Cynthia Webb - Cultural Networker
Cynthia Webb is a long-term AIAA member and exhibitor in the Virtual Gallery on the AIAA Website. Cynthia recently volunteered to undertake a field-trip as Cultural Networker for the Arts Alliance while in Yogyakarta and Bali. The following reports were sent to the Indoarts e-group to inform AIAA members of her activities. The following article about the art exhibition of Nurkholis was published in The Jakarta Post on 30th July 2000.
Painting Exhibition, Nurkholis
On the 1st July, I attended the official opening of the Art Exhibition of AIAA member and exhibitor on the virtual art gallery, Nurkholis. This was actually a joint exhibition with sculptor, Basrizal Albara, entitled "Muscle and Emotion". The exhibition continues until 31st July at Dirix Art Gallery, Jl Laksda Adisucipto, Yogya. The exhibition was officially opened by Kartika, daughter of Affandi, and with Dwi Marianto from ISI also present.
The 35 paintings are endlessly fascinating. Nurkholis' creative process is uniquely honest, controversial and original. He uses no brush, (except for an occasional embellishment). He creates these canvases using his whole body in a "printing" process. After laying down initial layers of colour on the canvas, which is on the floor, Nurkholis removes his kain and a beautiful, sometimes unpredictable process of creation begins. This is a kind of naked yoga-ballet and it has the appearance of a "birth process". Nurkholis' internal artistic concept is being birthed for all to see and understand. He writhes and contorts, stretches and rolls across his canvas in a very deliberate and controlled way.The end result is surprisingly beautiful. Pure and clear printed images of the human form, looking almost like Xrays in their contrasting light and dark tonal patterns, both textural and transparent. The sharp edges of the body contours, the dark areas, and the highlight areas created by protruding body form, come together to bring us images of great artistic purity and honesty.
Nurkholis is a young artist (32 yrs) with a most promising future and talking with him about his artistic development up to this "total self expression" style, is revealing. One is impressed by his authenticity.Recent Indonesian history has often caused artists to self-censor their work. This blocking of creative expression plus his observation that sometimes the human being seemed to have less value than wealth, power and material things, have built up into a cry of outrage from his deepest emotional core. One day in a frustrated painting session, he kicked a still wet canvas, and then later saw the impression of his foot in the paint. The "print" of frustrated energy spoke to him loud and clear, as he saw its potential. "If with the foot, then why not with the whole body?" he asked himself. And later, "Why not the highest human ecstasy - of two bodies entwined in love? His largest canvas, "Rhythm of Love", created with his wife Hety, is a beautiful thing to behold - in rich reds and browns, resonating with energy and richness.
This process is, of course, a very controversial thing in a modest
as Indonesia. However, in his characteristically intelligent and
Nurkholis showed a video in a private area of the Gallery, for those who
to seriously observe the creative process of these paintings... both a
painting session, and the collaboration-union with his wife, creating the
work "Rhythm of Love". Nurkholis' artistic life has become
commitment, - "all or nothing".
(Photograph - 'Self Portrait as a Wanted' by Nurkholis - Oil on Canvas 1999)
Seeing the creation method on video is a profoundly moving experience. The "art-spirit" is unrestricted and the artist and his work, are one. The contour and volume impressions of the human body seem to be materialising from within the tonal areas, and there is a feeling of spiritual one-ness. These images have great subtlety, and give much to the viewer in possibility for contemplation and emotional partcipation, if one explores them with an open heart.
Congratulations Nurkholis, on your courage and commitment, and the truth
your artistic "body language" exhibition.
from Cynthia Webb
3rd July 2000
Hello Judy and friends in AIAA,
It's great to be back in Yogyakarta, and right now it is Arts Festival time. Yesterday Malioboro was closed to vehicles all day, and the usually traffic-choked street was filled with happy people, walking, talking, playing music, eating snacks, browsing in the large Art Market which had appeared. It was a beautiful atmosphere. There was also a large Art and Craft Exhibition at the old Dutch fort opposite the Post Office.
In the evening on a temporary stage erected in front of the government building various musicians performed for a large crowd, sitting on the pavements, on the road, up trees and on walls. The Yogya musicians "Kelompok Pemuda Jalanan Malioboro" ( K P J M ) performed with their friend Sawung Jabo and were the "star attraction" of the show. Jabo delighted the crowd by performing some of his famous songs and the connection and mutual affection between the audience and Jabo was very strong.
11th July 2000
Life in Yogya is so rich in culture, art and friendship that it is difficult to find time for sleeping. Immediately after the Arts Festival, followed the Gamelan Festival. This brought about five days of wonderful music performance, both traditional and contemporary/fusion styles, held at Taman Budaya, Gadja Mada University. Artists came from all over Java and from overseas, including our own AIAA members, the band "GengGong" (based in Sydney, Australia, and led by Sawung Jabo. "GengGong" performed several times at the Festival venue, always to huge applause, and they also performed a show at "Joglo Jago" in Wirosaban, for invited friends which was a beautiful evening for those lucky enough to be present. It was great to see "GengGong's" playing further enriched by young dancers interpreting the unique music. After completing their schedule in Yogya the band will spend time recording their first CD, then set off on a concert tour of Java and Bali, including playing at the home of Iwan Fals.
