Following previous series in 2007 and 2011, the National Gallery in Jakarta is running the third Soulscape exhibition titled 'Soulscape in Progress #2.' This exhibition features the latest abstract paintings by 20 Indonesian painters. (The Peak Photo/Tunggul Wirajuda)

Putting Abstract Painting In Perspective

AUGUST 17, 2015

The murky patterns seem to emerge from the five panels of canvas, the darker parts balancing the bright, almost luminescent, texture of the surface. Titled “Peziarah #1” (“Pilgrim #1”), the abstract work by artist Andi Suandi reflects its creator’s intent to expand his artistic boundaries.

“It is literally part of my musings on how a painting would look if it expanded from a triptych, which is conventionally the largest sort of painting, to a five-panel work,” Andi says.

“Figuratively, the work portrays how the light within ourselves guides us toward a spiritual end. The predominantly light, luminescent canvas symbolizes the greater spiritual journey that pilgrims go on. It also shows the infinite possibilities and wide scope of abstract painting in mind, feeling and emotion, especially if one looks deeper into themselves.”

A companion piece, “Peziarah #3,”strikes a chord with its predominantly black shades.

“The dark shades in ‘Peziarah #3’ don’t denote doom and gloom. Instead, the patterns represent the untapped spiritual potential within ourselves,” Andi says.

“The painting shows how we don’t always go through the light to reach our spiritual goal or state of spiritual perfection. Most of all, the dark and white shades streaking through ‘Peziarah #1’ and ‘Peziarah #3’ respectively are like yin and yang, as they balance both works.”

The “Peziarah” series are among the works highlighted in “Soulscape in Progress #2,” an exhibition of abstract paintings by 20 Indonesian painters. Held at Gallery C at the National Gallery in Jakarta, the event is the third of its kind to be held in the museum, following similar exhibitions in 2007 and 2011.

“The exhibition features the latest Indonesian abstract paintings since a group of painters in the genre declared the Jakarta Abstract Painting Manifesto on June 17, 2005,” says National Gallery director Tubagus Andre Sukmana.

“There have been at least 16 abstract painting exhibitions in Indonesia since 2005, and the art form has been shown in museums annually thanks to the efforts of the Indonesian Visual Arts Foundation.”

Abstract painting has made strides in Indonesia since the declaration of the art form’s manifesto, says abstract painter and exhibition organizer Sulebar Soekarman.

“However, much of this progress was little known to the public, as the press preferred to focus on political and economic affairs,” he says.

“The term ‘Soulscape’ reflect the artists’ conscience, inner feelings, or their transcendental anxieties about the human condition. The stance starkly contrasts with landscapes and seascapes, as the latter deal with environments that we can see and feel.”

The veteran artist, whose works have been exhibited as far as Rotterdam in the Netherlands, practiced what he preached with “Keselarasan Menuju Yang Satu,” or “Harmony Toward Oneness.” Juxtaposing Balinese crests with batik sarongs and other motifs, the painting has a surrealistic element reminiscent of Chagall or Magritte, but with an Indonesian touch. The piece and its accompanying artwork, “Jalan Terang Menuju Satu,” (“Bright Road Toward Oneness”) also reflects his attitude to progress.

“Progress can come about with the maturity of our stance, the firmness of our beliefs, and the source of our spiritual inspiration flows without drying up,” Sulebar says.

“It’s ultimately about being at one with God to unite and be at one with the cosmos to balance ourselves; this is why some abstract pieces by Kandinsky or Pollock became iconic works of art,” he says, adding that abstract painting combines pure and fine art.

“The art form’s development in Indonesia is distinct because of its more spontaneous and nonlinear growth, though it was pigeonholed into graphic design, decorative art and other genres. Many Indonesian artists, particularly those from the younger generation, can’t move out of their comfort zone.”

But 44-year-old artist Gogor Purwoko proves an exception to the rule with “Bird” and “Festival.” Featuring bold colors and lines reminiscent of Chagall and Le Corbusier, the former’s undulating lines seem like a bird is about to give a worm to a chick, or a bird circling a branch. The sense of fun and exuberance is tangible in the latter, while its vigor evokes Pollock’s action paintings.

“Abstract paintings give room for new experiences, learning and infinity, as one wouldn’t know when the painting will finish,” says Gogor, a former property developer who took up abstract painting in 2003.

“The sense of expressing and appreciating the unexpected from internal and external stimuli also keeps the genre interesting. Abstract paintings appeal to their makers and viewers alike, as they’re out of the box or out of the ordinary. But the medium is better appreciated in the West than in Indonesia, as it entails the art speaking to one’s feelings, thinking and emotions – all of which require a greater awareness than that found in Indonesia.”

The “Soulscape in Progress #2” exhibition will move on to Bali in November, where it will address the island’s spirituality.

The Peak

“Soulscape in Progress #2” Through Aug. 24 Gallery C, the National Gallery of Indonesia Jalan Medan Merdeka Timur No. 14, Central Jakarta Tel. 021 34833954/3813021 E-mail: Web: Opening daily from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. (exhibition runs until 7 p.m.); closed on public holidays