Monthly Archives: November 2016

ABAD FOTOGRAFI: the Age of Photography #2

yasu-suzuka_resized                Tapestry of Buddhist Monks Hands – Installation by Yasu Suzuka

The origins of the ABAD FOTOGRAFI – The Age of Photography exhibition that opened at the National Gallery of Indonesia in Jakarta 15 November may be traced back to 2013, and the artistic and cultural heartland of Bali, Ubud.

A small group of senior photographers from Jakarta traveled to Bali to do some shooting assignments and met up with expat photographers from various countries who reside in Bali. This spontaneous meet-up developed into serious discussion and eventually expanded, involving more photographers, both local and international.

Inspired by developments and the diversity in the world of photography, the idea of organizing a joint exhibition came about to show this diversity; an exhibition featuring photography of the most conventional, to the most progressive works.

sjaiful-boen                ‘Pemahaman Nenek Luh…!!!’– Installation by Sjaiful Boen

The Age of Photography – Intentions and Transparency in Photographs opened 12 December 2013 at the Tony Raka Art Gallery in Ubud, presenting the work of leading Indonesian and expatriate professional and amateur photographers. Senior Indonesian curator Jim Supangkat brought together 29 photographers from Indonesia, America, Japan, Australia and Europe in an exhibition full of contrasts and delights.

One of the highlights was by Swiss born engineer and software developer Jiri Kudrna, a pioneer in experimental photography. Kudrna’s photo machine created fantastic images – a fusion of the four time space dimensions – housed within a dark room in the gallery and allowed observers to participate within his unique procedure.

“The picture take process is a complex choreography between the photographer, model and machine with often almost unpredictable results. Randomness is a desired and calculated part of the process,” Kudrna said.

james-wilkins                                                  Conflict – James Wilkins

Given the current revolution in digital smartphone technology that includes cameras as a functional component photography is now been accessed by the masses. While most are obsessed with self-empowerment via “selfies” and posting the images onto social media platforms, many too are exploring the greater creative and practical potentials of photography. As a consequence the opening of The Age of Photography #2 in Jakarta attracted an enormous crowd, along with much media attention.

The exhibition featured a huge array of diversity by a group of twenty local and international photographers. Works are printed on stone, acrylic glass, cloth and bamboo, cyanotypes, pinhole shots, analog processed pictures, hi-res landscapes, along with abstract images difficult to identify as photographs. While being more experimental than the first exhibition in 2013 some of the highlights of The Age of Photography #2 include American photographer, artist and designer based in New York and Bali James Wilkins’ two technically perfect, huge abstracts of body armor.

Conflict is a complex, layered consideration of both the interpersonal, micro aspects of psychology and being, and the macro themes of conflict throughout the history of time,” Wilkins said.

kun-tanubrata                                  Images by Kun Tanubrata

Popular with the local media, Indonesian photographer Sjaiful Boen exhibited two political,  controversial, and censored installations, ‘Pemahaman Nenek Luh…!!!’ & “As Your Grandmother’s Understanding…!!!’ featuring Jakarta’s currently besieged Governor Ahok. Boen’s interactive installations talk to the audience.

Renowned Japanese photographer Yasu Suzuka (b.1947) contributes an impressive installation Tapestry of Buddhist Monks Hands, featuring textiles with large black and white dye printed images of praying monk hands, hung in unison. His installation resonates with a potent contemplative aura while being a message for world peace. At the center of the ‘Praying Hands’ work there is a pinhole photograph showing the Hiroshima Atomic Bomb Dome in Japan.

Prominent Balinese painter Agung Mangu Putra works shine with the simplicity and genius. De Ja Vu #5, a black and white image printed on paper captures a twisted cloth seemingly captured floating in mid air, set against gloomy skies and an ocean seascape. “Photography is a medium that allows me to express ideas and thoughts that I cannot achieve using conventional mediums,” Mangu Putra said.

jiri-kudrna-1                                 Light Plane Photographs by Jiri Kudrna

Indonesian photographer Hermandari Kartowisastra (b.1943) presents two beautiful black and white minimal landscape images printed on aluminum silver brush, Ekuilibrium 1 & 2. Presenting the works side-by-side she splits the images in the middle with the horizon line contrasting light and dark skies upon empty, surreal landscapes. Kun Tanubrata (b.1947) exhibits four beautiful works printed on rattan mats, Aku Bertanya is both elegant yet haunting in its simplicity and comes complete within the exhibition catalog with a complementing poetic verse.