During the first week of July my friend, art collector/patron, Mr Ros. from Kuala Lumpur, invited me along on a visit to the studio of Djoko Pekik at Bantul, just outside Yogya (pictured below). Djoko is a very famous man now, having this year had the distinction of becoming the first living Indonesian artist to sell a work for over one billion rupiah. He is about 63 years old, and his work is much in demand by collectors.
Djoko was imprisoned by the Suharto regime, between 1965 and 1972 for his expression of political opinions relating to the the government. He painted only one work while in prison, as art materials were not normally available. This work has been recently purchased by a collector and patron of Yogyakarta artists. After his release from prison Djoko did not paint for quite a long period, then began again with more social protest themes.The recent work which sold for the record price is an exceptionally strong image of the dead body of a wild boar (celeng) being carried by the Indonesian people, it's feet trussed around a stick. The work is entitled "Berburu Celeng", ("Hunting a Boar"). In the background the cityscape of highrise buildings and tollways - symbols of the New Order. Power and wealth for some but not all. The surrounding crowd celebrates, and among them are to be seen figures who represent the different strata of Indonesian society. Of course this wild boar represents the ex-President, bloated by greed. It is the second in a trilogy of works featuring the same metaphorical image, painted in 1996, 1998 and 2000. The final painting is in his studio along with other rarely seen works. Djoko is something of a legend now in the art circles of Indonesia. He has just commenced work in his studio on an epic size canvas - approximately three metres high and six metres long. He is a man of strong spirit and the courage to express his political views uncompromisingly during a time when this carried great risk.
On Saturday 8th July, "my family" in Yogya, M'bak Nanik, and Mas Sudiyono took me along with them for a wonderful day of local life... attending a Javanese wedding in the kampung Kemetiran and later another marriage of a Chinese Indonesians, in a large function room at a Hotel. Following this, M'bak Nanik and I found our way home to her home l0 k. from Malioboro, by taxis and local buses. The friendship and hospitality I have received from them is more than I can ever tell. Their daughter, my friend Fenti, has married an Australian and lives at the Gold Coast. Her parents are much loved and respected in Yogya. They are owners of two adjoining warungs in Jln. Pajeksan, "Warung Jamu" where Mas Sud serves seven varieties of his legendary jamu, and "Warung Pajeksan" where M'bak Nanik specialises in seafood and nasi goreng.Mas Sud. and his brothers are very active in organising and supporting the musical life of Malioboro, community life and especially assisting young people in need. They have a band - " K P J M" ( Kelompok Pemuda Jalanan Malioboro) and as previously mentioned, I heard them play in a free concert organised by Mas Sud and friends recently. That night their band also included their friend Sawung Jabo. The musicians, artists, writers and students of Yogya gravitate to these warungs each night to enjoy the fare, and the friendship. Here I feel I am touching "the soul of Yogya".
Next morning I had to set the alarm clock early because M'bak Nanik said she would come to pick me up to go along with her to the Pasar Adat to buy seafood etc for the coming night's meals. She had invited Rommy Indra Jaya and I to dinner at their home.
One of the highlights of that pleasant evening was when Mas Sud, at my request, brought out his most revered 350-400 year old Kris, "Naga Rajah". He respectfully placed it to his forehead, paying homage to the Spirit of the Kris. It is exquisitely made and as the mystical wavy blade emerged from its scabbard, the perfume of sandalwood oil filled the room. The Naga at the base of the blade has a ruby in its mouth.
Owning a genuine kris like this is a serious responsibility and it must be cared for and always annointed with cendana (sandalwood) oil. A powerful kris should not be sold for profit, and this one was given to Mas Sud after its owner had a dream in which an old man clad in white robes had pointed first to the kris and then to Mas Sud. It's owner followed what he took to be instruction that he should give him the kris.
Mas Sud then consulted a holy man to contact the Spirit of the Kris to determine the required rituals and prayers. Mas Sud talked about his Kris most respectfully and there are many things one must know if one is the owner of a kris. The soul of Indonesia is in these blades, forged of a metal which contains a portion of metal from a meteorite.
Before returning the blade to its sheath, Mas Sud again placed it to his forehead, his eyes closed for a moment, then returned it to sleep in its beautiful wooden scabbard. There was a certain atmosphere while the kris was out, and everyone present experienced it. I had the distinct feeling I should speak in a hushed tone, as it was a sacred thing.
A few days later Rommy Indra Jaya and I went to the Cemeti Gallery to visit Nindityo Adipurnomo and Mella Jaarsma and see their new Gallery space, the current exhibition and catch up on news.
Wednesday 12th July 2000
We fly to Bali and the following day drive to a small village named Desa Duda Utara, near Selat in Karangasem Regency to attend the wedding celebrations of my longtime friend Ayu Sriningsih and Nyoman.
