The Jakarta Post
Arus Balik (Reverse Flow), 2017 (Indonesian National Gallery/File)
Renowned Indonesian painter Yos Suprapto engages in an in-depth evaluation of the current state of Indonesian society in his solo exhibition at the National Gallery of Indonesia in Jakarta.
The exhibition, titled Arus Balik Cakrawala (The Reverse Flow of the Horizon), is the result of Yos’ deep contemplation; the yield of his thoughts gained through observation, research as well as his critical acumen on the nation.
Yos conducted long-term research in Banyuwangi in East Java and in other parts of eastern Indonesia, both in the mountains and along the coastal plains.
This research resulted in the discovery of a lost link between Indonesia’s past and present, brought about when the nation’s maritime culture faded after the great oceanic kingdoms of the past turned their backs on the sea because of the effects of colonization.
By turning its back to the sea, the archipelagic nation of Indonesia and its society has become somewhat lost.
“It [the research] was inspired by a phone call from my old friend who conveyed to me his opinion that our nation was in a state of crisis and turmoil,” Yos said at a press tour for his exhibition.
Matahari Kembar di Ibu Kota (Twin Suns above the Capital), 2017 (Indonesian National Gallery/File)
Yos added that the word cakrawala (horizon) represented the boundary between heaven and earth. Somewhere within this boundary, Yos said, there was hope.
“If we don’t have hope in life then it would be better for us to end this [Indonesian] civilization altogether,” Yos said.
The current exhibition features 33 grand artworks painted by Yos since 2015.
Some paintings depict the nation’s most important figures, such as President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, Minister of Marine Affairs and Fisheries Susi Pujiastuti and Indonesia’s most celebrated writer, Pramoedya Ananta Toer.
Menuju Cakrawala (Toward the Horizon), 2017 (Indonesian National Gallery/File)
Others depict Yos’ inner sentiments about his surroundings and his reflections on past experiences.
In Ketika Ombak Menunggu (When the Waves Wait), Yos visualizes himself in a self-portrait. Here, he depicts himself sitting on a beach, gazing straight ahead with crashing waves in the background. This painting, Yos said, conveyed how his life had always been filled with tumultuous waves, like the sea, but that he had never felt afraid of them.
In another work, Yos portrays people whom he considers to be massive influences on himself.
In Purnomo Diatas Lautan (Moon Above the Sea), he depicts a moon floating above the ocean. Inside the moon, Yos paints the face of Profesor Ernest Utrecht, his mentor during his stay in Australia.
“This painting is one of my highlights because Professor Ernest was the first person to bring up the issue of global warming in our country but unfortunately, he was accused of being a communist. He was also one of Soekarno’s closest friends” Yos said.
Menangkap Predator (Catching a Predator), 2017 (Indonesian National Gallery/File)
Through this exhibition, Yos also seeks to illustrate the importance of having a two-way dialogue with society. Yos, who is also a sociologist, realized that if he only poured his thoughts into written forms, such as in journals or articles, then his narratives would not be able to reach a wide audience.
“The number of Indonesians who like to read is still really small,” Yos said.
The painter also said he intended to use his solo exhibition as a way to encourage more people to learn about and understand the real history of Indonesia.
Yos’ goal, eventually, is to create even more artworks that people can enjoy while, at the same time, educating them.
“I hope to continue engaging in further visualized dialogues in the future,” Yos said.
The Arus Balik Cakrawala exhibition runs from Sept. 14 to Oct. 3 and is open for public viewing.
The writer is an intern at The Jakarta Post
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