Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Whodunit? Who stole the paintings from Jakarta's Museum Nasional? (an article from 1996)

The Southeast Asian Art File

Whodunit? Who stole the paintings from Jakarta's Museum Nasional?

The Indonesian art world was shocked by the news of the theft of six paintings from Jakarta's National Museum. Even more shocking was the fact that at least two of the stolen paintings, Metamorphosis by Basoeki Abdullah and a portrait of a Dutch military officer decorated with the WIllem's Order by Raden Saleh were included in the catalog of the upcoming Christie's catalog in early October, 1996.

A cartoon by GM Sudarta published in last Friday's Kompas showed a Christie's auctioneer auctioning the Bronze elephant which symbolizes the National Museum, which is also popularly known as the Gedung Gajah or "Elephant Building". It clearly implied that the 230 year old auction house was in the business of auctioning off Indonesia's national treasures.

In fact, the theft would have probably not been revealed if it were not for the publication of the auction catalog. Members of the Basoeki Abdullah estate recognized lot 319 in the catalog, Nude, as Metamorphosis, one of the paintings that was in the custody of the National Museum. Meanwhile, lot 363 bore great resemblance to a painting reproduced in a catalog published by the Directorate of Culture, Department of Education and Culture, in preparation of the National Art Gallery in 1988. The pictures in the catalog were almost identical. There was a green stain on the figure's trousers, and damages were seen on the same location in both reproductions. The only difference was that in the later publication, that is the Christie's catalog, to the right of the figure's face the painting had been torn and badly restored.
Although auction houses mainly facilitate the sale of art works at the highest possible price according to the market condition in a certain region, they also become centers of documentation. "That is why we need Christie's! It records much of the changing of hands in the world of art," said Sudarmadji Damais, Head of the Jakarta History Museum at Taman Fatahilah after hearing about the theft last week.
"Christie's often helps locate stolen art," someone in the field of art auctions explained. Perhaps it has in other parts of the world, but in this case we can only hope that the paintings will be returned.
The reappearance of allegedly stolen Indonesian paintings in Christie's auction of Southeast Asian paintings has happened previously. One of Ida Bagus Made's fourteen paintings which were stolen a while ago and a Basoeki Abdullah from the collection of President Sukarno was offered in the Christie's auction in March 1995. However, because of insufficient proof, no investigation was pursued. Neither Ida Bagus Made nor Guruh Soekarnoputra filed police reports when the paintings were stolen or found missing. The inclusion of the painting in the album of the Paintings in the ollection of President Sukarno compiled by Dullah, apparently was not sufficient proof of theft.
"It is Christie's policy not to reveal the identity of either the seller or the buyer of the art works in their auctions," explained art writer Agus Dermawan, who is an avid observer of Indonesian auction trends. Therefore, the theft could not be traced.
Whether or not Christie's can be required by law to reveal the identity of the seller in the case of the two paintings stolen from Indonesia's National Museum will then depend on the laws in Singapore. Laws about stolen goods differs from country to country. According to a prominent Japanese art dealer in Japan, when a stolen painting has been sold it becomes the legal right of the buyer, and the original owners have to buy the painting back from the buyer. In other countries, legal ownership depends on whether the purchase was made before or after the official report of theft was reported to the police.
At this point, we can only predict the time of theft and the characteristics of the thief. It might be helpful to try to analyse the whodunit. Considering that it takes at least three months for the inclusion of art works in a Christie's auction, Agus Dermawan T. estimates that the paintings were stolen before June.
Taking into account the fact that the estimated prices of the paintings were still quite reasonable, it seems that the paintings were stolen before the sale of Raden Saleh's Deer Hunt in late March of this year. If the theft took place after news of this landmark sale, the thieves would certainly expect rather high prices, at least for the Raden Saleh, and therefore increase the expected reserve price in the auction. Unfortunately, the reserves for the pieces remains confidential. However, it seems that the portrait still within a reasonable limits and therefore considered suitable for auction.
It seems that the theft occured after the publication of the Christie's catalog of the March auction. The catalog revealed the high estimate of the piece to parties interested in Indonesian art, and may have seduced the culprits to steal the Raden Saleh they know exists in the neglected possession of the National Museum. It is also possible that the pieces were stolen even earlier, perhaps after the announcement of the auction of the Deer Hunt late last year or earlier this year.
