Thu, 13 Apr 2000

Sakato shows the fine art of West Sumatran culture

By Amir Sidharta

JAKARTA (JP): The works that appear in the exhibition of West Sumatran fine art at Hotel Ciputra, West Jakarta, do not seem to show the influence of previous generations of West Sumatran artists such as Wakidi, H.A. Ramli Dt. Rangkayo Sati and Itji Tarmizi.

What is more apparent in the exhibition is the influence of the Indonesian Fine Arts Academy in Yogyakarta (ASRI), which is now known as the Indonesian Fine Arts Institute (ISI). In fact, all the exhibiting artists originally come from West Sumatra, are alumni of Yogyakarta's ASRI or ISI, and part of a group known as Sakato.

The "Exhibition of West Sumatran Artists" is being held from March 25 through April 17, 2000.

The work of Darvies Rasjidin, Keperkasaan yang Dikebiri (Maimed Strength), shows three human figures whose skin appear like the shell of a cracked egg. They are bound with a kind of selendang cloth. Two figures on the sides, blue in color, hold a rose in their hands. They flank a central figure, light brown in color. The hands of the central figure are bound by a rope coming from the top of the canvas. Above the figure is a large terracotta-colored circle, with a figure of a horse at the center.

Certainly this is not a realistic rendition of an actual event that happened, but is more symbolic in nature. The figures are transformative, going through a metamorphosis. Or it even could be said that they are surrealistic. It is perhaps safe to say that this painting has typical traits of ASRI/ISI.

Mengurung Diri (Self Confinement) by Ardison shows a female figure carrying a child in front of a wall with a door. This work was executed by painting the canvas the texture of wood, so that the figure seems like a sculpture.

Ardison is a student of sculpture who chose to explore painting as an alternative medium of expression. While Darvies Rasjidin's work is more symbolic, Ardison's painting also shows metamorphosis in terms of medium. Once again, we see that there is a strong Yogyakarta influence in the paintings of these West Sumatran artists.

However, works of the younger West Sumatran artists have also contributed to forming the character of ISI artists. Keadilan Untuk Semua (Justice for All) by Erizal A.S. is a typical contemporary piece by ISI graduates.

Naturally, a questions emerges: do these artists neglect their West Sumatran cultural identity?

The Yogyakarta art critic Suwarno Wisetrotomo observes that West Sumatra artistic expression has been marginalized because of three reasons: "the existence of a impartial distribution of information, the weakness or even lack of infrastructure and the lack of a tradition of patronage in the region."

However, according to him, younger artists "make an effort to develop new possibilities in advancing their artistic careers by going to Java and undertaking higher fine art education at ASRI.

"The young artists exist in a circle of creative process that is filled with collisions, abrasions and explorations, in a spirit to find their new identity."

To be sure, what is called West Sumatran culture is not something that is definitive and can no longer change. The culture is still developing and exists in a continuous process of change and renewal.

Although not directly, the artists seem to be influenced by the spirit of West Sumatra, such as Oesman Effendi and Nashar dan Zaini, who tended not be too concerned about the importance of representing their ethnic identities in their works.

The three artists, who coincidentally were the main founders of the Fine Art Faculty of the Jakarta Arts Institute (IKJ), especially Nashar, place more importance on total freedom of creativity.

From this freedom, every artist can purely create works of fine art that in the end will reflect their cultural and ethnic identities. Therefore, although their West Sumatran identity might not be apparent in their works, the Sakato artists actually take an active part in developing West Sumatran culture.