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National gallery brings Affandi’s paintings to life in immersive spectacle

Josa Lukman

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Thu, November 12, 2020  /  05:02 pm
National gallery brings Affandi’s paintings to life in immersive spectacle

Technological feat: As part of the National Culture Week (PKN), the exhibition celebrates the works of Indonesian maestro Affandi, bringing to life his paintings via video projection and sound design. (JP/Seto Wardhana)

The exhibition “Alam, Ruang, Manusia” (Nature, Space, Human) celebrates Affandi, who is considered a representative of Indonesian modern art in the international arts scene with more than 2,000 paintings under his belt.

The exhibition, held as part of the 2020 National Culture Week, runs from Oct. 27 to Nov. 25 at the National Gallery of Indonesia in Jakarta.

This is not your run-of-the-mill exhibition, however, with visiting hours limited to six hour-long sessions per day held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. With strict health protocols in place, visitor numbers are capped at 20 per session, with prior online registration required beforehand at the cultural week’s website pkn.id.

Captured: Due to the ongoing pandemic, no more than 20 visitors are allowed inside the gallery for each session.Captured: Due to the ongoing pandemic, no more than 20 visitors are allowed inside the gallery for each session. (JP/Seto Wardhana)

Affandi, born in 1907 in Cirebon, West Java, is often associated with expressionism and is renowned for his signature plototan technique of pouring paint directly from the tube to the canvas and shaping them with his fingers.

While several Western art critics have categorized Affandi’s style as a new form of expressionism, the painter himself did not necessarily see it that way. 

A humble figure throughout his life, Affandi did not concern himself with the theories and intricacies of the art scene, preferring to paint for his own enjoyment.

“For me, my movement is humanism. What it means is that I paint based on humanity. Because of that, I cannot proclaim that art is for art. For me, the title of artist is too grand. Call me a painter or better yet, just human,” he once said.

At the exhibition, 98 of Affandi’s “new expressionist” paintings are brought to life in an immersive spectacle combining video, lighting and sound. Visitors will be able to traverse the exhibition space as the animated paintings move dynamically through walls and ceilings, immersing them into the world of Affandi.

Milestone: The interactive exhibition “Alam, Ruang, Manusia” (Nature, Space, Human) is the National Gallery's first offline exhibition following its temporary closure due to the pandemic.Milestone: The interactive exhibition “Alam, Ruang, Manusia” (Nature, Space, Human) is the National Gallery's first offline exhibition following its temporary closure due to the pandemic. (JP/Seto Wardhana)

Mutiara Marta Lena Nauli, one of the exhibition’s creative directors, said in a prerecorded video that the concept for Alam, Ruang, Manusia was intended to be similar to the Atelier des Lumières art center in Paris.

Atelier des Lumières, which translates to “studio of lights”, is a blend of tradition and modernity, utilizing an intricate ecosystem of video projection and sound system to transform the ordinary gallery visit into an immersive and memorable experience.

“What’s interesting about this exhibition is that it’s not merely a painting exhibition, as it utilizes video mapping projection technology,” Mutiara said.

In a regular exhibition, she explains, the visitor and the painting are separated as the subject and object, respectively. However, in an immersive exhibition, the visitor becomes part of the painting, while the painting itself is translated into the space’s ambiance.

As the Atelier des Lumières celebrates the works of the likes of Claude Monet and Vincent van Gogh, so does Alam, Ruang, Manusia pay tribute to Affandi.

“We really wanted to reintroduce Affandi to the younger generation; that Affandi and his works are very interesting. This is also our own tribute to one of Indonesia’s famous maestros,” Mutiara said.

Immersive: Along with video projections, several of Affandi’s paintings from the gallery's own collection are also displayed.Immersive: Along with video projections, several of Affandi’s paintings from the gallery's own collection are also displayed. (JP/Seto Wardhana)

Along with video-mapped paintings, the exhibition also features 15 of Affandi works from the National Gallery’s own collection, which spans three decades from the 1940s to the 1970s.

Exhibition and gallery curator Bayu Genia Krishbie said the paintings in "Alam, Ruang, Manusia" could be separated into three categories: nature, which highlights Affandi observations on flora, fauna and landscapes; space, focusing on scenes from private and public spaces as well as architecture; and human, portraits of human activity and the painter’s own affinity for humanity.

“Affandi’s story is a story of life spirit, hard work and the drive to move forward — inspiration we all need to heal from the pandemic,” he said.

National Gallery head Pustanto said in a statement that he hoped the exhibition could tell the story of Affandi as a maestro as well as his own philosophy of not giving up easily.

“This exhibition is proof of the spirit and hard work of those involved, from the team that prepared the exhibition to the appreciative visiting public, as they continue moving forward even in the most difficult of situations.” (ste)

 

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