‘FILM,’ an exhibition by Jakarta-based artist and photographer Davy Linggar, pays tribute to some of Indonesia’s prolific contemporary artists through a series of captivating photographs. (JG Photos/Tunggul Wirajuda)

A Glimpse Into the Psyche of Contemporary Artists

JANUARY 26, 2015

The image of Indonesian contemporary artist Ugo Untoro looks at the camera, steadily holding his gaze with the lens. Titled “Ugo Untoro #3,” the black and white picture by photographer Davy Linggar conveys the intensity shared by his many of his works like “Deru” (Roar) and “Black Rain.”

Davy also captured Ugo in his most private sphere, namely his studio, in “Ugo Untoro #1” and “#2.” The subject, a three-time Philip Morris Indonesian Art Award winner, looks deep in thought as he receives his visitor: a female mannequin named Jacky. While Jacky seemed an eccentricity on Davy’s part, the doll’s recurring appearance to Ugo and others prove she is more than just that.

Davy’s behind-the-scenes look at Ugo is part of “FILM,” the 40-year-old’s third solo exhibition. Held at the Papilion building in Kemang, South Jakarta, the exhibit displays over 90 photographs of 17 eminent Indonesian artists, among them Ugo, sculptors Heri Dono and Dolorosa Sinaga, painter F.X. Harsono, and installation artist Titarubi, as an homage to their contribution to the country’s contemporary arts. 

“Davy wants to bring out the unseen spaces that have brought out numerous important artworks that built Indonesian contemporary art. [These spaces] can’t be seen in the works of art themselves, the exhibition catalogues, or the artist’ profile pages,” said exhibition curator Mia Maria. “At the same time, Davy wants to feed his curiosity about the artists that he knows, the spaces that their energy inhabits and observe them, and make the connection between their domain, their soul, and their art.” 

She added that Davy is among the select few who can cross over between fine art and photography.

The Jakarta native, who named the exhibition after color as well as black-and-white film and Polaroid negatives, echoed the curator’s observations. 

“I chose these artists because they represent Indonesian contemporary art. They’re known to be cutting edge in Indonesian art, and so they’re at the forefront of how it evolved,” said Davy. “The use of large format film cameras to take the photos in ‘FILM’ also made me learn again, as I’m forced to think ahead to the results that I want to obtain and be more detail oriented. 

“But the connection between the photographer, camera and subject is more tangible as there’s no digital manipulation — unlike digital cameras.”

He also pointed out that the photos aren’t just a back-to-basic study in aesthetics; they’re also a wry look at the ongoing conflict between art and commercialism. Davy’s use of Jacky, which is one of his most innovative touches since he exhibited his art across Indonesia and the world in 1990, reflected this polemic between art and commercialism. 

“My use of Jacky alludes to my experience in fashion photography, particularly in fitting out designer wear on mannequins,” he said. “Jacky symbolized what visitors to the artists’ studios would see and feel; she stands for how the artists would interact with the outside world.”  

Curator Agung Hujatnikajennong agreed: “The studio is a no less ‘mystical’ place than the artist. It has a magnetic charm that draws in many people.”

Agung’s observations are backed by Jacky’s recurring appearances in Ugo’s photos of his fellow artists. In one shot, she stands alongside Yogyakarta-based artist and curator Tisna Sanjaya as he surveys the scenery for his own hot. 

In another photo, Heri is pointing out how he made his sculptures of angels with mechanical wings, a work that he unveiled to exhibition, “The Wonderful World of Heri Dono,” which was held to critical and public acclaim at the Art1 Gallery, Central Jakarta in 2014. 

However, Davy still managed to show his knowledge of his subjects without Jacky’s help. His depiction of Harsono emerging from the mists pays homage to the sculptor’s standing as a co-founder of the New Art movement of contemporary Indonesian art. 

On the other hand, his take on an anonymous work by Titarubi affirms the latters’ place as one of the country’s leading sculptors. His character study of artist Ay Tjoe Christine is just as sharp; while his leading photo of her conveys her intensity and creativity, another more ethereal photo with Jacky seeks to make her creative process more tangible.

Davy added that the works in “FILM” will be featured in a book, set to be released later this year. Whether the book or the exhibition will break new ground like “Pinkswing Park,” his 2005 collaboration with fellow artist Agus Suwage on freedom of expression in Indonesia, remains to be seen. But as a chronicle and personal observation of movers in Indonesian art, “FILM” leaves an impression.