In terms of the profile of the thief/thieves, we can almost be sure that the seller of the paintings is not involved in the theft, unless he/she were either completely naive. As this case has proven, the inclusion of stolen items in auctions tends to reveal cases of theft.
It seems safe to say that the painting has changed hands at least twice before the paintings reached the seller. We can assume that the theft was masterminded by someone who had reasonable knowledge of art, and even knew that there was a Raden Saleh in the National Museum's collection placed in its storage space.
If there had been any indication of forced entry into the museum's storage, the theft would have been revealed immediately. It is almost certain that no sign of forced entry to the storage facility was traced, because the theft which happened at least three months ago was only revealed two weeks ago. This suggests the involvement of insiders.
Basoeki Abudllah's Nude is estimated at S$ 8,000 to S$ 12,000. Was it worth stealing? If the piece was expected to sell at around Rp. 20 million, then minus commissions and other expenses, the seller would have bought it for Rp. 12 million, at the most. Therefore, we can assume that the persons behind the theft paid less than Rp. 2.5 million for the job.
Then, we can almost be sure that the six paintings were stolen as a lot, and later sold to the seller as a lot as well. The Raden Saleh is estimated at S$ 100,000 to S$ 150,000. If the painting would have been sold (which I doubt because of the painting's poor condition) then I think it would only reach the low end of the estimate. At Rp. 165 million, minus commissions and expenses, the seller would have bought it for around Rp. 100 million. For this painting, the culprits behind the theft may have paid Rp. 20 million for the job. Coupled with the other paintings in the lot, the value of the job may have reached Rp. 30 million. This amount would presumably be divided among 2-3 persons. Although the sum, averaging Rp. 10 million, might not seem large, it is actually still quite substantial considering the wages of government employees in this country.
If the involvement of insiders is revealed, then punishment is of course necessary. However, we should not treat the involved insiders as having sold national treasures, even though they are in the National Museum's collection. It should be taken into account that the paintings most likely had been neglected in the museum's storage space and treated as insignificant pieces.
More crucial is to reveal the masterminds of this theft. It should be stressed that the masterminds have significant knowledge about art, Indonesian art, and the existence of important paintings in certain collection in the government. They also seem to know that some key paintings are kept in storage spaces of certain museums, although cooperation with insiders may lead them to this kind of information.
Certainly there is possibility that it is the work of a syndicate, which may also be involved in other art crimes, including art forgery, which is also rampantly developing in the country.
The boom in the field of painting which is currently happening in Indonesia may have positive impacts, including the heightening of the appreciation of fine art and the the growth of the art market. However, the negative impacts which may appear as a cause of the growth have to be anticipated.
In the case of the recent theft at the National Museum, the masterminds took advantage of the current condition of Indonesian museums, which have been the slowest in responding to the developments in the field. The increase in the interest in art among a growing number of collectors have been responded by an increase in the number of artists. A few painters have shown great improvement in the quality of their work. Accordingly there is also a significant increase in the quantity and quality of art exhibitions prepared by galleries. The galleries themselves are run with increasing professionalism, in close cooperation with art writers helping them to promote the shows.
While the artists, galleries and the art writers have all made efforts to face the challenge of the art boom, museums have failed to develop as rapidly, due to limitations in budget and authority. "I feel sorry about what happened at the National Museum, but honestly it could easily have happened in any museum in Indonesia. We have to put greater attention in the registration and storage systems of our museums," added Sudarmadji Damais. At this point the government is just starting to place more attention into the institutions of museums, but their efforts need support from the public and the private sectors.
The general public also needs to place more attention to their own museums. "We need to be more respectful toward our cultural heritage," said Guruh Soekarnoputra in response to this case, reminiscing the theft that he himself experienced. Hopefully this incident will draw attention from the Indonesian society to place more attention towards the cultural patrimony of the nation, especially those kept in museums.
The municipal government of Jakarta is working hard in improving their museums. Currently, the government's own fine arts museum in undergoing renovations, in response to the heightening of interest particularly in painting.

