The Jakarta Post
"Demokrasi Dipimpin Oleh" by Aris Prabawa. (Aris Prabawa/File)
Multidisciplinary Indonesian artist Aris Prabawa is set to stage a solo exhibition titled Hadap Hidup (Facing Life) at the Jogja National Museum in Yogyakarta on Jan.5-12, displaying 70 selected works he produced in the last 19 years, including paintings, drawings and prints.
The retrospective exhibition will be the artist’s first solo outing in Yogyakarta in 14 years.
Born in Surakarta, Central Java, Aris is recognized for thought-provoking artworks that highlight social and political issues, such as antimilitarism, justice, solidarity and human relationships. He’s also known for using various materials, including pencils, ballpoints, oil paintings, acrylics, wood carvings and collages.
ARTJOG founder Heri Pemad, who serves as the exhibition's promoter and organizer, told The Jakarta Post on Thursday that Aris was one of his favorite artists.
“For me, the [upcoming] exhibition is very important, as Aris is not only the pioneer of drawings [in Yogyakarta] but also a founding member of the Taring Padi art movement, an important part of Indonesia’s art history,” said Heri, referring to an artist group established in 1998 that rejects the notion of art for art’s sake, preferring to utilize art to fight for people’s interests,.
In Hadap Hidup, visitors can learn about Aris’ creative journey and see the works he produced during the Reform Era, a period he marked as important for his works, as well as his latest artworks.
Solo-born artist Aris Prabawa speaks about justice and humanity through his art. (Aris Prabawa/File)
Speaking to The Post via telephone, the artist said the Reform Era had been crucial to developing his concept of the arts.
“At that time, there were many things [happening], which led me to work harder and more seriously," said Aris, who currently lives between Yogyakarta and Lismore in New South Wales, Australia.
Aris said he had always been interested in social and political issues.
In 1995, he studied at the Indonesian Arts Institute (ISI), Yogyakarta, and met a lot of communities, activists as well as artists. Topped with his family background with the military, he then summarized the different stories he heard and translated them into his works.
His early works feature several figures, symbols as well as events.
“My works from the late 1990s and early 2000s tended to be more narrative and complex. As for now, [my works] are simpler, focusing on a particular issue,” he said.
Aris referred to a painting titled No Doubt as an example of his simpler work. Created in 2018, the painting displays a person wearing an ajak dog (wild dogs from Java and Sumatra) in a fighting position.
Although it’s considerably less complicated compared to his early works, the painting contains criticism and speaks a lot about humanity and justice.
“It symbolizes the struggles and protection of indigenous cultures. There are many unseen things happening in front of the figure,” he explained.
Aris also explained that his past works were mostly based on his experiences, while his current works were based on actual events.
“An idea that I explored and researched,” he said,” “I am interested in actual events. These events [portrayed on my works] really happened; I couldn’t make them up.”
Aris, who is a member of punk band Black Boots, said his past works contained more emotion and anger, inspired by events that took place in the Reform Era.
“It does not mean I’m not angry anymore, but I tend to use deeper words or [idioms] in my current works,” he said.
In addition to paintings and drawings, the Hadap Hidup exhibition will also display some of his sculptures, an art discipline he started to explore in 2006 when he moved to Australia.
He hoped that the exhibition would inspire him to produce more works, especially after meeting new and old friends in the event.
“I want to have a strong community that supports one another,” he said. (asw)