Seeing figures
Apr 24, 2013

Seven visual artists from Indonesia explore the barrage of messages and images imposed on viewers today by an ever-proliferating media

"Figuring Text, Texting Figure” is the intriguing title of an ongoing exhibition in Yogyakarta, an attempt to explore a kind of invisible forces at work in the lines, text and figures that are imposed on viewers in recent times, in the context of the ever-proliferating and overwhelming influence of the media in our lives. Featuring artworks by seven Indonesian visual artists - Agus “Baqul” Purnomo, Anis Ekowindu, Dedy Sufriadi, Januri, Popok Tri Wahyudi and Seno Andrianto - the joint exhibition by Jogja Contemporary is presently on display at the Sangkring Art Space in the city.

“The media constantly barrages us with images and visual garbage in the form of text or graphics through television, print, computers, even on the streets,” said Jogja Contemporary’s director Rismilliana Wijayanti. “The works of art included in this exhibition are contemplations of what is currently going on around us in terms of the media’s impact.”

The gallery has been equipped with a long bench in the centre, to allow visitors to sit and ponder over the works of display. These pieces, Rismiliana emphasises, aren’t ones you can take it at a simple glance. The artists have interpreted the theme according to their varying styles and techniques, resulting in some striking pieces, with layers of meaning, what the director describes as “episodes of a story about the world we are living in.”

The story begins with Anis Ekowindu’s ‘Father and Son Fight’ (acrylic on canvas), a work that depicts the dynamic relationship between father and son. Anis shares the canvas with his son Lanar, who assigned images of superheroes that are popular among children, which Anis has transposed against a figurative portrayal of his son’s innocent facial expression.

Next to Anis’ work are a series of paintings by Seno Andrianto on his daughter Tjindur that highlights his passion for nationalistic and humanistic issues. ‘Don’t Let Our Smile Gone’ (mixed media on canvas), for instance, shows a happy Tjindur wearing a blue raincoat and carrying a sign urging care for children. ‘Tjindur II (Rain)’ (mixed media on canvas) and 'Tjindur III (Harmony)' (mixed media on canvas) also features Seno’s daughter as the central image.

The relationship between parents and children is explored once again, with the added dimension of a love for nature, in Dedy Sufriadi’s ‘Damai Semesta Alam’ (The Peace World) (mixed media on canvas), which revels in hypertext and abstract forms.

In contrast, artist Januri showcases a number of small sculptures made of fiberglass, figures that symbolise loneliness and pain. He uses bright colours for his pieces but there is a clear tone of suffering here. ‘Tak Mampu Melihat #2’ (Unable To See), for example, consists of a skinny figure crouching while covering his face with both hands.

There are more figures in suffering in the three paintings by Popok Tri Wahyudi that take on the stylistic elements of comic books, bearing messages and criticism of socio-political issues. Three of Popok’s paintings hand without frames, giving them a distinctive, unconventional look.

Besides these, there is much more to see at the gallery, and for art-enthusiasts who enjoy decoding messages in art, the exhibition represents a terrific, educational treat, and one that they won't soon forget.

“Figuring Text, Texting Figure” will be on display until May 15.

Caption: A piece titled 'Don’t Let Our Smile Gone' by artist Seno Andrianto, part of Jogja Contemporary's "Figuring Text, Texting Figure" exhibition. Photo: Munarsih Sahana/The Jakarta Post

by Munarsih Sahana