Perhaps the time has come for both the public and the private sector to establish museums which are not merely a place to store works of art and culture, but can also be institutions of learning through the display of educational exhibits, as well as destination places where people can go, enjoy and pursue their interests. It seems that it is time for the National Art Gallery, which seems to have been conceptualized, to immediately be planned.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Kandinsky dan Expressionism MoMA Class @ America | Module 4: Kandinsky & Expressionism | Sabtu 7 April 2012

Kandinsky dan Expressionism 

MoMA Class @ America | Module 4: Kandinsky & Expressionism | Sabtu 7 April 2012

1. Poster Expressionisten

Ekspresionisme adalah istilah yang muncul dalam bidang sastra sekitar tahun 1911, dan digunakan untuk menyebut beragam karakter, gaya dan perupa, namun untuk kelas ini kita mengacu pada gerakan seni yang berkembang di dalam dan sekitar Jerman, dalam dua dekade pertama dari abad ke-20. Mungkin dapat dibilang bahwa Expresionisme, ketimbang dianggap sebagai suatu gerakan, lebih merupakan suatu arah dalam seni rupa modern yang memperkenalkan bentuk dan wujud baru yang sifatnya memberi isyarat, secara subyektif, langsung, tanpa penambahan hal-hal yang menurunkan mutunya. Didasarkan pada emosi yang mendalam, hal ini dimaksudkan untuk mengungkapkan bentuk yang paling murni dari ekspresi manusia, dan ini dapat berupa karya abstrak mau pun figuratif. 

Dalam perioda ini dua kelompok seni muncul di dua pusat Jerman yang berbeda: Der Blaue Reiter  di Munich dan Die Brucke di Dresden. 

Der Blaue Reiter

2. Sampul  dari  Der Blaue Reiter Almanach (karya Vassily Kandinsky)

Der Blaue Reiter didirikan di Munich tahun 1911, oleh perupa Rusia Vassily Kandinsky

3. Photo of Vassily Kandinsky

dan teman Jermannya, Franz Marc. 

4. Photo of Franz Marc

Paul Klee dan Auguste Mack juga seringkali terlibat bersama kelompok ini. 

5. Cover of Der Blaue Reiter Almanach (seen again)

Nama Blaue Reiter datang dari kecintaan bersama Kandinsky dan Marc pada warna biru (blaue: biru), yang mereka pandang sebagai warna spiritual yang kuat, dan juga karena Marc menyayangi kuda (reiter: penunggang kuda). 

Vassily Kandinsky 

6. Photo of Vassily Kandinsky (seen again)

Kandinsky datang dari Rusia pada umur 30 tahun, setelah meninggalkan karir mengajar ilmu hukum dan ilmu ekonomi, untuk memasuki sekolah seni di Munich. yang dianggapnya sebagai suatu pusat seni yang lebih simpatik dibanding Moskow tempatnya berasal. Ini ia lakukan tahun 1896. Namun sebelum meninggalkan Moskow pun, ia mengalami suatu hal yang mencerahkan. Dala sebuah pameran seni rupa international di pertengahan tahun 1890an, ia melihat salah satu lukisan tumpukan jerami karya Monet. 

7. Claude Monet, Haystacks (Effect of Snow and Sun), 1891 at The Metropolitan Museum

Karya itu mengesankan baginya, karena ia tidak mengenalinya secara langsung. Ia tidak tau apa yang dilihatnya. Dengan itu ia menyadari bahwa kekuatan seni lukis tidaklah tergantung pada pengenalan obyak, atau obyek itu sendiri, dan hal ini membawanya ke jalan menuju abstraksi. 

