Sun, 25 May 2003

Personal experiences emerge in imagined bodies

Carla Bianpoen, Contributor, Jakarta

At a time when the world is saturated with visual images, Cemara- 6 gallery here presents an exhibition on the theme of imagined bodies.

Curator Rifky Effendy reveals that the theme was inspired on Benedict Anderson's famous book, Imagined Communities, in which it is suggested that the nation is an imagined community, to be distinguished from other communities by the way in which it is imagined.

Of course imagining isn't without a basis: As some scholars have said, it will be affected by language, images and social practices constituting a dimension of the cultural heritage that may be hidden or unconscious, but present anyway.

One must also not forget the impact of the invention of the camera, print, TV and other advanced technologies that have caused the scope of imagining to broaden in the course of time.

The imagining of 12 artists of various age groups in the Cemara exhibition testifies to a manifold of impact that has affected their ways of seeing.

Mochtar Apin (1923-1994), who lived at a time when the European model dominated the world of art, epitomizes the artist who imagined bodies between the foreign and the local through the eye of the photographer, and the print, that has helped him construct his own ideal of the (female) body, mostly nudes.

For some, the mixed media paintings of Hendro Tjokro Dipo, 55, which have the allure of the traditional may intrigue by its mystique, while his bronze sculptures with the out-of-proportion long legs are esthetically interesting and appealing. A touch of the primitive is found in the mixed media on wood works created by Antonious Kho, 45, and Aryk or Sri Haryani, 42, while sculptures of George Timorason, 32, may remind of styles introduced by such renowned artists as Nyoman Nuarta and others. The imagining may be different, as does the technique used.

As 43-year-old Agus Djatnika unfolds his imagined bodies in a manner that appears transparent but requires close observation to distinguish their specific gestures, he draws the spectator into his way of imagining, which makes his acrylics on canvas particularly interesting.

Nugroho Anggoro, or Nungki, 46, leads us to the "hidden" worlds of the spiritual through his mixed media on canvas, in an arrangement of 12 panels that lyrically present his contemplations on the stone and forms of mother earth.

Perhaps the most remarkable in this exhibition of imagined bodies, are the bodies emerging not from the imagining, but from the depth of the artist's soul that is marked by personal experiences.

Lamat, 30, for instance, presents canvases filled with both realist and semi realist figures that tremble with pain. Figures crouched down like in Transitory Time or Modern Pain or a figure becoming one with a fence like in Strings, or a yellow body like in Soul I, they are "adorned" with stitches or wrapped with something that looks like garbled wire. And even if the colors are yellow, or yellowish red, the dripping of the paint denotes a pungent agony.

"Every time something happens, the wound that was, opens," explains Lamat. But apparently, there are also good moments, as we can see in Reaching Out (two panels) in which each panel has a person reaching out a hand to the other, and in the semi abstract Angel. All her works are oil paintings.

Like Lamat's the works of Betty Huwae, 40, are also in oil paintings, but it is the somber, almost oppressive colors and the sad melancholic expressions of the face that tell the personal story of a woman. Lover says one title featuring a young woman, but the yellow color is that of an overripe, almost decayed fruit. Bidadari Kupu Kupu (120 x 100), for instance has a naked upper body in which the busts stand out in a lighter color, and wings serve as the background, while the folds of a cloth cover the lower body. A dark hue of red dominates the picture, but the face is without expression.

"There are times in life that a woman comes to be pessimistic," says the artist. Her life is steered by the will of others, leaving an emptiness deep within, just like the butterfly that used to be admired for its beauty, but today what is left of that all. Walking Alone shows a figure holding an umbrella, with a suitcase waiting as if she was on the point of leaving. There are titles of more optimistic nature, like Openminded, Permata Hati, Chatting and Hope For, but even the baby has a sad face, and the colors remain somber, but are nevertheless appealing.

Anna Zuchriana, 37, as usual highlights discrimination of the ethnic Chinese, as she as experienced it. But this time she also adds the issue of gender discrimination in the experience of Inul Daratista, the popular dangdut star of the drilling dance.

It takes a thinker like renowned photographer Yudi Soerjoatmodjo, 39, to pay attention to the little things that most people take for granted. For Yudi, the bed is the place where his most intimate moments are spent, from a haven of rest, a refuge for tempering frustrations, to a place of indulging in dreams, and, of course, also to make love. How does his bed look like after he has been in it in his various "moods"? The Pillow Book, 2002-2003 shows six pictures with creases and crumples, including one with a woman's face.

In black and white photographs of families and adopted children, Valentijn Gabriel van Dijk (born as Tino Djumini in 1975), explores how various differences in the physical body give rise to exclusion.

Saraswati Dewi Djumario, 23, the youngest, is also the most active exploring new possibilities. Without any inherited burden, her bright and joyful works of imagined bodies radiate happiness.

A screen made of acrylic sheet and using stickers, See how much I love you shows silhouettes of her parents surrounded by letters forming the names of their children. Imagining her own body in several dance, she creates dancing figures, all using acrylic sheet, while experiments with abstract lines suggest this is not the end of her explorations.

The exhibition must be commended for highlighting the issue of imagining. However, the introduction in the catalog, may be too heavy for the general public.

Imagined Bodies; May 8 to May 31, 2003; Cemara-6 Galeri, Jl. HOS Cokroaminoto 9-11, Menteng, Central; Jakarta; Phone 324 505, 3911 823, 3918 761