Artist Pranoto Strips Away Pretension
by Margaret Agusta (Contributor-Jakarta)
Exerpt from the Jakarta Post, Thursday, June 19, 2003
(including image as run with article)
The sign placed in the window of
the Galeri Milenium, a small, hole-in-the-wall exhibition
space in the crowded Diamond Plaza commercial complex on JL.RS Fatmawati in
South Jakarta simply said: "Nudes by Pranoto".
The exhibition, like the sign,
says so little and yet so very much.
There is no grand pretension here, no stated or written theory of art,
no attempt to link the artist's work with any past or current "ism",
and no effort to justify its content or lack of it.
Besides a short note that the
artist "hopes this exhibition in Jakarta will enrich
the world of art in Indonesia", the catalog carries only a somewhat cryptic
commentary by Yulianto Liestono, the owner and director of Galeri Milenium,
on the the controversial nature of the subject matter: nude human figures.
Nudes as a central focus of an
artist's body of work are indeed a rarity
within the history of modern Indonesian art. Pranoto, a self-taught painter
born in Sragen, Solo, Central Java in 1952, but currently living and working
in Bali, is one of the very few Indonesian artists to focus with such intensity
on life or figure drawing in his work.
Although some local painters have
occasionally exhibited one or two
paintings of semi-nude or nude figures within a context of a much greater
number of portraits, still lifes and landscapes, whole shows of paintings of nudes are highly
Even Affandi's full frontal nude
self-portraits, and Basuki Abdullah's seductive,
semi-nude representations of an "ideal female beauty" are exceptions to the rule
in Indonesia's world of painting. For that reason alone, Pranoto's current display
at Galeri Milenium is notable and potentially controversial.
"Upon hearing the word
'nude', a person might automatically think of eroticism,
genitals, pornography, lewd behavior or other impropriety," Yulianto Liestiono,
who studied at the Indonesian Institute of Art (ISI) in Yogyakarta, commented.
"But the same word can also call other impressions to mind, such as honesty,
trust, submission or even love. This dichotomy is probably what stirs up confusion
about what kind of stance to take on nudity. A community of people can become
extremely polarized or even hostile to one another when the topic of nudity comes up.
Nudity is not somthing that people can easily see eye to eye on."
In this context, the true
significance of Pranoto's paintings is caught up in the
dilemma artists have struggled with since earliest man first scrawled images of bison
on cave walls-the eye of the beholder. As when Pablo Picasso was once asked how
he knew when a painting was finished-he responded that a given work was never
truly completed, that this was the task of the beholder- Pranoto invites the viewer to
ponder both the aesthetic and existential import of what he paints.
"Sleeping on Blue Flowers", 2001
Only God and Pranoto know why he focuses
on nudes in his art. I only know that I learn
something from his art.
Nudity is never vulgar in his works. The nudity
in Pranoto's paintings is not the kind that fishes
for an erotic reaction.
I find in Pranoto's nudes a specific artstic value;
an aesthetic feeling that is not always easy to
find in works by other artists.
I believe that Pranoto elaborates on nudity on
his canvasses to find something positive and
meaningful; and he stands strong in
that position. Pranoto's nudes, like the
ubiquitous cats of Popo Iskandar and the suns
and roosters Affandi repeatedly drew upon
for inspiration, or Hendra Gunawan's colorful
fish, are in part simply vehicles for the aesthetic
concerns of the painterly mind: color, texture,
composition, space and contour. Pranoto
clearly delights in creatively playing with the
textural possibilities inherent in the combination
of unusual materials, such as floor tiles and
tinted cement in the painting titled
"Two Women", or oil paint on sandpaper as
in the work titled "Sleeping on Blue Flowers".
His concentrated focus on exploring the aesthetic potential of space, color and the
contrast of light and dark is also immediately apparent in
"Floating Light", a male nude done with soft pastel on deep
green textured paper, and "Rest", a painting of an ambiguously
androgynous figure reclining on a boulder
Yet, Pranoto's nudes speak of much
more than painterly preoccupations echoing
out of the artist's eternal cry of, "What if-what if?" The choice of subject matter
alone articulates an intense interest in the human psyche, in the inner being enfolded
within the physical.
As Yulianto Liestiono comments
"Nudity is a very human condition, because there is
no other creature that can be as truly naked as a human being". By depicting the models
without the material attributes that define them specifically in the unspoken language of
human society, Pranoto strips away the imposed trappings of class, social status and
occupation. He takes away the masks and allows a glimpse at the core of what it is to be human: to be separate and alone, to be fragile and vulnerable, to be mortal and transient.
In the painting "Two
Women", despite the proximity of the figures which are
facing each other, a sense of alienation or lack of connection is conveyed.
In "Floating Light", the contrast of light and dark in the background, as well
as on the figure itself, and the body language of uncertainty and vulnerability.
And in the work titled "Rest" the contrasting shades and textures of flesh and stone
carry a feeling of the transience of human existence and experience.
There is displayed in this
exhibition a strong comprehension not only of how materials
work together to achieve a particular visual impact, but also how visual images convey
concepts that spoken words could never properly define.
(Nudes by Pranoto at Galeri
Milenium, Jl. RS Fatmawati No 15,
South Jakarta, though June 30 from 10am to 8pm daily.)