8. Vassily Kandinsky,Houses in Murnau, 1908

Pada awalnya ia menengok pada tradisi rakyat Rusia, dan karya-karya awalnya masih sangat representasional: pemandangan dengan petani, desa-desa, gereja-gereja, pemanah dan penunggang kuda. Namun lama kelamaan karya-karyanya semakin kuat, ekspresif, dilukis menggunakan sapuan lebar dengan ketebalan dengan warna yang tidak lazim, ditambah garis kontur hitam yang kuat, dan karya-karyanya akan menjadi semakin abstrak dan mengandung emosi. Antara tahun 1906-8, ia bepergian keliling Eropa, dan ia menjadi kenal dengan tren-tren kontemporer. 

9. Andre Derain, The Lighthouse in Collioure. 1905

Ia menjadi sangat dipengarhui oleh penggunaan warna oleh para perupa Fauvis, 
oleh ajaran-ajaran Theosofi dan spiritualisme, serta musik atonal yang dikembangkan para komposer seperti Arnold Schoenberg . 

10. Vassily Kandinsky,Picture with Archer, 1909 at the MoMA
11. Vassily Kandinsky, One of the Panels of Edwin R. Campbell, 1914

Hal ini sangat penting, karena ia akan nantinya mengembangkan hubungan antara karyanya dengan musik. Sebagaimana dikatakannya: warna adalah keyboard, mata adalah harmoni, jiwanya adalah piano dengan banyak senar. Perupa adalah tangan yang memainkannya, menyentuh satu kunci nada atau yang lain untuk menyebabkan getaran pada jiwa. 

12. Photo of Franz Marc (seen again)

Kolaborator Kandinsky, Franz Marc, juga sangat spiritual. Tapi citra-citra yang diciptakannya seringkali menampilkan binatang-binatang dan hubungannya dengan dunia. 

13. Franz Marc, Yellow Cow, 1911, at the Guggenheim Museum, NY
14. Franz Marc, Red and Blue Horse, 1912

Marc percaya bahwa binatang adalah makhluk superior, dan menciptakan suatu dunia mistikal dan kosmologis disekitar mereka. Kita dapat melihat hal itu dalam lukisannya tentang sapi dan kuda. Penggunaan warna yang cerah, mengingatkan kita pada para Fauvis, dan ia pun mengagumi karya Van Gogh. 

15. Cover of the Blaue Reiter Almanach (seen again)

Banyak dari teori Kandinsky dijabarkan dalam almanak Der Blaue Reiter yang dibuatnya dan diilustrasikannya dengan Marc pada tahun 1912, serta dalam buku teoritis Kandinsky sendiri, Tentang Spiritualisme dan Seni yang diterbitkan setahun sebelumnya,

16. Cover of Vassily Kandinsky’s book Concerning the Spiritual in Art (Uber das Gesitige in der Kunst), 1911-12

yang merupakan pembelaan sekaligus promosi dari seni rupa abstrak, dan juga menegaskan kemungkinan spiritual dari warna dan garis ekspresif. 

17. Cover of the Blaue Reiter Almanach (seen again)

Pameran Blaue Reiter ditampilkan dari tahun 1912-1914, di paling tidak 12 kota, bukan hanya  di Jerman, tapi di Hongaria, Norwegia, Finlandia, dan Swedia. Pameran-pameran itu menampilkan karya-karya Kandinsky dan Marc, 

18. Vassily Kandinsky, image from a book of his prints entitled Klange (Sounds), 1913
19. Franz Marc, Yellow Cow, 1911, (seen before)

di tengah-tengah karya Van Gogh, Rousseau, Gauguin, Matisse, Picasso, dan Braque, secara strategis menempatkan karya-karya mereka di dalam dan sebagai kulminasi dari trajektori Modernis. 

Perang Dunia I (pertama) mengakhiri kegiatan-kegiatan itu secara tiba-tiba. Tapi pada saat itu abstraksi total telah tercapai, dan Kandinsky yang menetap di Paris akan meneruskan pencariannya pada spiritualisme dalam seni rupa, melalui tulisannya, perkuliahan yang disampaikannya, dan melalui komposisi-komposisi abstraknya yang menjadi hidup karena subyektifitas yang mendalam. 

