Kinez Riza’s Soul-Searching Quest in New Exhibition

MAY 26, 2015

05 'Leang Barugayya, Maros, Sulawesi, Indonesia' (close-up of the actual artwork)

On the grand opening night of Ruci Art Space in South Jakarta on a recent Friday, a small group of visitors were intensely studying a black-and-white photograph of a cave interior. Darkness dominates the image (seen above), save for the cave opening that radiates a blank white space smackdabbed in the middle. Its title Leang Barugayya, Maros, Sulawesi, Indonesia gives a straightforward clue as to where the image was taken.

The artist behind the lens, Kinez Riza, applied similar techniques for her other works in the series. A glowing white void that appears like a box — a result of setting the light exposure for one minute under daylight and moving in front of the camera — can be seen on her photographs of far-flung locales, from a snow-covered cabin in Norway to a volcano on Flores, East Nusa Tenggara.

“I now understand that light and darkness are an integral part of me and my work. In my work and especially in photography, light captures time as a phenomenon,” Kinez says, whose solo exhibition Selubung Hening (“The Veil of Serenity”) will be on view until June 21 at Ruci Art Space.

Kinez is known for her multidisciplinary approach, mixing the contrasting and sometimes complementing natures of art and science in her work. She once purchased an old camera from a flea market during her university years studying art in London,a decision that made her enamored with photography ever since and eventually use it as her primary medium.


“Photography is a ‘language’ I best understand and respond to. It is a representational tool that I intrinsically understand,” she explained. “As a medium, photography responds well to my psychic and physical extensions.”

As reflected in her solo exhibition, Kinez is constantly preoccupied with ideas on nature, time and what she calls as “the sublime.” Her deep-seated predilection toward these subjects has encouraged her to explore off-the-beaten-path locations around the world — getting embedded in an archaeological project or embarking on an art residency program.

“I found today’s modern world quite overwhelming, with so much information that I can’t fully understand. I felt that certain aspects of modernity do not contribute to a mode of life within. Instead, I found a deeper affinity with nature — there are things about it that speak of deeply rooted wisdom,” she says, recalling an experience in the African plains, a place that some of the earliest men and women used to roam.

This epiphany inspired Kinez to look back and learn about human’s origins as a species, eventually getting her to meet Iwan Kurniawan, a researcher at the Bandung Geology Museum in West Java, several years ago.

“He invited me to visit their excavation sites. Since then I have been involved with his other brilliant members and their research. I am deeply fond of all of them,” the 25-year-old artist says.

The photograph mentioned early in this article, for instance, was captured during her involvement in the research project of Canadian archaeologist Maxime Aubert in Maros, South Sulawesi. Aubert and his team made a groundbreaking finding that cave paintings discovered in the region — a combination of hand-stencils and animal drawings — are dated as far back as 40,000 years ago.

“I stood deeply humbled and in awe in front of a cave painting. It is one of the world’s oldest forms of representational art. I don’t know if my own representational art will last 40,000 years,” says Kinez, whose documentation of the project made rounds in international media last year.

She was also invited to do work on a research project about the fossils of Pleistocene vertebrates — especially giant Stegodon mammoths — around the Soa Basin in Flores. This gave Kinez the opportunity to do more photographs of the scenes surrounding her in situ.

Displayed in the exhibition is a wooden-framed shot of a local Mao man working on the site, which is evocative in its sepia tone. Another photograph, Professor Erick Setyabudi with the Mao Tribe, Soa Basin depicts one of the participating researchers posing together with the locals on an arid savannah that characterizes the region.


The exhibition curator Rifandy Priatna mentioned in his curatorial writing that Kinez’s works speak of the essence of human existence, “how life is reflected through various objects that she found while conducting her travels to various prehistoric sites.”

Her attempt to illustrate the journey of the human race through objects scattered and hidden in nature is apparent in other series of photographs, including a quartet of stone-depicting photographs. Set against a bright white background, each image portrays a piece of stone — a rugged milky-white quartz stone from Namibia on one; a round pebble from a shrine in Arashiyama, Japan on the other — to an arresting effect.

Meanwhile, for the Internos series, Kinez photographed partially submerged geometric stones, creating a dramatic reflection as they float on water. The minimalist background creates a sense of isolation on every photograph, making the stone as its sole subject stand out. “The signifiers of time and place in this series are erased, thus, there is only now,” wrote Rifandy.

Kinez also participated in artist-led expeditions, once sailing on a tall ship across the Arctic wilderness with 26 other artists for a residency with the Arctic Circle organization. This sojourn inspired her Those Above series based on the Inuit myth of the relationship between the sun and the moon. Her monochromatic images in the series depict the Svedrup Science Station and the majestic landscape of Norway’s Svalbard Islands, among others.

In addition to Kinez’s photographic oeuvre, her art installations are also part of the exhibition. In Ontogeny, viewers are invited to enter a pitch-black room in which two video installations are mounted. The video shows a viscous, three-dimensional-looking entity, which represents the notion of a soul entering the human body for the first time.


While in other installation also set in a very dark room, a forest-like landscape can be encountered, complete with dry leaves on the floor that rustle as viewers step on them. This might be intended to emulate Kinez’s experience in exploring unknown territories during her many previous expeditions.

Mementos from Kinez’s journeys are also showcased separately, ranging from her countless journals to such artifacts as fossil bones, rocks and bird feathers. A series called Letters to Elder Brother Darto consists of her neatly handwritten letters that, according to the exhibition note, were “in response to the ominous question: who are you?”

Through her work, Kinez will always continue to explore the meaning behind human existence and the world we live in now. She says, “My search gave me answers that were more complex that the questions. The world we live in now is like that — we know of things we can't see or reach, and that experience is overwhelming. I feel that our search for answers reflects an innate human faculty for the abstract and profane, for we are abstract and tangible, too.”

Kinez Riza’s Selubung Hening exhibition continues through June 21 at Ruci Art Space, Jalan Suryo No. 49, Senopati, South Jakarta.

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