherman, he explores the concept of ancient Chinese pictography which divides the sky and earth into lines. What is above line symbolizes the sky while what is below the line symbolizes the earth.

He said that a line is a King's symbol which unites the earth and sky, fuses contrast and solves conflicts, creating harmony in the process.

Sunaryo has hung long fabric in several parts of the room to indicate the closeness between the earth and the heavens.

The second installation is comprised of five transparent chairs designed by Philippe Stark. The chairs have been placed on a wood platform.

Sitting on the chairs are five human figures made of transparent materials illuminated by sparkling blue lights, creating a dramatic atmosphere.

In the corner of the room, Sunaryo placed five silhouetted human figures portraying powerless people who think they still hold power.

Sunaryo might not have intended to create a political theme in this particular installation, yet it is quite apparently there nevertheless.

Sunaryo's third installation work stresses the theme of enlightenment.

He constructed a number of lamps wrapped in white cloth, resembling walled reliefs.

Opposite the lamps is a huge painting of spiraling lines and geometric shapes. There is a white rectangle shape in the piece which symbolizes Kaba in the Great Mosque of Mecca and are seen from a bird eye's view. The painting symbolically pictures a sea of people surrounded the Kaba.

Both in Titik Nadir (l998) and Puisi Titik Putih (2000), Sunaryo portrayed the social conditions in the country.

In Titik Nadir, displayed in his own gallery Selasar Seni Sunaryo in Dago Pakar area, North Bandung, two years ago, he explored his anger and disappointment. He wrapped his work in black cloth as a metaphor for his rage.

Curator Jim Supangkat said Sunaryo's approach to his art works, especially in terms of his concepts and ideas, reminded him of the works of artists Allan Kaprow and Joseph Beuys.

Physically, Sunaryo's stuff is closer to the Japanese artist Yasunari Kawabata, well-known for his pessimistic works.

For his current exhibition, it was strange to find him choosing a limited space with a low ceiling like that of Decorous.

But Sunaryo had his reasons.

"The small space inspired me to create the installation works," he said.

Sunaryo is well known as an artist who can master the vocabulary of arts.

He can also take various room elements and use them as inspiring and sometimes surprising art works.

Supangkat agrees that Sunaryo is not an essentialist in search of constancy. For him, the language of art is the most effective means of communicating the mystery of life and the cosmos.