Die Brucke

Die Brucke adalah kelompok Ekspresionis yang ke-2. 
Pada tahun 1905, Die Brucke atau "Jembatan", didirikan di Dresden, dipimpin mahasiswa arsitektur muda Ernest Ludwig Kirchner, Erik Heckel dan Karl Schmidt-Rottluff) yang memutuskan untuk memecahkan diri dari akademi pada saat itu. 

20. Ernest Ludwig Kirchner, A Coummunity of Artists (inc. left to right: Meuller, Kirchner, Heckel, and Schmidt-Rottluff), 1925-26, Museum Ludwig in Cologne, Germany

Dalam karya ini Kirchner menggambarkan beberapa perupa awal dari kelompok itu. Yang lain seperti Max Pechstein, Emil Nolde dan Otto Mueller, akan bergabung selanjutnya. Tujuh puluh pameran dari karya mereka diselenggarakan dari tahun 1905 dan 1913, ketika Die Brucke secara resmi bubar. 

21. Die Brucke Manifesto, 1906

Ini adalah Manifesto mereka dari tahun 1906, yang secara tegas diprimitivisasikan, secara kokoh berbeda-beda bentuk dalam tipografinya, sangat menakjubkan. Ini adalah waktu yang sangat menarik bagi kelompok ini, penuh dengan gagasan-gagasan yang besar dan kuat, serta ketidaktaatan. Tujuan Die Brucke yang tertulis adalah "mendapatkan kebebasan bergerak dan hidup untuk kami sendiri". Dari situ kita bisa mendapatkan kesan dari semangat muda mereka yang menggebu-gebu. 

Mereka berpaling dari budaya kelas menengah, dan segala bentuknya yang basi, dan membangun situasi komunal di mana mereka saling bekerja di studio satu sama lain, berbagi model mereka, termasuk secara romantis. 

22. Ernest Ludwig Kirchner, Self-Portrait with Model, 1910

Anggota mereka berliburan bersama sebagai salah satu cara membebaskan diri dari segala peraturan dan rintangan kota, sekaligus meneruskan pertukaran seni mereka. Ketika seorang perupa bepergian meninggalkan kelompoknya, dialog didukung melalui pengiriman kartu pos, surat dan gambar-gambar. 

23. Ernest Ludwig Kirchner, Bathers at Moritzburg, 1909

Die Brucke berupaya untuk membebaskan diri dari peraturan akademis, dengan meminta model-model telanjang mereka untuk mengambil pose yang cepat, spontan, dan tidak disadari, atau hanya berjalan-jalan saja keliling studio.  

24. Photo of Werner Gothein, Hugo Biallowons, and Erna Schilling in Kirchner’s studio, Kornerstrasse 45, Berlin, 1915 

Subyek kegemaran lain termasuk balai-balai dansa, dengan penekanan pada gerakan, repetisi dan seksualitas. 

25. Ernest Ludwig Kirchner, Panama Dancers, 1910-11, at the North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh

Primitivism dirayakan dalam karya seni Gauguin, suatu penghormatan pada kary seni cetak cukil kayu, patung Afrika dan Oseania, lukisan dan pahatan India.

26. Paul Gauguin, Auti te pape (Women at the River),woodcut, 1893-94

Semua hal itu menjadi jalan untuk memerdekakan Die Brucke dari idealisme dan konvensi seni rupa Barat,

