The Jakarta Post
Three of Natisa Jones work on display at the 'Grotesk' solo exhibition. 'Neck Bone' (right) is described by Jones as "a little bit more fragile [than the back bone] yet strong and important", meaning that it is about being vulnerable, honest and able to accept it. (Komunitas Salihara/File)
Upon entering Natisa Jones’ Grotesk solo exhibition at the Salihara Gallery in South Jakarta, you will immediately see many strange figures on the canvases. Most are not beautiful; some look unhappy, fragile or contemplative.
Mostly based in Bali and Amsterdam, Jones is unlike other artists who usually preserve the beauty of the Island of the Gods on their canvas. But it does not mean the island does not influence her.
“It does not matter where I am, my process of creating art is the same – documentation and observation. But I tend to absorb things around me from emotion or psychological state, so it’s almost invisible,” said Jones at a recent event in Salihara, South Jakarta, titled Artist Talk and Book Launch. “[…] What I feel depends on where I am. It doesn’t mean I’m not affected by Bali, but I’m affected by where I am. I’m not attached to literal images, it’s always deeper than that.”
A visitor takes a photo of artist Natisa Jones' work. (JP/Ni Nyoman Wira)
Curated by Asikin Hasan, the exhibition features Jones’ work on canvas, paper as well as an installation. They mostly have words and genderless figures, although you may recognize some of them as female. Jones admitted that she is a bit tired of hearing the words “female painter”.
“The ones who connect with my work are not only female, male or youth. […] But why are male artists never written as ‘male artists’, it must be just an ‘artist’. Why don’t we deserve that? It’s not important if they’re women. I want other women and kids to see that,” Jones said.
She added that these female figures were drawn because at that time she was referring to herself or other matters that are only physically experienced by women. “Most of my work is about emotion and thought – which are genderless. It’s a very human experience,” the Jakarta-born artist said.
"If we do something genuinely, not trying to be something or please people - be honest, no matter what you're doing and come from an honest place, it'll still smell, taste and look like you," said Jakarta-born artist Natisa Jones. (Komunitas Salihara/File)
Certain colors often appear in some of Jones’ paintings, but she said they do not have any special meaning. “It’s not necessarily a certain color means this or that. It’s really something that I gravitate to naturally,” Jones said.
But Jones has a special interpretation for flowers – which are often used to symbolize beauty. “It represents the fear, pressure, anxiety that comes with the creative process. So instead of denying that it’s there, I confront it, I use it in my work and I acknowledge that it’s there. It’s part of the process, to fear, to be scared, to have certain anxieties and I feel it’s not a bad thing,” Jones said, adding that Rose, which is showcased in the exhibition, is one of the works that required more time to finish.
Jones is known for taking solitude very seriously in panting. She considers the time when she sits with her work in her studio important. But as an artist who lives in the social media era and has an Instagram account, Jones puts a limit on herself. She will stay away from social media when she feels she is too sensitive and uses that time to pay attention to her surroundings.
Some of the artwork by Jones at the 'Grotesk' solo exhibition. She can paint 10 paintings simultaneously, going back and forth between them. (Komunitas Salihara/File)
“You don’t need to be embarrassed, it’s part of the process. But when you start to compare your work with a, b or c, it means you’ve experienced external pressure. You’ve got pressure on whether your life is good or bad, your work is good or bad. When it enters you, you cannot work unless your work is about that fear,” said the 29-year-old artist.
But she still thinks Instagram is important, especially in connecting her with other people who see her paintings and others who are of the same generation.
Jones aims at continuing her work. She does not really mind which style she will choose for her next work. “My style is developed because I cannot stop drawing. Sooner or later, if you do it with honesty and want to experiment, you will find it. […] The paintings [that I made] two years ago and my current ones are different, but it still smells like me.”
The 'As Close to Me as Possible' book. The special edition, which is limited to 100 copies, consists of artwork that is hand-drawn by Jones. (JP/Ni Nyoman Wira)
The Grotesk exhibition is slated to be held from July 1 to 26. It is open to the public from Tuesday to Sunday.
As Close to Me as Possible, a book of Jones’ artworks and Asikin’s words, can be preordered at the gallery's store downstairs with prices starting from Rp 1,000,000 (US$69). Its special edition, which is limited to 100 copies, includes hand-drawn artwork by Jones. (kes)
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