Thu, 12 Feb 2004

Purple reflects love in Roedyat's paintings

Oei Eng Goan, Contributor, Jakarta,

The color purple -- not the title of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Alice Walker that depicts the struggle for survival of black American women -- but a mixture of red and blue colors, and which is dominant in the paintings of the late Roedyat Martadiradja.

Purple seems to have a special meaning to Roedyat and he has masterfully used it to depict the complexion of the women in his paintings, currently being displayed at the Library of the Mercantile Club at the Wisma BCA in Central Jakarta.

Painted in a realistic style with soft, overlaid brush strokes, the women exude tenderness, love and sympathy. He also used the color, obviously applied with stronger and darker tones, in coloring the women's clothes, be they the traditional kebaya, sarong or brassiere, as can be seen in his Dua Remaja (Two Young Girls) and Seorang Model (A Model).

Roedyat's painting skill can also be seen in Imajinasi Model (A Model's Imagination). Here, one can see his mastery of the human figure, done only in purple, black and white colors but nevertheless creating a three dimensional picture, in which the model remains the focus of the painting and the stone statues or relief stays in the depth background.

Just as a poet can link a feeling and rhythm of sounds, a painter should also be able to convey the duality of the imaginary as well as form. Roedyat has succeeded in achieving this quality in Imajinasi Model. Not only did he realistically delineate the subjects in his painting, but he also instilled the characteristics and "soul" in them.

While the purple color used for the model reflects the smooth and sensuous skin of a woman, the same color applied in different hues in the statues, however, gives the impression of massive objects.

The model, obviously a Balinese woman judging from her chignon, as well as the background depicting a scene of the Ramayana epic. It shows the painter's love for the island of Bali, on which he had spent many years during his wandering and soul-searching period.

This painting, to a certain extent, also affirms Roedyat's stature as one of Indonesia's noted symbolist painters who have used their creations to protest social injustice and the use of violence to achieve one's goal as well to symbolize a woman's love and loyalty to her husband.

As is widely known, the epic relates to the unjust treatment of Rama's stepmother, the abduction of his wife, Shinta, by the evil-hearted Rahwana and the purification process of Shinta to prove her faithfulness to her husband.

Roedyat's protest against environmental degradation as a result of the government's policy of modernization and development can be clearly seen in his Nyepi (Hindu Day of Silence) and Pura Batu Karu (Batu Karu Temple) and Struggle for Life that were painted in dark green and black colors, giving the impression of a gloomy atmosphere.

The painting that his family claimed as one of his masterpieces is Plebon, painted in acrylic over a long period between 1992 and 1996, depicting the funeral procession of a king of Gianyar, a region in Bali.

Roedyat painted Plebon, considered by the family as the mascot of the current exhibition, which was opened by Minister for Culture and Tourism I Gede Ardhika on Monday.

The painting depicts large crowds of people shouldering giant Balinese dragon statues and traditional ornaments required for a sacred ritual.

Drawn meticulously in great detail with a blend of realistic and decorative styles as well as the application of a sound perspective technique, the painting does indeed reflect the festive yet solemn atmosphere of the funeral procession.

Other painting skills displayed by Roedyat can be seen in his Muka-muka Pantomim (Pantomime Faces). Armed only with ink and pen, he drew his subjects in a pointillism style, a technique known also as Divisionism and favored by the impressionist painters, particularly the French artist Georges Seurat.

The figures of the subjects are delineated not by contours but by small dots or strokes of primary colors placed side-by-side. And Roedyat worked on this small painting for two long years. Although small in size, it is great in terms of a creative, artistic achievement.

Some art critics once argued that Roedyat would sometimes exaggerate his subjects. They may be right. But, is art not itself an exaggeration of the real world? Even if there were exaggerations in Roedyat's creations, they were the fine exaggerations of a maestro.

The exhibition ends on Friday.