27. Ernest Ludwig Kirchner, Nude Dancers, 1909
28. Photo of Berlin: Corner of Friedrichstrasses and Leipziger Strasse
29. Oskar Kokoshka,Portrait of Herwarth Walden, 1910
30. Cover of Der Sturmperiodical
31. Ernest Ludwig Kirchner, Two Women on the Street, 1914
32. Ernest Ludwig Kirchner, Street Scene, Dresden, 1908
33. Ernest Ludwig Kirchner, Street, Berlin,1913
34. Ernest Ludwig Kirchner, Bathers Throwing Reeds (from the Portfolio Brucke V), 1909-10
35. Albrecht Durer, Durer Coat of Arms, 1523
36. Paul Gauguin Auti te pape (Women at the River), (seen above)
37. Emile Nolde, The Prophet, 1912
38. Kathe Kollowitz,Uprising, 1899
39. Kathe Kollowitz, The Widow, 1922-23
40. Photo of Egon Schiele, 1914
41. Gustav Klimt, Hope II, 1908
42. Egon Schiele, Standing Male Nude with Red Loincloth, 1914
43. Gustav Klimt, Hope II, (seen again)
44. Egon Schiele, Standing Male Nude with Red Loincloth, 1914
45. Egon Schiele, Female Nude, 1910
46. Egon Schiele, Boy, 1911 watercolor
47. Egon Schiele, Female Nude, (seen again)
48. Oskar Kokoschka, Self-Portrait, 1917
49. Oskar  Poster, Pieta (Poster for Murderer, Hope of Women), 1909
50. Oskar Kokoschka,Portrait of Paul Scheerbart, 1910
51. Oskar Kokoschka, Hanz Tietze and Erica Conrat-Tiezte, 1909
52. Oskar Kokoschka,Bride of the Wind, 1914

Otto Djaya: Alive and Kicking (an article from 1996, published in the Jakarta Post)

Otto Djaya: Alive and Kicking
Amir Sidharta

(an article from 1996, published in the Jakarta Post) 

The most astonishing aspect of the exhibition of Otto Djaya's paintings currently held at the Taman Ismail Marzuki, I found, was that many of the exhibited works were dated 1995. 
Of course, nothing is terribly peculiar about that. However, I had learnt from an article in Modern Indonesian Art: Three Generations of Tradition and Change 1945-1990, a book published for the Festival of Indonesia in the United States 1990/91, that Otto Djaya lived between 1916-1989. Another, more recent, exhibition catalog mentions the painter as having passed away "long before his elder brother Agus Djaya. This catalog listed Agus Djaya death in 1993 while the article in Modern Indonesian Art notes his life between 1913-1990. 
With that information in mind, I even considered the possibility that what I was viewing were paintings by a different artist with the same name as the famous painter. However, looking at the works themselves, there was no doubt that they were indeed the creations of the one and only Otto Djaya. 
Otto Djayasuntara was Born in Rangkasbitung, Banten, West Java, in 1916. Not much is known about his early life. While his brother Agus Djaya and Indonesian master Soedjojono co-founded the Persagi art  association, Otto was associated with the group. During the Japanese occupation (1942-1945) his brother headed the Art Division of the Keimin Bunka Shidoso cultural center, while Otto became his deputy. Later, as an officer of the Peta (Pembela Tanah Air - “Defender of The Country”), he was assigned to record his experiences during the military training through painting. 
Sometime after the Proclamation of Independence, the two brothers spent a few years in Europe, where they earned considerable recognition. It was apparent from their work that the brothers influenced each other. However, in the mid-1950s, Agus sought inspiration in Bali, while Otto went to Semarang but was still in close contact with Jakarta. In the past six years, a number of monographs on Indonesian artists, publications about recent development of Indonesian Art, and Indonesian Art History in general, have appeared. However, still very little particularly about the early period of Indonesian Art is known. The few publications about Modern Indonesian Art published prior to 1968, such as Kusnadi’s Indonesian Art   (1955) and Claire Holt’s Art in Indonesia (1967) are very hard to find, while the Soekarno Collection albums can be found in private libraries of many collectors and therefore only accessible to a limited few. 
The theme of legends and myths, the compositions of which many have noted have been influenced by temple reliefs, have appeared at least since the 1950s. His work, has also been included in The Paintings and Statues of the Collection President Sukarno of the Republic of Indonesia  album, published in the 1960s. Today, he continues to paint the same same themes in the same style as he did in the past. 
Myths and legends have become so much part of his identity, that he jokes about his fascination or even obsession with heavenly nymphs his witty self portrait. Here, he portrays himself as a stereotypical artist, equipped with an artist's pallette, barrette, red shirt and pipe, from which emits smoke containing his imagination, a heavenly nymph dancing in the nude. 
His typical cartoonish/caricatural painting, such as the self portrait,  offer  commentary on contemporary society. Silakan Pak, Santai Saja,   shows a regional official wearing the typical kopiah cap, and dressed in the formal  safari, visiting a local bordello. A man wearing the traditonal formal  Javanese costume, including blangkon, sorjan, and sarung  equipped with a keris behind, welcomes him (as in the title of the painting) to select any of the women kneeling on a divan that suits his taste. 
In Berdandan (Dressing), a woman is depicted getting dressed in a room. Her kebaya is still unbuttoned while her date, much similar to the official in the previous painting can be seen just about to reach the front of her house. 
The same or at least figures appear once again in Mohon Apa Saja Bebas (Free to Ask For Anything). Here the official is seen visiting a local soothsayer. The smoke from the soothsayer's incense burner emits simple symbols of fortune. 
Otto Djaya's paintings of this genre are reminescent of Put On comics which appeared regularly in many Indonesian magazines of the past, actually since the 1930s. However, it is unclear how the comic strip actually influenced his art. 

