Thu, 18 Sep 2003

Sculptor Sunaryo records time and history

Carla Bianpoen, Contributor, Jakarta

Sunaryo's installation at the CP Open Biennale 2003 is as spectacular as its subject matter.

Covering 360 square meters of the open air space at Galeri Nasional the artist recreates the obnoxious in a world situation where the powerful do the steering and play superintendent.

As usual, Sunaryo does so in a manner that refrains from the rude and unseemly. Rather, he stirs, evoking a sense of the omnipotent egos leading to the world's horrid events.

As one enters the space, one is first struck by the black cloth covering the iron scaffolding leading to what might be taken as the killing fields: Silica sand everywhere, replicating the desert, bullets in small containers and oil -- lifted at night -- as if trapped in bamboo cages.

At the far end is a big cage. Inside the cage are a couple of bamboo structures holding marionette-like figures that make the same rigid movements all the time. On top is a propeller made of something that reminds of the American flag.

As one walks there at night when peaceful Balinese music is suddenly transformed into bomb-like thunder, one just can't stop a horrid chill creeping over every part of the body.

Terperangkap dalam Kurung (Trapped in a Cage), translated as "There is No Space to Bargain," is Sunaryo's vision of the survival of the fittest. In the evening a clock's hour hand is projected on the black cloth, the artist's revelation on space and time, and the fallacy of civilization.

Sunaryo says his installation is just to remind us of the large scenario that feeds the acts of war and violence, without which the weapons industry would fade into oblivion.

It is not the first time Sunaryo has produced a work of art based on social and political tensions. In 1998 he was so distressed with the social and political situation at home, he wrapped his works in black cloth.

"The tempest within our country has driven me to wrap these works," he said at that time. He felt he had reached the nadir, all his creative energy seemed afloat.

But the mere act of wrapping evoked a new kind of creation with an aesthetic that was at once haunting and impressive. When asked, he said he would not unwrap his work, nor produce any new work until the situation improved.

But in 1999 he probably had to have another channel to vent his feelings. This time he took to river stones, which he had to hammer and chisel to sculpt, a process that served the release of his emotions.

He presented his products in an exhibition titled Batu Melangkah Waktu (Stones Stepping through Time). This time one could see sculpted river stones, around which Sunaryo had tied a rope.

In May 2001 he had an exhibition titled Puisi Titik Putih, or white-dot poetry, perhaps his way of saying that the light is getting brighter.

In a symbolic gesture one of his sculptures was uncovered in a solemn ceremony. While it was a space for interior design, Sunaryo made it a place where he brought together the physical and metaphysical.

Indeed, this is again illustrated in his solo exhibition at CP Artspace in Washington DC in 2001. An example of his fine aesthetic, he makes visual the process of coming into being from a cocoon to a butterfly.

A metaphor for fragility, it denotes the fragile state of changing values in a society that seems forever in transition.

Born in 1943 in Banyumas, Central Java, Sunaryo is a graduate of the sculpture studio of the Fine Arts Department of Bandung Institute of Technology.

He is a widely acknowledged artist and fine sculptor, who also makes semi-abstract paintings as well as thought-provoking installations, as again evident in CP Open Biennale.

-- I-box

CP Open Biennale 2003 Sept. 4 to Oct. 3, 2003 Galeri Nasional Jl. Medan Merdeka Timur (opposite Gambir Station) Jakarta Every day except Mondays.

Every Saturday 11 a.m.: Exhibition tour with curator and selected artist Every Monday evening at 7:30 p.m.: Talk by artist Sunday, Sept. 21 (9 a.m. to 5 p.m.): Artistic Program for children aged 12 upward