Again Jiri Kudrna’s work was a highlight of the exhibition, presenting six Light Plane Photographs (LPP) created with his experimental machines, half printed on acrylic glass and the remainder printed on brushed aluminum. His three interactive installations, Space – Time Variations were very popular, the audience creating over 1800 pictures in four days.

jiri-kudrna-3                         Space – Time Variations Installation by Jiri Kudrna

“The most satisfactory thing for me is to watch the Indonesian kids experimenting with my installations, being creative and having fun,” Kudrna said.   LPP is a technique invented by Kudrna uses a plane of light and a camera to record photographs with unique optic effects.

ABAD FOTOGRAFI – The Age of Photography

Continues through unti 28 November at the National Gallery of Indonesia.

More images may be accessed on Facebook.com/abadfotografi &

@abadfotografi on Twitter

r-haryanto                                               Images by R. Haryanto

Words: Richard Horstman

 

 

 

 

 

Wayan Karja: From a ‘Young Artist’ to Balinese Visionary

p21iwayan-img_assist_custom-511x337                                                       Wayan Karja

Within every Balinese village there is a tale or two to be told.

The association between the master and pupil has played a vital role in the development of Balinese traditional art. The bonds amid teacher and student, father and son, or among relatives have enabled the sharing of ideas, support and tuition. Such relationships helped categorize Balinese art by village styles or ‘schools’.

In the late1920’s – 30’s, Balinese art was being revolutionized and adapted for foreign tastes. The two-dimensional Hindu narratives, Kamasan or Wayang paintings met head on with western aesthetics and the results were dramatic. The development of tourism created large markets for these new paintings, and localized schools of art, such as the Ubud, Sanur and Batuan schools, came to the fore.

20160804_184737                                                “Cosmic Energy 2016”

Fast forward to 1959 when Arie Smit, an accomplished Dutch artist living in Penestanan began sharing art materials with, and teaching young boys in the village. This was the beginning of the “Young Artists” style, and at its height there was about 300 village practitioners. Colorful and fresh, it was very popular in the 1970’s as tourism was enjoying a revival. Penestanan has a distinctive artistic history of its own.

This tale however, is about a painter, art educator and administrator from the village who has succeeded in creating a unique artistic voice within the framework of Balinese modern art.

Wayan Karja’s earliest memories are of sitting in his father’s lap with a paintbrush in hand.

“My father often guided my hand through sketches or marked areas within a composition that I would fill in with color,” Karja says. “I was very lucky to grow up in a thriving art environment, every member of my family within the compound was painting, even the women too. This intense activity was inspirational.”

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Born in Penestanan in 1965 Karja’s natural ability and birthright automatically sealed his fate. Determined to learn more about art he received a wealth of local and international art education. Karja studied in Switzerland in 2008-11 painting abstract landscapes, while in 1997-99 he undertook an art scholarship at the University of South Florida, USA. At the School of Fine Arts, Denpasar, 1981-85 he broadened his knowledge of art theory and international art, and then at the Udayana University in Denpasar, 1985-1990 delved into impressionism and abstraction, and was inspired by Monet, Van Gogh and Matisse.

From 1978-81 Karja studied the Ubud style learning about light, shade and the anatomy. As a child he was introduced to the master pupil association and trained for many years under the watchful eye of his father Ketut Santra who gave him his indoctrination into the “Young Artist” style. “There were no galleries at that time so the buyers came direct to the artist’s home. At the age of 10 I sold my first painting,” Karja recalls.

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In 1994 upon visiting a museum in Switzerland Karja had his most profound art experience. One that began his love affair with modern art. He observed a pure red composition by the American abstract painter Mark Rothko.

“Is this what they call art?” Was Karja’s cynical response.

Yet by the time Karja had completed his tour of the museum the significance of the work was understood. Rothko’s work leapt out from the walls and “spoke” to him unlike any other artist had previously done. Rarely had an Indonesian artist adopted color as their sole message, least of all the Balinese.

