The Jakarta Post
A drawing on a stretched canvas measuring 380 by 100 centimeters illustrates a world full of conflict, both horizontally and vertically. Titled Bigger the War than the Peace, the work was created using ballpoint, showing very fine detail for each object.
Detail drawing is one of Aris Prabawa’s fortes. The Surakarta-born artist, also known as Aris Manyul, is exhibiting his works at the Jogja National Museum in Yogyakarta until Jan. 12. Titled Hadap Hidup (Facing Life), the exhibition features 86 works created between 1999 and 2018.
Almost all of Aris' works, including drawings, paintings, sculptures and installations, discuss the human suffering caused by corruption, militarism, shareholder oppression and exploitation of nature.
One of his works presented in the exhibition titled Work for Reformation. Finish it Quickly, which is also beautiful, features a large buffalo head. Created in 2001, the artwork insinuates legislators who frequently travel and political parties that are busy fighting among themselves, which leads them to forget the importance of political reform.
“My inspiration came from social issues,” Aris told The Jakarta Post on Saturday.
Aris also explained that his latest works focused more on the suffering caused by development.
In an installation titled Nikmatnya Pembangunan #1 dan #2” (The Joys of Development #1 and #2), Aris created human figures with shark and ferret heads bathing in water pools made out of safety helmets used by construction workers.
“These human figures with predator heads symbolize people who can 'eat' one another,” said Aris.
Indonesian artist Kiswondo, who wrote the foreword for the exhibition, said Aris frequently featured animal heads in his latest works, which technically are simpler compared with his previous works. These animal heads are used as a symbol of Leviathan, a Biblical sea monster, illustrating the power of capital, military and nations that oppress people.
“Meanwhile, heads of endangered animals, such as the Javan eagle, Javan tiger and ajak dog [wild dogs from Java and Sumatra], symbolize fighting,” he said.
Although Aris is known as the pioneer of drawing in Yogyakarta, the artist produces more paintings these days. However, Kiswondo said Aris’ works still discuss humanity from every aspect.
Kiswondo also noted that Aris, who currently lives between Yogyakarta and Lismore in New South Wales, Australia, constantly produced works that contain social criticism on various issues in the two countries.
“This sets Aris apart from other Lekra [now-defunct leftist artists association] artists who live in exile and only mourn their home country’s condition. Aris also criticizes the situation in the [foreign] country he lives in,” said Kiswondo.
Widodo, a resident of Kulon Progo regency in Yogyakarta, was among the attendees of the opening exhibition.
“[Aris] is a true artist. He does not only talk about human suffering, but also moves with the oppressed people," he praised Aris’ works.
Widodo is among those who actively rejecting the iron sand mining project in Kulon Progo. He shared that whenever Aris returned to Indonesia, the artist always visited the people of Kulon Progo, who are at risk of losing their homes as it would be turned into an iron sand mine. (jes/kes)