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The artistic journey of Srihadi Soedarsono

  • Novia D. Rulistia

    The Jakarta Post

Bandung | Tue, February 16, 2016 | 04:21 pm
The artistic journey of Srihadi Soedarsono A lifetime of art: Renowned artist Srihadi Soedarsono continues to create. His works are currently on display at the “70 Tahun Rentang Kembara Roso” (Roso’s 70-Year Journey) exhibition at the National Gallery in Central Jakarta. The showcase exhibition will run until Feb. 24. (JP/DMR)" height="341" border="0" width="512">A lifetime of art: Renowned artist Srihadi Soedarsono continues to create. His works are currently on display at the “70 Tahun Rentang Kembara Roso” (Roso’s 70-Year Journey) exhibition at the National Gallery in Central Jakarta. The showcase exhibition will run until Feb. 24. (JP/DMR)

There’s no such thing as retirement for Srihadi Soedarsono. The 84-year-old maestro always keeps the flame of art burning.

Despite his advanced age, renowned artist Srihadi Soedarsono continues to create. “Even though I’m over 80 years of age, I never lose the spirit to create as I always want to improve my quality as an artist,” Srihadi said.

True to his word, Srihadi recently invited The Jakarta Post to his studio in Bandung, West Java, to see the paintings that he was working on for an exhibition to celebrate his 70-year journey as an artist.

The “70 Tahun Rentang Kembara Roso” (70-Year Span of Roso’s Journey) exhibition is held at the National Gallery in Central Jakarta, showcasing his work from the day he became a painter-journalist during the pre-independence era.

Srihadi said that roso became the main theme of the exhibition because it was a key aspect to everything that he had ever done.

For him, roso is more than just a feeling — it is an intuition that is intensified by meditative focalization that becomes the symbol of spiritual transcendence between artistic ideas and feeling and energy.

Over 400 works, all curated by Rikrik Kusmara, featuring the development of the maestro, will be on display at the exhibition that runs until Feb. 24.

Rikrik said that many of Srihadi’s drawings and sketches on paper were still unknown to public.

“Srihadi is an intellectual who always records his journey through his work. But most importantly, his work also serves as a record of the nation’s history,” he said.

In the exhibition, Srihadi also tried to brush off the opinion that it was only painting on canvas that was worth collecting.
Presiden Pertama RI Soekarno (RI First President Soekarno, 1948) (Courtesy of Srihadi)Presiden Pertama RI Soekarno (RI First President Soekarno, 1948) (Courtesy of Srihadi)

“It’s about appreciation. Many think that art on paper is hard to keep because paper is easily broken. If we take care of it carefully, it actually can last for a long time,” he said.

Surakarta-born Srihadi was always interested in drawing.

Growing up in the colonial era, Srihadi joined the Tentara Pelajar student military group.

“I never dreamed of becoming a painter, but when there was a call to become a student soldier, I enlisted,” he said.

Stationed with the publication division, he was tasked with making slogans, posters and graffiti to fire up the people’s fighting spirit.

His talent led him to become a painter-journalist, documenting important events through his drawings.

“There was no camera at that time so I had to draw events or people correctly. I asked for the signatures of the people I sketched to prove the authenticity,” Srihadi said.

“I also always duplicated the sketches; one to be given to the office, and one for myself.”

His habit of duplicating drawings turned out to be a blessing as the office building that kept all the archives was burned down during the post-proclamation period.

Srihadi was also involved in guerrilla warfare in 1947 as seen from one of his drawings entitled Reruntuhan kapal VT-CLA (The Ruins of the VT-CLA Ship). He was also sent to prison in Semarang after he was caught with a grenade.

In between his job as a journalist, he joined arts communities where he met S. Sudjojono, Affandi and Hendra Gunawan.

“Sudjojono often talked about art books, while the others also had sessions with young artists discussing the development of art from around the world,” the Bintang Gerilya award recipient said.

In recognition of his service to the nation, the government offered him the choice of working as a civil servant, continuing his career in the military, or going back to school.
Air Mancar (Water Fountain, 1973) (Courtesy of Srihadi)Air Mancar (Water Fountain, 1973) (Courtesy of Srihadi)

He chose the latter, enrolling at the Bandung Technology Faculty (now ITB), rather than the Indonesian Academy of the Arts (now ISI).

“I’d knew the lecturers at ISI. I didn’t find it interesting to learn something that I already understood. In ITB, the professors were mostly Dutch and they brought the world to us,” he said.

“I had freedom of expression, not limited to nationalism anymore. And that fascinated me.”

He learned about cubism, abstract art and anatomy at ITB, while constantly searching for a new vision in art.

Srihadi went to Bali and discovered essence of the horizon line in nature.

He pursued his postgraduate degree at Ohio University in the US — a period when he made paintings imbued with logical aspects.

He returned home in 1960, becoming a lecturer at ITB. There, he met his wife, Sitti Farida, one of the students in his class.

“I didn’t know that he was the teacher, because he was so quiet and small. I thought he was just a student,” said Sitti.
Bedoyo Ela-Ela (2015) (Courtesy of Srihadi)

A lifetime of art: Renowned artist Srihadi Soedarsono continues to create. His works are currently on display at the '€œ70 Tahun Rentang Kembara Roso'€ (Roso'€™s 70-Year Journey) exhibition at the National Gallery in Central Jakarta. The showcase exhibition will run until Feb. 24. (JP/DMR)

There'€™s no such thing as retirement for Srihadi Soedarsono. The 84-year-old maestro always keeps the flame of art burning.

