INDONESIAN ART REVIEWS
Indonesian art has proved a real inspiration in these times of cynicism and economic despair says Adeline Ooi after her tour of some of the most important exhibitions of Indonesian art around Southeast Asia this spring. Read on for her reviews.
Jakarta Biennale 2009
My year began with a trip to the Indonesian capital to visit Jakarta Biennale at the end of February. Despite severe budget limitations, which have meant that each of its main components has lasted for just a month or less, the 2009 instalment of the Biennale is probably one of the most well received in Indonesia in recent years.
ARE(N)A -this year’s biennale theme, takes Jakarta, and then Southeast Asia in the world, as its playground, without any grandstanding. The modesty and clarity of the curatorial approach is refreshing. “Fluid Zones” is the central visual art element, which maps Southeast Asian artists under 40 and also works by other international artists made during recent residencies in the region. Curator Agung Hujatnikajennong from Selasar Sunaryo has pulled together a tight and revealing show spread over the Galeri Nasional and the new mall Grand Indonesia, leading us intuitively through the rough and tumble of Southeast Asian chaos via subtle thematic and strategic resonances.
There was no shock-and-awe, and nothing in particular that was mind blowing (perhaps due to familiarity with many of the artists and some of the works), but the overall sense of engagement, the intimacy and personal commitment of the show makes this a truly meaningful experience.
JENDELA in Singapore – first exhibition outside Indonesia
Ten days later, my colleagues and I drove down to Singapore for JENDELA group’s exhibition “A Play of the Ordinary” at National University of Singapore (NUS) Museum. This is a momentous event for the group as it is their first major exhibition outside Indonesia.
Combining old works dating as far back as 1999 with new ones, “A Play of the Ordinary” traces the group’s development over the past decade. Working in a distinctive visual symbolic language, using still life and landscape forms, these five artists from West Sumatra have differentiated themselves from a predominantly figurative-based and socio-politically driven Indonesian art context and are now leading figures in their own right.
As we walked through each thematically curated room, we witnessed the artists’ maturing styles, their unusual humour and wit, as well as the close friendship and influence they have on each other’s artistic development.
Kelompok Seni Rupa JENDELA or JENDELA Art Group comprises Jumaldi Alfi, Handiwirman Saputra, Rudi Mantofani, Yunizar and Yusra Martunus. Meaning ‘window’ both in Bahasa Indonesia and Bahasa Malaysia, JENDELA members have become key players in Indonesia, and are also recognised as major artists in the contemporary regional art scene.
Not only have they impacted their local scene through their individual and collective practice, members of the group are also passionate promoters of Indonesian art, driven by a sense of duty ¬-‘to give back’. Jumaldi Alfi has recently opened a residency programme in Yogyakarta for college students, researchers, and curator who wish to learn more about Indonesian art.
Eko Nugroho at Cemeti Art House
Eko Nugroho’s “Hidden Violence” at Cemeti Art House in Yogyakarta is the other major March highlight. This rising young star has carved a name for himself through his multi-disciplinary practice, agilely interpreting his comic inspired works through a range of media, from fanzines to mural, from drawings to large-scale embroidery, from 3-dimensional objects sculptures to multi-media installations.
Eko has since ventured into unchartered territory through his latest contemporary ‘wayang kulit’ (shadow puppets) presentation. Fusing the old with the new, the artist has collaborated with local wayang makers or artisans to create a cast of part-man part-machine characters from his sci-fi apocalyptic world.
Eko’s updated version also defies a number of strict rules attributed to this traditional performing art :
1) the characters are not fixed characters and can potentially play villain and/or hero at any time.
2) the soundtrack is an amalgamation of sounds from electronically and digitally generated soundscapes to hip-hop music, and
3) there is more than one story teller (dalang) and
4) the stories relate to the everyday as well as political issues in his surroundings.
Beyond the gleeful laughter of a mischievous provocateur, Eko’s work tends to hit a few home truths, holding up a mirror to contemporary Indonesian society and human nature in general, exposing mankind’s contradictory nature, our quirks and flaws.
Yuli Prayitno at Nadi Gallery
Finally, Yuli Prayitno’s much awaited solo exhibition at Nadi Gallery in Jakarta entitled ” I Love…”, opened on April Fool’s day after a near two year delay.
This young promising Yogyakarta based sculptor, also an obsessive compulsive perfectionist, launched into control freak mode a year ago and decided to do away with assistants. The delay is truly worth the wait and the quality speaks for itself; the time taken to make each object contributes to the value of the work. Fine finishing, beautiful treatment of material and form, a witty imagination and sardonic humour are among the main reasons why local collectors covet Prayitno’s works. This exhibition should not be missed.
Where and when
Jakarta Biennale 2009
Fluid Zone: Traffic and Mapping
7 – 27 Feb. 2009
National Gallery Jakarta
Grand Indonesia Shopping Mall, East Side
Jendela – A Play of the Ordinary
27 February – 19 April 2009
National University of Singapore (NUS) Museum, Singapore
Eko Nugroho; Hidden Violence
17 March – 18 April 2009
Cemeti Art House
Jl. D.I. Panjaitan 41, Yogyakarta 55143
Yuli Prayitno: “I Love…”
April 1-13, 2009
Jl. Kembang Indah III, Blok G3 No. 4-5, Puri Indah, Jakarta 11610
Contributed by Adeline Ooi, a curator and arts writer from Malaysia. She is the co-director of RogueArt, an art consultancy specialising in Southeast Asian art and will be talking soon in Hong Kong at the Asia Art Forum lecture series in May 2009. Find out more by clicking the link.
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