“Balinese art is about tight configurations of patterns, details and narratives yet I was always driven to search into its philosophies.” Karja’s journey eventually led him to a deep exploration of cross-cultural thinking and he began combining the philosophy of the Balinese Hindu Mandala colors with modern western techniques. Karja’s initial response to the colors and movement of his environment (landscape and culture) had been based on emotion, yet the impact of Rothko and other western painters demanded from him a new sense of selfexpression.

“Balinese abstraction developed in the 1970’s yet it was different to the western model. Most of our creations are deeply rooted in traditions including icons, symbolic and non-symbolic elements, as well as philosophical and spiritual aspects of the Balinese way of life.” Karja’s direction evolved through intellectual endeavor, “Allowing my work to become simpler and more spiritual,” Karja says.

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Karja’s technique involves building layers of color, often in drips and with the use of watered down medium often creating swirling and dynamic organic forms. The works may be subtle and shimmering, or powerfully vibrant. They are always inviting, meditative and mysterious, creating aesthetic contrasts between the landscape and the cosmos.

“There is no separation between art and life,” Karja says. “Life is color and my physical and spiritual journey is to become an accomplished colorist painter.”

His contribution, via teaching, to the development of Balinese art has been substantial. Karja began in 1990 at the School of Fine Arts in Ubud and then at the Indonesian Institute of the Arts (ISI) in Denpasar where he continues teaching to this day. Over the years he has taught locally and abroad holding various positions, from 2002-04 as head of the Fine Arts Dept., Indonesian College of the Arts (STSI), Denpasar and from 2004-08 as the Dean of the Visual Arts Department at ISI.

“I enjoyed and benefited from this experience,” he says. “However being an administrator took me away from my artistic dreams.”

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Karja has exhibited in many international countries and frequently travels locally and abroad giving lectures, speeches and engaging in collaborative projects. At his family’s guesthouse Santra Putra in Penestanan is his gallery and studio, along with a space open to the public for workshops and events, where he teaches tourists and often hosts exhibitions by young local artists.

“Journey to the Unknown” Karja’s March 2015 exhibition in Jakarta showcased 42 paintings created between 2010-15 was an outstanding success. “The audience’s response was excellent, nonetheless I experienced an unexpected sense of liberation. I realized to complete a procession from childhood through to adulthood, my transition from a world of freedom to one dominated by mental activity, in order to sustain my creative journey I have to return to a childlike state.”

“I have now opened a new door with the motto – play, flow and free. I am invigorated and my works reflect a new joy,” Karja says.

“Now I am learning how to play again.”

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http://www.wayankarja.com

Words: Richard Horstman

 

 

Opening Doors On Indonesian Art History Discourse – YOS 2016

20161022_163626Leading Indonesian artist Entang Wiharso shares with the audience about his creative journey at Black Goat Studio during the YOS 2016 Focus Tours.

 

As a platform for dialogue and collaboration the annual Yogyakarta Open Studio (YOS) program supports the development of new knowledge and documentation on contemporary art studio practice. It provides the public and arts community with exposure to an array of artists working in a variety of fields at various stages in their career.

Artist studios’ are essential sites of engagement revealing details of the creative practice that cannot be seen elsewhere. They give insight into an artist’s environment and state of mind, highlights with whom they interact and their strategic approaches to developing their careers. Beginning in 2013, each year Yogyakarta based artists are invited to open their studios while examining a specific theme. YOS 2016’s theme is “Artists Engagement With Art History”.

20161021_120624Lugis Studio, the creative hub and printing making facility of artists Muhlis Lugi open to the public during YOS 2016.

 

As the study of the development of the visual arts, art history involves understanding the social, political, and intellectual context of art in relation to its cultural origins. Art historians attempt to answer in historically specific ways questions that relate to style, meaning, visual and discursive function, and artistic practices.

“Indonesian art is fully part of the global art scene, so its historical analysis – its development and writing – are more pressing than ever before,” said YOS Director Christine Cocca.

“We selected art history as this year’s theme because of the pivotal, but perhaps neglected position it has in Indonesian art discourse.”

“YOS 2016 wishes to jump-start the conversation about qualification and look at how aspiring Indonesia art historians go about gaining the education they need in a country that still doesn’t offer a degree in art history,” she adds.

