Retracing the artistic journey of maestro Ahmad Sadali
Novia D. Rulistia
The Jakarta Post
Maestro Ahmad Sadali may have passed away over two decades ago, but his legacy lives on and continues to inspire younger generations.
Sadali was a pioneer of Indonesia's modern abstract arts who showed his own version of Indonesia's cultures through work greatly influenced by Islamic values.
In the 'Sadali: Works, Thoughts, Interpretation' exhibition, people are invited to trace his journey to becoming one of Indonesia's most influential painters.
The exhibition, which runs until July 14 at the National Gallery in Central Jakarta, displays Sadali's 70 paintings from 1949 until 1987, the year he passed away.
The paintings on display at the exhibition ' curated by Rizki A. Zaelani, Asikin Hasan and Rikrik Kusmara ' are from the collections of his family, his younger brother Ahmad Noe'man and the gallery.
Rizki said one of the most striking characteristics of Sadali's work could be seen through his choice of shapes and colors.
According to art critic and historian Sanento Yuliman in the book Seni Lukis Indonesia Baru, Sadali started to leave geometric abstraction in 1963, where he displayed big bright colors that represented nothing.
Along the way, he says, his canvas displays darker colors, like deep blue, black and earthy colors.
Sadali liked to combine several contrasting colors in his paintings, but as a whole, Rizki said, he managed to create an essential visual sensation.
Moreover, he said, Sadali also liked to play with unusual shapes and bright colors, such as the use of gold materials in his works, but none was composed excessively.
'Another of Sadali's characteristics was to create a balanced visual composition in his work. Everything was made proportionally ' there was nothing extreme in his work.'
The examples of the use of unusual shapes can be seen through his work, Gunungan 3D dengan Dasar Ultramarine and Gunungan Mas where he painted on triangular prism-shaped wood on a canvas using oil. Both paintings, made in 1980, also displayed the use of gold in his work.
The color of gold is also seen in many of his paintings that feature calligraphy, like in Tanpa Judul 32, the 90x110 centimeter-painting where he mixed green, purplish blue, black and gold, and also Tanpa Judul 34 where he used gold materials to make some part of the calligraphy.
Sadali's son, Ravi Ahmad Salim, said his father's paintings were extraordinary as he often involved the values of life in the making.
'My father once said his paintings were actually not abstract ' but had to be called abstract due to the culture ' because there were spirits that appeared in each work that seemed like mere technical aspects from the outside,' Ravi said.
Sadali was born in Garut, West Java, on July 29, 1924. He studied at the Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB) under Ries Mulder's guidance. He received a scholarship to study at the Department of Fine Arts at the State University of Iowa, and the Art Student League in New York.
Upon his return, he started to develop his abstract art skill that was combined with themes of spirituality.
Sadali was also a muralist, designer and an academic. He was a fine-art professor at ITB and an initiator of the establishment of Bandung Islamic University (Unisba). He received the National Art Award from the government in 1972.
Apart from Sadali's paintings, the exhibition also showcases the work of painters who have been influenced by Sadali. They include Bambang Ernawan, Dadang MA, Putut W. Widodo, Irman A Rahman, Oco Santoso, S. Handono Hadi, Mierza Said, Dwi Setya, Handiwirman Saputra, Dikdik Sayahdikumullah, Agung Fitriana and Tandya RS.
Asikin said the link between Sadali's ideas and their work could be seen through several elements, such as the use of calligraphy, ideas about structure and meaningful abstract composition, the details and the presence of a figure as the metaphorical object and the landscape.
'They worked with their own methods, but their work, to some extent, reflected Sadali's artistic ideas.'
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