Sun, 26 Mar 2000

Satya's drawings dig deep into human destiny

By Chandra Johan

JAKARTA (JP): Satya Graha is obviously attracted to the absurdity of famous author Samuel Beckett and his works.

Satya's solo exhibition, held at Galeri Milenium from March 13 through April 2, displays drawings of famous figures like Russian author Fyodor Dostoyevski, the Irish painter Francis Bacon and more particularly Beckett, the author of the famous play Waiting for Godot.

Beckett's philosophical ideas have inspired Satya's works. And the old, wrinkled face of the Irish author, with his firm jawbone and cold eyes, invariably dressed in an overcoat, obviously left a deep impression on Satya.

In many of his works, Beckett exposed problems of modern man trapped in an isolated world full of absurdity and uncertainty.

Beckett, who spent much of his adult life in France, shows a world of emptiness. His people are akin to those exposed in works of Francis Bacon, one of the painters Satya likes the most.

Satya's drawings mostly take human subjects. His renditions of human figures are generally fragmented, separated from their societies, secluded in a certain space or a room.

He probably adopted the concept of humanity held by Beckett and Bacon during his stay in Germany.

Satya recalled that on one winter afternoon, he saw hundreds of workers rushing to a nearby subway station. Their faces were tired and pale, hidden behind their thick overcoats and scarves. But he imagined that he could see through their bodies. "I could see their white bones beneath their skins," Satya remembered.

The people, Satya said, were clear representations of modern man shaped by the unfriendly and taxing industrial world. Their primary objectives in life were to work until death came for them.

The experience led him to present human figures as a construction of bone, skin, muscle and veins which are all human engines of life, a temporary life.

Satya often draws naked figures with a particular stress on certain parts of the body. Using chiaroscuro, his figures generally appear from darkness, forming a shadow of a dim figure creating a hollow, fragile and volatile image.

Even when he presents more than one figure, such as in Berdua (Two of Us), Pelukan (Embrace) and Tanpa Judul (Untitled), the atmosphere of loneliness and oblivion is expressively felt because Satya has never given any logical relation between each subject presented on his canvas. Satya stresses more the fragmental plots.

In Berdua, for example, Satya creates an ambiguous relationship between the two figures. No part of his drawings is "finished" in a normal and logical way. However, our psycho- pictorial condition tends to organize things in a gestalt way. We then easily create our own story and perception of each fragmental figure.

Satya is well-known for his talent in using pencil and paper as his primary media. But in this exhibition, Satya experiments with Chinese ink, such as in his Studi Beckett 13 (Study of Beckett 13) Studi Bacon 14 (Study of Bacon 14), Tamu (Guest), Kawan (Friends) and several others.

In his creative process, Satya often starts with a lateral frame of thinking. He can begin his work drawing a simple subject, such as details of folded fabric, then go on to other things.

"What attracts me most in drawing a picture is that the initial concept is often not so clear, it is usually a part of an entire idea. After the first detail is painted, it needs a complementary subject. In the further process, the original concept may shift or lose its meaning," Satya writes in his catalog.

Understanding Satya's works of famous people like Beckett and Bacon is not easy. He does not provide superficial representations, but tries to deeply explore their thoughts and ideas.

Satya's drawings of human beings arouse many questions about our existence.

As he says, through his drawings he tries to understand what life is, to understand himself and things around him. His drawings are an insightful contemplation of the destiny of humans.