20161022_133106Australian artist Sally Smart describes some of her creative processes with the audience at Studio Sally Smart during the YOS 2016 Focus Tours.

 

Running 19 -23 October YOS 2016 collaborates with a group of local and international art historians whose work engages with Indonesian contemporary art. An essential element aligning artist, practice, thought and audience, a series of expert led Focus Tours giving visitors the opportunity for in-depth discussions about the artists’ work and studio practice is offered 22 & 23 October from 1-5 pm.

Participating art historians are Agus Burhan and Suwarno Wisetrotomo from Yogyakarta, Leonor Veiga, Portugal, Mary-Louise Totton, USA, Amanda Katherine Rath, Germany, Wulan Dirgantoro and Astrid Honold both based in Germany and Indonesia. Together they have developed a series of interviews with participating studios exploring artists’ engagement with the production, function and impact of the discipline on their practice. Seventeen artist’s studios situated around Yogyakarta will be open during YOS 2016.

“Indonesia has an extensive art historical record, but little art historical discourse is being done,” said Leonor Veiga, a PhD candidate at Leiden University whose dissertation The Third Avant-Garde: Recalling Tradition in Contemporary Southeast Asian Art analyses how contemporary art practices negotiate traditional arts in the region.

“Curators work reaches more artists than work of art historians which is problematic, leading to artists being cultural orphans with little understanding where their work may fit in art historical terms,” Veiga adds. “Grassroots initiatives like YOS 2016 create space for debate, and contribute to open discussions about essential issues.”

20161021_210858Suwarno Wisetromo, Entang Wiharso, Heri Dono, Fendry Ekel and Mikke Sustanto engaged in discussions on issues concerning Indonesian Art history at RJ Katamsi Galeri, ISI Yogakarta as a part of the YOS 2016 program.

 

“Through YOS artist’s studios became more alive and accessible; far from the image of mysterious,” said Suwarno Wisetromo, a professor in the Faculty of Fine Arts at the Indonesian Institute of the Arts (ISI) Yogyakara, and curator at the National Gallery of Indonesia, who pursed his PhD in History with a focus on art to try and achieve comparable qualifications.

“Participating studios have to work together with historians, conduct research and create relevant works. The artists are challenged to become the initiator. Providing an alternative ‘space’ and ‘approach’ to existing events such as the Jogja Bienale, Art Jog, and gallery exhibitions that are outside of curatorial and commercial platforms makes YOS significant, ”Suwarno adds.

Reflecting on sustainability Astrid Honold, who divides her time between Berlin and Yogyakarta said, “As a young country, Indonesia, very understandably has other priorities. Art, in a way, as important and existential as it might be, is a luxurious occupation. Other things come first. But then you get the market which thinks you can just jump over centuries of development of thought. Well you cannot.”

20161020_161205Open to the public during YOS 2016, Studio Jumaldi Alfi, featuring the work of well-known Indonesian international artist Jumaldi Alfi.

 

“I am excited to be participating in YOS 2016,” said Heri Dono, the founder of the Kalahan Studio and one of Indonesia’s most prominent international names. “YOS is important to the development of contemporary art in Yogyakarta.”

“Our priority is to examine issues in the art world through the artist’s eyes and experiences. Importantly, YOS lets the artists set the terms,” Cocca adds. Complete with online information, maps, and a program of expert guided studio tours YOS not only supports the development of art and cultural tourism in Yogyakarta, yet the Indonesian creative economies sector as well.

Participating artists include Endang Lestari, Sujud Dartanto, Entang Wiharso, Theresia Agustina Sitompul, Nia Fliam, Agus Ismoyo, Fendry Ekel, Deni Rahman, Lenny Ratnasari Weichert, Ivan Sagita, Komroden Haro, Lugas Syllabus, Noor Ibrahim, Eddi Prabandono, Sally Smart, Heri Dono, Jumaldi Alfi, Muhlis Lugis and Desrat Fianda.

yos-discussion-at-studio-kalahan-heri-dono-image-courtesy-yos-2016YOS Director Christine Cocca and Heri Dono giving an art presentation, a pre YOS 2016 event at Dono’s Kalahan Studios. Image courtesy YOS.

http://www.yogyakartaopenstudio.com

 

Words & Images: Richard Horstman