Despite his advanced age, renowned artist Srihadi Soedarsono continues to create. '€œEven though I'€™m over 80 years of age, I never lose the spirit to create as I always want to improve my quality as an artist,'€ Srihadi said.

True to his word, Srihadi recently invited The Jakarta Post to his studio in Bandung, West Java, to see the paintings that he was working on for an exhibition to celebrate his 70-year journey as an artist.

The '€œ70 Tahun Rentang Kembara Roso'€ (70-Year Span of Roso'€™s Journey) exhibition is held at the National Gallery in Central Jakarta, showcasing his work from the day he became a painter-journalist during the pre-independence era.

Srihadi said that roso became the main theme of the exhibition because it was a key aspect to everything that he had ever done.

For him, roso is more than just a feeling '€” it is an intuition that is intensified by meditative focalization that becomes the symbol of spiritual transcendence between artistic ideas and feeling and energy.

Over 400 works, all curated by Rikrik Kusmara, featuring the development of the maestro, will be on display at the exhibition that runs until Feb. 24.

Rikrik said that many of Srihadi'€™s drawings and sketches on paper were still unknown to public.

'€œSrihadi is an intellectual who always records his journey through his work. But most importantly, his work also serves as a record of the nation'€™s history,'€ he said.

In the exhibition, Srihadi also tried to brush off the opinion that it was only painting on canvas that was worth collecting.
Presiden Pertama RI Soekarno (RI First President Soekarno, 1948) (Courtesy of Srihadi)Presiden Pertama RI Soekarno (RI First President Soekarno, 1948) (Courtesy of Srihadi)

'€œIt'€™s about appreciation. Many think that art on paper is hard to keep because paper is easily broken. If we take care of it carefully, it actually can last for a long time,'€ he said.

Surakarta-born Srihadi was always interested in drawing.

Growing up in the colonial era, Srihadi joined the Tentara Pelajar student military group.

'€œI never dreamed of becoming a painter, but when there was a call to become a student soldier, I enlisted,'€ he said.

Stationed with the publication division, he was tasked with making slogans, posters and graffiti to fire up the people'€™s fighting spirit.

His talent led him to become a painter-journalist, documenting important events through his drawings.

'€œThere was no camera at that time so I had to draw events or people correctly. I asked for the signatures of the people I sketched to prove the authenticity,'€ Srihadi said.

'€œI also always duplicated the sketches; one to be given to the office, and one for myself.'€

His habit of duplicating drawings turned out to be a blessing as the office building that kept all the archives was burned down during the post-proclamation period.

Srihadi was also involved in guerrilla warfare in 1947 as seen from one of his drawings entitled Reruntuhan kapal VT-CLA (The Ruins of the VT-CLA Ship). He was also sent to prison in Semarang after he was caught with a grenade.

In between his job as a journalist, he joined arts communities where he met S. Sudjojono, Affandi and Hendra Gunawan.

'€œSudjojono often talked about art books, while the others also had sessions with young artists discussing the development of art from around the world,'€ the Bintang Gerilya award recipient said.

In recognition of his service to the nation, the government offered him the choice of working as a civil servant, continuing his career in the military, or going back to school.
Air Mancar (Water Fountain, 1973) (Courtesy of Srihadi)Air Mancar (Water Fountain, 1973) (Courtesy of Srihadi)

He chose the latter, enrolling at the Bandung Technology Faculty (now ITB), rather than the Indonesian Academy of the Arts (now ISI).

'€œI'€™d knew the lecturers at ISI. I didn'€™t find it interesting to learn something that I already understood. In ITB, the professors were mostly Dutch and they brought the world to us,'€ he said.

'€œI had freedom of expression, not limited to nationalism anymore. And that fascinated me.'€

He learned about cubism, abstract art and anatomy at ITB, while constantly searching for a new vision in art.

Srihadi went to Bali and discovered essence of the horizon line in nature.

He pursued his postgraduate degree at Ohio University in the US '€” a period when he made paintings imbued with logical aspects.

He returned home in 1960, becoming a lecturer at ITB. There, he met his wife, Sitti Farida, one of the students in his class.

'€œI didn'€™t know that he was the teacher, because he was so quiet and small. I thought he was just a student,'€ said Sitti.
Bedoyo Ela-Ela ( 2015 ) (Courtesy of Srihadi)Bedoyo Ela-Ela ( 2015 ) (Courtesy of Srihadi)

Srihadi said he liked Sitti because she was helpful and because she was an active student involved in student organizations. They got married in 1964.

'€œHe was afraid I would be taken by other guys, so he immediately proposed to me,'€ Sitti said, laughing.

Together with Sitti, he has traveled the world to see the development of civilization in many countries, capturing it through his work.

In Europe, Srihadi transformed the concept of the horizon into a more complex and complete element, while in Asia, he explored ancient religious ruins to further seek the roso.

The ITB professor has held exhibitions in many countries, including the US, Australia, Germany, Switzerland, Poland, Japan and Singapore.

Now, he continues to surround himself with art. Although he has retired from ITB, he often receives university students into his studio to discuss art.

'€œI also still paint from early in the morning until late in the afternoon. Where do I get the stamina from? I exercise regularly with a trainer and I eat enough,'€ Srihadi said.

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