Friday, the full moon day, had been chosen for the ritual celebrations, and Rommy and I had a wonderful day there in the decorated household compound area where the whole of the village were gathered to wish the happy couple well. The Pemangku arrived, followed later by a Priestess all in white with her ritual objects. The ceremony took place in the family temple. Later in the day, the men as is usual in Bali, held cock fighting, and other gambling games. These were seven treasured hours of life experience for us, and I was "official photographer" and Rommy the "sketch artist". His sketchbook contains beautiful pencil portraits documenting the people we meet as we go and now, the people of Desa Duda too. He made about ten drawings, to the fascination of all the children.
(Photograph -'Pemangku' by Rommy Indra Jaya)
On Saturday 15th July we awoke in Ubud. We went to find PRANOTO'S GALLERY to meet Pranoto and his Australian wife Kerry Pendergrast, who have both become members of AIAA. At 2pm a Life-drawing session was scheduled, which Rommy and I were keen to join with. We really enjoyed 3 hours of drawing and getting to know the other artists and Pranoto, Kerry and their children... such a joyous vibe there. It's a warm and friendly place.
Later in the evening they took us along with them to The Chedi Hotel Gallery just a few kilometres out of Ubud to attend the official opening of an exhibition by well known Balinese artist Nyoman Erawan. There was a large crowd there, and the first part of the evening was a 15 minute dance and drumming performance, then the gathering was led into the Gallery to view the works. The theme was the influence on Balinese life of the cultural collision which has resulted from tourism. They were vibrantly coloured, richly textured works often incorporating collages of lace textile and thick layers of primary colours in paint.
At this function I met our AIAA member artist, Victoria Cattoni. I had been planning to phone her, so this was fortuitous. It was great to see her again, after her own Installation exhibition last October at the Seniwati Gallery. Victoria is teaching English in Denpasar. We'll meet again soon.
Also at the Chedi, I met Mary Northmore, the energy behind the Seniwati Gallery, and well known Balinese woman artist, I.G.A. Kadek Murniasih (Murni), who has exhibited world-wide, including in Sydney. I am spreading the word about AIAA and inviting people to join.
About ten more days in Ubud followed, during which Rommy and I participated in as many life-drawing sessions as possible, and also enjoyed meeting many other artists in the Ubud area.
We attended the opening night of Nasim Rezvani's exhibition, "Blind Power and the Guiding Spirit" and there met Sony, the Painter from Petulu village, just outside Ubud. Petulu is famous for being home to thousands of white herons which return to their nests in all the trees there, at sunset each night. Sony invited us to his gallery/home to continue our new acquaintance, and to see the paintings of his French wife Betty, and his own works. Both of these artists have created some very beautiful works.
During some time spent down in Kuta/Legian area, we visited another very active group of artists at the Sanggar Senin/Kamis at Sanur. Mas Ziggy Sunarya had sent an e-mail to AIAA inviting members to join them for model-drawing sessions if visiting Bali. They have a very good exhibition space and working studio and some gifted artists among their number. Mas Bambang, whose pastel portraits were superb, invited us to visit another artists group in Kuta, where they occupy space within the Kuta Square shopping mall.
Here is the contact for Sanggar Senin/Kamis if anyone else wishes to visit and draw there at 2 p.m. Mondays and Thursdays.
Jln Bumi Ayu V, No 1, Sanur, 80228. Ph (361) 286118
The vitality of the art scene in Bali is very inspiring, among both the Indonesians and the Western artists who have been continuously present in Bali for so long.The photograph below Ibu Yogyakarta taken by Cynthia
15th August 2000
We have returned to Yogya about a week ago, so that Rommy Indra Jaya could meet up with his brother and aunt, who have come to Yogya working with a film crew "on location". Rommy's father, Danu Umbara,(now deceased) was a pioneer film director of the Indonesian cinema. His Aunt Melanie Umbara, (sister of Danu Umbara) is now working as Assistant Director on the production of "Merdeka" being made by a film company from Japan. The story concerns events which took place during the final days of the Japanese occupation of Indonesia. The director is Fuji Yukio, who was once assistant to the legendary Japanese director Akira Kurosawa. Rommy's younger brother Adhi has the lead role for the Indonesian character. All of Rommy's brothers followed the family tradition working in film, television and video and of course Rommy is an artist. However, he has been quickly snapped up as an "extra" and launched his own movie career!
We have also been on a visit to our AIAA members at the Casa Casinta Gallery, in Jln Titodipuran, Prawirotaman, Yogya. Here we found Carlos and Sinta and enjoyed coffee in their beautiful gallery.
There is good news for several Yogya artists, including our AIAA member, Nurkholis. Our friend Mr. Ros from Kuala Lumpur, who also has business interests in Yogya, (The Batik Palace Hotel, Jln Pasar Kembang) is sponsoring them to hold an exhibition in KL. He will organise and cover the costs of everything and not take commission from the sales of their work either. Here is a true patron and art-lover. Talking with Ros, I was very impressed by the genuine respect and understanding he has for art and artists. He realises that artists speak and interpret not only for themselves, but for all of those others who travel life in this world but don't have the opportunity to express themselves in some form of artistic expression. The world needs artists.
Art is Life and Life is Art.
Thanks for reading this....