Jakarta. National Gallery of Indonesia in cooperation with cultural institutions in East Kalimantan, South Sulawesi and North Maluku and the National Research Center of Archaeology held a rock art-inspired exhibition called "Wimba Kala," or Past and Present Art, at the National Gallery of Indonesia in Central Jakarta on Friday (28/04).
Curated by Rizki A. Zaelani, Pindi Setiawan and R. Cecep Eka Permana, the exhibition combines two disciplines at the same time, fine art and archaeology.
Rizki said this exhibition is one of the most challenging exhibitions he has ever done.
"This is quite a new challenge for the artists, to work off studies and scientific data, to see them from an artist's point of view and repackage them into artworks that can appeal to the general public," he added.
Prehistoric image researcher Pindi Setiawan said the term rock painting or garca is generally applied to archaeological remains of images made on a hard surface such as niches, walls, cliffs or big chunks of rock.
It has not been a simple matter for the artists in the exhibition to interpret rock art and scientific data into contemporary works of art.
Before they began the project, Rizki invited a number of artists to visit caves in Muna, Southeast Sulawesi, and Maros, South Sulawesi, to see rock art at their original sites.
Ten of those artists are selected to display their reinterpretations of the rock art at the National Gallery exhibition.
"Direct observation of the object still trumps over anything else when making a work of art. We can see pictures of rock art on the internet but they paled in comparison once we visited the caves," Rizki said.
One of the artists, Farhan Siki, works a lot with spray paint, laser and computer-generated images. He said it took him awhile to decide what to do after he saw the rock art in the caves.
"When I went to [the caves in] Maros, I saw many unique forms of rock painting. At that time I wasn't quite sure how I was going to transform them into my style," Farhan said.
Farhan's piece, called Luncheon, shows the relationship between human and his natural habitat and is one of the highlights of the exhibition.
Inspired by the patterns he found during his visit to the Maros caves, the painting consists of "waigeo" handprints, human figures and animals like buffalo and pigs.
Using spray paint and stamps, Farhan drew haunting figures of hunters out in the wild to catch their preys.
Though Farhan uses modern techniques, he still likes to draw on canvas. Panca D.Z. & ARTi meanwhile prefers the digital form and installation.
Panca's piece is called Ethereal and uses fluorescent paint and ultraviolet light on a wall superimposed with augmented reality — a series of computer generated images that distorts the audience's view of the real world.
Inspired by the natural beauty in Muna, an island in Southeast Sulawesi, Panca said he wants his artwork to transport the audience to the idyllic island.
"I fell in love with the natural beauty of the island. It felt like heaven. That’s why I title my artwork ethereal, heavenly," he added.
Young artist Eldwin Pradipta took another route, basing his piece not on the rock art themselves but on graffitis which are sometimes blasted over them.
"There were a lot of graffitis in the caves in Muna. I was desperate to show those in my work," Eldwin said.
"I want to make people think about how humans are often very ignorant. Destroying historical sites comes easy to them," he added.
The exhibition in the National Gallery also showcases research data, photos and videos of rock art collected by archaeologists.
The Indonesian Rock Art Exhibition Wimba Kala is open every day from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. until May 15 at Building A, National Gallery of Indonesia, Central Jakarta.