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Harsh reality: Kelas Amatir by Abdi Setiawan uses wood as its key material. JP/Dina IndrasafitriAt one time, sculpture in Indonesia was heavily related to grandiose ideas and patriotism.
Traces of this era are still visible nowadays, at times drowning amid the swarms of traffic and skyscrapers, as in the case of the Dirgantara statue in the Pancoran area, South Jakarta, and the Jendral Sudirman statue in the capital.
However, the country’s sculpture artform is far removed from the days when it could only exist within the scope of traditional media.
Asikin Hasan, curator of Simpangan: Pameran Seni Patung Baru exhibition in Salihara gallery, South Jakarta, said that sculpture as a modern art form in Indonesia is considered to be something that is relatively new young compared to painting, with its roots in the 1950s, when painters such as Affandi began experimenting with the art form.
He underlined the important role played by Sukarno, the former and first president of the Republic, in the history of the nation’s sculpting.
“Bung Karno is indeed the most important point [in history]. He was the first person to advise making monumental statues in the middle of the city…The style back then was quite close to social realism,” Asikin said.
The work in Simpangan, however, is far more varied in terms of themes and materials.
“The sculptures displayed here are beyond the conventions inside the art form itself…the development of a sculptor’s creativity is influenced by a number of things, including the development of materials, techniques and the influence of today’s culture,” he said.
While artists in the 1950s only had materials like stone or wood to work with, the works displayed in Simpangan include those using metal, PVC pipes and even synthetic hair. The works are not only standing atop a base but also hung from the ceiling, scattered around open spaces outside the exhibition room, and some could even rock from side to side thanks to technology.
According to Asikin, the three-dimensional art form moves swiftly forward along with its giant sibling the painting, thus it is important that the artists be given attention and their work documented.
While “modern” usually refers to a standardization usually looking towards the United States or Europe as its role model, it is hard for Indonesia’s art scene to follow in that line due to differences that make it “a different world”.
“Thus began the contemporist spirit in Indonesia …that is more accepting towards variety,” Asikin said.
In the exhibition catalogue, he said that there were possibly two ways to achieve a contemporary sculpture. “First, the upstream, which produces works through studios. Those who follow this route are not just those with ideas, who develop techniques and understand media, but also realize the sculptures up to the final touches. Second, the downstream, those who have ideas but hand over key aspects and realization of three-dimensional works to other parties.”
The artists chosen to participate in Simpangan are those seen to display constant productivity in their work over the years and have styles that differ from each other, he added. In the catalogue, Asikin described how the 14 artists featured are part of the generations who emerged in the 1990s and 2000s.
“They are the ones, among others, who demonstrate new sculptural indicators in their works. Most of them … develop ideas, research and test their media and techniques in much greater detail than others.”
The exhibition had an overall colorful, quirky aura. However, the themes were indeed varied. Rudi Mantofani, for example, said that his work The Earth and The World was about the situations in which vested interests play influential parts in determining rights and wrongs. “The truth ceases to become the truth anymore…thanks to power, interest, and so on,” he said.
The Earth and The World, which uses aluminium as its material, depicts a distorted earth that looked as if it was being pulled horizontally in opposite directions.
Erwin Utoyo’s Prepared for the Weekend takes the form of an automobile’s parts that appear to take on the traits of freshly washed laundry, by hanging limply from the clothesline. “My idea has its roots in the phenomena of car craze in our society. Cars have become the dream of every human being. Those who had a motorcycle now want a car. Those who already have [cars] want to add more to their collection … Cars can also turn people into authorities. In the office each position has their own cars,” he said in the exhibition catalogue.
Look out also for sleeping bats in Komroden Haro’s Dalam Hening, which is displayed outside the gallery.
Pameran Seni Patung Baru: Simpangan will be held in the Salihara gallery until Aug. 11.
Harsh reality: Kelas Amatir by Abdi Setiawan uses wood as its key material.