Frankly speaking, showing only his most recent works, the exhibition does little to tell the story of Otto Djaya and his artistic development. If anything what it does make us aware of is the fact that this painter was still alive and kicking. However, it also  points out that documentation about art in Indonesia is still very poor and is in desperate need for support. 
The exhibition about Otto Djaya’s work, and the fact that at least two publications have assumed that he had passed away six years ago, certainly calls for more and better research to be done. With a growing appreciation in Indonesian Art, it is time for the country to have a proper fine art documentation and study center. 

Fadjar Sidik: responding to changing times creatively, conceptually and philosophically

Fadjar Sidik: responding to changing times creatively, conceptually and philosophically
by Amir Sidharta

(an article from the year 2000, published in the Jakarta Post)

The works of the painter Fadjar Sidik in the 1950s, such as Portrait of Mrs. Abas Alibasjah and Portait of Wim Nirahua, are figurative compositions which depicts the nuances of the time. They are very different from the works he did since 1961 until today. Currently, his Dinamika Keruangan (“Dynamics of Space”) consists of geometric shapes that are formed in a harmonic and interesting composition of forms and colors. They do not always represent any atmosphere or life-nuances of a certain period.
It was obvious, that in 1961, there was significant change in the works of Fadjar Sidik, which is related to his experiences while he was in Bali for four years, 1957 - 1961. The painter calls it "the dichotomy between nature and technology." During the early years of his stay in Bali, he lived in Tanjung Bungkok, Denpasar, on the old road to Sanur. Not long thereafter, the main road, which was a dirt road, was up-graded, given a layer of asphalt. Later, Pertamina built an installation there.
At that time, Bali was going through several rapid changes. Electricity has caused the raising of electric-poles along the main roads. Temples, which were traditionally lit by kerosene lanterns or torches, became equipped with florescent lights. Balinese traditional houses started to change into office/shop houses.
Since he felt disturbed by the changes, Fadjar Sidik moved to Ubud. However, even before two years passed, Ubud underwent change as well. A movie theater was built in the center of the town. "Blue jeans and rock & roll music came to Ubud," he said. Those who experienced the boom of tourism, bought cars. The Barong dance, usually performed for religion rituals, became performed only when there were tourists.
Facing the changes, first Fadjar Sidik admitted that he could not stand it and felt annoyed. "I felt really annoyed, because all my favorite subjects which usually appear in my paintings, could no longer be placed in one harmonic unification its environment, then. It was difficult to compromised nature with technology," he said. It was true, the traditional Balinese markets with their thatch umbrella-rooftops were more unique and interesting to paint compared to the new markets built according to the governmental decree/instructions. Things like these those bothered the painter.
Actually, painter could have easily ignored the products of technology, and could only portray the natural and cultural elements that were not or have not been 'poluted' by the progress of the technology on his canvases. However, Fadjar Sidik refused to respond to the changes of Bali as romantically as that. He saw that the progress of technology and development could not be put aside, because it was “a necessary evil” to the era. The challenge was to harmonize the products of technology and development in harmony with the nature and traditional culture. It has to be set into his works. First, Fadjar Sidik responded with explosive expressions. He admitted to have “gotten mad” trying to find forms, rhythms and everything. It is evident in his painting, Campuhan, which no longer showed figurative forms, but has become more expressive and dynamic. The colors he used were not always related to the true colors of the nature he tries to depict, but rather are colors that express his emotions. Also, although still forming figures and shapes, his brush strokes are very spontaneous, thus more expressive. Those paintings surely were the transition from the Fadjar Sidik’s old style to his new one.
