Thu, 26 Jun 2003

Short story illustration makes impression

Yusuf Susilo Hartono, Contributor, Jakarta

A short story in a newspaper is always accompanied by an illustration. The illustration is like a slave while the short story is the master. As the slave, it will be loyal to its master.

Previously, Kompas daily followed the stiff trend but in the last two years, it has shown a new trend toward short story illustrations, making a new breakthrough by asking painters in Jakarta, Bandung, Yogyakarta and Bali to take turns in providing illustrations for short stories published in the Sunday edition of the newspaper. The result is surprising, making illustrations autonomous artwork, their own masters.

This breakthrough in short story illustration is on display at an exhibition titled First Exhibition of Kompas Short Story Illustrations 2002 at Bentara Budaya, Central Jakarta.

At the exhibition, some 50 original short story art is on display along with clippings of the short stories where they were published. The illustrations, mostly of small size so they could be put on a scanner, are made in a variety of media: pencil, pen, water color, acrylic, oil paint, crayon, digital image, or woodcarving. These all reflect a a great diversity of styles.

Bambang Bujono, a fine arts writer who is now working for Trust magazine, is right when he writes in the introduction of the exhibition that, "a good short story will remain good whatever the illustration is. On the other hand, a poetic illustration piece will remain poetic however prosaic the short story is".

Interestingly, this ongoing exhibition shows that the illustration for prize-winning short stories is not necessarily of a prize-winning quality should there be a competition on these pieces. On the other hand, the illustration for non-prize-winning short stories is not necessarily bad. To be honest, many of the illustration pieces in the latter category are much better than those in the former. It is worth remembering that the illustrators are randomly picked and do not depend on who the writers of the stories were.

Good illustration pieces for prize-winning stories included the digital image by FX Harsono for Kompas 2003 best short story Waktu Nayla (Nayla Time) by Djenar Maesa Ayu, the black-and-white drawing by Tisna Sanjaya for Para Ta'ziah (The Ta'ziahs) by Ratna Indraswati Ibrahim, a pencil work by Sigit Santosa for Rumah Baru (New House) by Pamusuk Eneste, a painting by Nyoman Erawan for Kembalinya Pangeran Kelelawar (Return of the Bat Prince) by Bre Redana and Danarto's drawing for his own short story, Kaca Piring (Gardenia).

Attractive pieces for non-prize-winning stories include the graphic work by Andar Manik for Permata Bernstein (Bernstein's Jewel) by Soepriyadi Tomodihardjo, watercolor drawing by Hari Budiono for Lebaran, Jangan-Jangan... (Lebaran, Perhaps...) by Gus TF Sakai, a pencil work by Yuswantoro Adi for Cermin Pasir (Sand Mirror) by Triyanto Triwikromo and a pencil drawing by Isa Perkasa for Dua Kidung Malam (Two Nocturnal Ballads) by Herlino Soleman.

The art on display shows the characteristics of the artists, ranging from realism to surrealism. Although these works are of a small size, they are an esthetic representation of the artists' larger pieces. It all shows that the artists have worked on them as seriously as their usual work. That's why, an illustration piece by Djoko Pekik for Eka Budianta's story, Jangan Melawan Rembulan (Don't Fight the Moon), for example, has been sold to a collector for Rp 25 million. By comparison, Kompas usually pays an average of Rp 500,000 for each illustration.

One of these illustrators, Danarto of Sanggarbambu Yogyakarta is an old hand in this field. Now living in Jakarta, he is one of the best illustrators in this country, aside from some illustrators with a good reputation in the past, such as Handogo, Syahwil, Ekana Siswoyo, Toha Mohtar, Zaini, Nashar, Sriwidodo, Mardian, Soekamto and Ipe Ma'aroef. They usually provided the visual art for literary, cultural and children's books published by Pustaka Jaya (established in mid-1960s to maintain the tradition of Balai Pustaka), Sastra literary magazine and Horison literary magazine, which regularly presents Ipe's work.

According to Bambang Bujono, there is a difference between the illustrations created for Kompas short stories today and the illustrations for Horison and Sastra in the past.

"Since 2002, the pictures created for short stories published in Kompas have, on a limited scale, reflected the development of Indonesia's contemporary fine art," he noted.

This comment certainly pleases Bre Redana and his colleagues. Despite the great variety of pieces created for Horison magazine in the past, Bujono found it hard to consider these works a reflection of Indonesia's contemporary fine art, no matter how limited the scope was. The reason is that the artists involved were domiciled in Jakarta and their work was done for magazines, so they could therefore depart from their usual paintings.

Unfortunately, Kompas is yet to be bold enough to award the best illustrations, just like it did to its best short story. Obviously, such an award is important for an illustration, which is no longer a slave, but a master of its own.


Short story illustration exhibition is held at Bentara Budaya Jakarta, Jl. Palmerah Selatan 17, Central Jakarta (June 20-28); Bentara Budaya Yogyakarta, Jl. Suroto 2 Kotabaru Yogyakarta (July 12-19), Jezz Gallery, Jl. Imam Bonjol 400 Denpasar Bali (July 26- August 3) and GaleriKita, Jl. RE Martadinata 209, Bandung (Aug. 9-19).