Exhibition view – Iron Cocoon – Amin Taasha, 22 May – 7 June, Galeri Fadar Sidik, ISI Yogyakarta
Indonesian and international art audiences visiting Yogyakarta during Jogja Art Weeks (JAW), a month long program of art events held throughout the Central Java, have a unique opportunity to observe a new direction in Asian contemporary art.
Iron Cocoon, the second solo exhibition by emerging Afghanistan artist Amin Taasha, open 22 May, Galeri Fadjar Sidik at ISI Yogyakarta, features a collection of ‘Abstract-Miniaturism’ paintings, presented together with audio compositions by Serbian composer Vanja Dabic, text, video and installation art, that may be observed individually, or as a whole.
Thoughtful Soul, 2018 – Amin Taasha. Watercolour, acrylic, ink, gold and sliver on paper 45 x 120cm
His compositions are a unique fusion of Asian cultural influences along with contemporary art ideas, featuring ancient script from Persia, Buddhist iconography, figures drawn from the 7th – 11th century miniature painting style of Afghanistan, along with Chinese ink modified calligraphy. Born in 1995 in Bamiyan Province in the mountainous central region of Afghanistan, Taasha draws upon a wealth of traditional art, where elements of Greek and Buddhist art were merged into a distinctive classical style known as Greco-Buddhist art, and then transforms this through the use of abstraction.
The decapitated Buddha is an ongoing theme throughout Iron Cocoon through which Taasha makes reference to the Taliban’s destruction of giant Buddhist statues found in his homeland. But while Forbidden, just one of nine of his larger vertical and horizontal monochrome scenarios makes direct reference to the violence committed by the Taliban, it is his central, and culminating installation, Witness that delivers the graphic evidence, and impact of the events that shocked the world in 2001.
Witness – Amin Taasha Video installation
A circular line of earth becomes the frame for a short video documentary that reveals Taliban tanks and rockets firing at the giant Buddhist icons, while cultural experts lament the demise. A seated Buddha statue grounds the installation, ironically a headless observer, while suspended floating above, its decapitated head is taken away by a black crow inflight. Iron Cocoon is rich in symbolic metaphors, and the crow throughout the exhibition represents the powerful ignorant few that destroy important history and culture.
Within Taasha’s painting his mastery comes alive through his language of aesthetic simplicity. He balances the visual worlds of colour and form into perfect unions of the abstract, along with the recognizable form. He communicates on both the conscious and subconscious levels, through his Zen code of symbolic metaphors. His tiny figures at once connect us with the past while conveying wisdoms from an ancient time. Animals too play important roles.
Untitled #7 – Amin Taasha. Mixed media, gold ans silver on old book paper 13 x 19cm
Black is the predominant visual feature. It’s enigmatic potency functions on the subconscious level, creating a metaphysical realm with which to engage the audience. This blackness conjures up what the Buddhists refer to as the void – a place of commanding inner peace. Fine splashes of ink appear like smoke, and represent the eternal cycle of life. Gold and silver leaf are another important aesthetic feature, along with a measured array of dynamic colours, they function as powerful aesthetic tools.
Taasha moved to Kabul when the Taliban took over the area and began studying art in 2007, then in 2010 he attended the Kabul Fine Arts Institute where he has studied painting, miniature painting and calligraphy. In 2012 he was invited to participate in a workshop Seeking Study at the National Gallery of Afghanistan, as a part of the Documenta 13 international art project in Kabul. Two of his works were deemed to contain controversial subject matter and were prohibited from the exhibition by the Afghan Ministry of Information and Culture. Taasha was later subjected to police interrogation with the barrel of an AK-44 pushed to his head.
When the sun goes down – Amin Taasha. Watercolour, acrylic, ink, gold & sliver on paper, 45 x 120 cm
In 2013 Taasha moved to Central Java, receiving a one-year scholarship to study art at ISI Yogyakarta, the following year he was awarded a one-year scholarship at UNNES Semarang, and in 2014 received another scholarship at ISI, where he has been studying ever since. He has been exhibiting consistently for the past ten years in Afghanistan and Indonesia, as well as in Iran, Bangladesh, Lebanon, Indonesia, US, Canada, Germany and Italy. His works are in collections in the UK, US, Canada, Netherlands, Germany, France, India, Australia, Singapore and Indonesia. Iron Cocoon is his first solo exhibition in Indonesia.
The Iron Cocoon catalogue states, the concept of Taasha’s exhibition takes the metaphor of an armoured cocoon; a flexible protected shell that allows the person within to be able to transform, safe from the conflicts occurring outside. This is partially in reference to Taasha growing up in Afghanistan, a country synonymous with death and violence, and how art is able to first germinate in this environment, before being transposed to another country, where it can begin to grow in its new style.
An audience member engages with a painting while listening to an audio composition by Vanja Dabic.
Taasha, who exhibited in The Death of Contemporary Art, a group exhibition along side leading Indonesian artist Heri Dono in 2016 in Yogyakarta, is a part of a group of post-contemporary artists. Iron Cocoon follows on from his two sold-out exhibitions in Bangladesh and Iran this year. Taasha’s sensitivity connects with the deepest levels of our psyche, touching the soul. Works of extraordinary precision – beautiful and serene – Iron Cocoon reflects maturity that belies the artist’s years.
Forbidden – Amin Taasha. Watercolour, acrylic, ink, gold & silver on paper. 45 x 120 cm
Open daily 22 May – 7 June,
Galeri Fadar Sidik,
Jalan Parangritis, Sewon, Bantul Yogyakarta
Words: Richard Horstman
Images: Courtesy Amin Taasha & Richard Horstman