Disappointed with the progress of Bali, he returned back to Yogyakarta and accepted the offer from Abas Alibasjah, who at that time has became the division head at Akademi Seni Rupa Indonesia (The Indonesian Academy of Fine Art) to became a lecturer, which he continued until now. Before he returned back to Yogyakarta, Fadjar Sidik formulated some interpretation of Balinese ornaments and art forms, which he changed into abstraction of the more simple geometric forms. However, he refused to be called as an abstract painter. He preferred to be called designer. "A designer usually designs practical things, whereas the designs I make are meant to be emotional and aesthetic," he explained. The forms he created were not meant as a representation of natural forms. According to the painter, even if recognizable forms appeared, looking like mountains, fields or moon, it was only the viewer’s association. His works are named Dinamika Keruangan (“Dynamics of Space”) because they were focused on the negative space of the canvas, not on the positive elements that form the subject. "On every painting there is always negative space, and it is the dynamics of the negative space which is meant by the dynamics of space," he said. The negative space to which he refers, is the space between the elements within his paintings.
His “Dynamics of Space” paintings are filled with musical rhythm, because of the repetition of forms and the use of vibrant colours, which is reminiscent of the works of Paul Klee. However, the rhythm and music were in fact not his main attention. "Rhythm and composition should appear in any work, and should not be something that is applied purposefully," he said.
His titles, which in the beginning were called “Dynamics of Space”, later changed. There were such titles as "Metropole", "Mandala", and so forth. His works also went through several changes, although not drastically. His latest works are painted with diagonal brush strokes, which adds rhythm to his paintings. Yet most importantly, he still held his prime principles of the “Dynamics of Space". To solve the dichotomy between nature and technology, Fadjar Sidik did not become a romantic; on the contrary, he took the creative steps, even conceptually and philosophically. Through his works, he tried to find a solution responding to the dichotomy. If nature, culture and technology were the positive elements, then the negative space became its solution.
Even though he realized that the changes in Bali has made him change his style, more or less being affected by tourism, Fadjar Sidik kept an open mind. He even declared, "Lucky we have tourists!" According to him, tourism has helped Bali solved its dichotomy of nature, culture and technology. He said that it was certainly due to the guidance of the foreigners who lived long enough in Bali that kept Bali hold firmly its cultural and artistic values, and still able to accommodate the demands of modern life. He cited the development of hotels like the Bali Hyatt, and Kayu Aya,  that he has seen in the past. He also admitted, that the influences of foreigner artists such as Walter Spies and Arie Smit helped the progress of Balinese arts but at the same time also conserved the traditional Balinese cultural values along the way.
It is clear that Fadjar Sidik is a true modernist, who holds tight to his principles until today. This is not to be questioned or put in doubt. However, there is still one question to be asked. If he had lived in Bali when the dichotomy of nature, culture and technology has been solved, what would have happened to his art? An exhibition of Fadjar Sidik’s works is on show at One Gallery, Jl. Panjang, West Jakarta, from 9 - … September 2000.