Tuesday, December 16, 2008

'Two Signs' shows artists' magnificent struggle

Matheos Viktor Messakh , The Jakarta Post , Jakarta | Tue, 12/16/2008 11:08 AM | Potpourri

The "Two Signs" exhibition reminds us that the word "art" foremost implies skill. Two artists -- painter Joko Sulistiono and sculptor Putu Adi Gunawan -- produced much of the art at the exhibition, which runs until Dec. 24 at Andy's Gallery -- one of the oldest galleries in the city.

The artists' work conveys a magnificent journey of struggle.
Joko's paintings incorporate mixed media on canvas. He mixes the elements of his painting with collating; a medium that he has prefered since his student days.
He began collating when he was a poor student unable to afford canvas.
He was instead compelled to search for pictures in newspapers and magazines, which he would then select for his collations. In the beginning, he worked with paper, and then moved to boards before finally settling on canvas once he was able to afford it.
The collating techniques incorporated in his current works represent his own development of those he observed over the past two decades.
Joko's technique is unique. His trick is to turn the graphics on the canvas upside down.
"I used to work using conventional collate techniques but I was afraid it would create bubbles," he says.
While many painters are not interested in collating by hand, preferring instead advanced computer software to achieve the same ends, Joko swears by the hard way.
He works manually because he believes there is a magnetic field of emotion that spreads from the canvas.
"Digital print is too technological for me," he says.
In this exhibition, Joko displays unusual fish fossils.
Joko says depicting the true forms of the fish species is not his aim, but rather that the true nature of the art work is produced by mixing the images with sweeps of brush strokes.
Although all of Joko's fossil images give the impression of ancientness and decay, they also seem to come alive as they are wrought and ornamented with other new realities of life.
Joko's fossil images seems to affirm Jacques Lipchitz's famous quote: "Art is an action against death. It is a denial of death".
Joko's work Sub Marine mimics a fossil of some living thing from the past as a veiled form between that of a submarine and another fish. Two other fossils, a larger and a smaller, appear to being moving through the water in a particular direction.
"Even the technology is obsolete, the only thing that is not obsolete is the change itself," says Joko.
"A fossil," he says, "has its own life. Even death has its own life."
By bringing fossils alive, Joko seems to echo Aristotle's saying that "Art completes what nature cannot bring to finish. The artist gives us knowledge of nature's unrealized ends".
Adi displays at the exhibition eight bronze sculptures that he created this year and last.
Adi's sculptures of fat figures are reminiscent of the works of Colombian painter Fernando Bottero.
"It's usual for artists to influence each other, but one will soon know that these figures are Adi's as they have specific characters, such as funny, fat and with afro hair styles," says gallery owner Andi Yustana.
The fact that all of his sculptures are of fat people suggests that Adi is trying to convince us that humor is more important than beauty and that beauty is not only skin deep.
A bronze statue titled Pada Suatu Hari (One Day), for example, depicts a fat pig being ridden by two fat boxers with afros.
In the sculpture, Adi appears to be playing with plasticity, which is not just to obtain humorous impressionism but also to induce us to become aware of the fleshiness of our own bodies.
Just as with Joko's work, Adi's also reflects his own experiences.
Unlike many artists who prefer to leave creativity in the hands of their laborers, Adi casts his own bronze sculptures.
His years of experience working as an apprenticeship in concrete iron casting jobs in Mojokerto, East Java, and the knowledge he acquired in Yogyakarta, compelled him to create his own style of iron casting.
The road to discovering a perfect casting technique was one of trial and error.
Adi says he used to submit statues that he created from resin to experts in reinforced casting.
However, he had a number of bad experiences at the casters, including enduring horrendous waiting lists as well as misshaped casts.
"They often easily missed some details because they didn't understand the artistic forms," Adi says.
In finding his own techniques, Adi was able to save more on materials, time and fuel costs.
The spirit of exploration is the theme behind the works of Joko and Adi, where through innovation and the beauty of humor and parody they were able to overcome the barriers of their early careers.
The real art in their works is not artwork but, as Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, "the path of the creator to his work."
The exhibition curator Asikin Hassan said the uniqueness of the two artists reflected the spirit of exploration.
"Many artist now have too many ideas but they forgot to develop their skills."
"Two Signs"
Andi's Gallery
Jl. Tanah Abang IV/14, Central Jakarta
Open everyday until Dec. 24
from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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