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Painting in Indonesia

Cave paintings, for the most part, of hand stencils but also of human and animal figures, assumed to be some 5,000 years old, are found in South Sulawesi and Irian Jaya. The inner walls of some megalithic graves in the Pasemah highlands, southern Sumatra, contain colored paintings dating from about 100 AD. In the 14th century mention was made of painted scrolls of fine white bark-cloth used in wayang beber, one of the oldest forms of wayang performances.

The art of decorating cloth in the batik technique is a form of painting, for the molten wax is applied on the cloth with a canting, a pen-like instrument, though the colors are provided by dyeing. Early Javanese literature even refers to batikers as painters.

The people of Central Sulawesi painted intricate symbolic motifs in bright colors on bark-cloth vestments by using vegetable dyes and bamboo brushes.

Temple hangings, streamers, curtains and traditional astrological calendars in Bali are made of painted cloth or wood.

Balinese painting is characterized by its style of filling all space, its themes which are taken mainly from Hindu religious life, mythology and legend, and the absence of time, space and perspective. The founding of "Pita Maha" in the 1930s by Cokorde Sukawati from Ubud (Central Bali) together with Dutch artist Rudolf Bonnet and German painter Walter Spies, brought a dramatic revolution in Balinese painting.

Influenced by these and other Western artists, Balinese painters came to use oils and to apply the concept of colors, perspective and the third dimension, and their subjects were no longer drawn exclusively from the traditional repertory, but scenes from everyday life began to emerge.

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A brilliant exponent of "Pita Maha" was Gusti Nyoman Lempad, noted for his cremation towers and ink drawings. He died in 1978 at the age of 121. Works of art from Ubud, the center of local and foreign artists, were bright and vivid in contrast to those of the "Community of Artists" in which dark and sombre colors were dominant.

The "Community of Artists" was formed in 1969 by Dewa Nyoman Batuan at the village of Pengosekan (Central Bali), the home many artists who draw their subjects from nature and Balinese daily life.

Foreign artists apart from Walter Spies and Rudolf Bonnet, who have lived and painted or are still living and painting in Bali, include Hans Snel and Arie Smit from Holland, Spainís Antonio Blanco and Theo Meier from Switzerland. The present "Le Mayeur Museum" at Sanur, South Bali, was formerly the home of the late Belgian impressionist Le Mayeur and his Balinese wife Ni Polok, once a famous Legong dancer.

Indonesian painters came to be known late in the nineteenth century after Raden Saleh earned world fame on account of his naturalistic technique in paintings of animals and landscapes and his portraits in oils. Later, other naturalist painters followed, such as Abdullah Surio Subroto and his son Basuki Abdullah, a renowned portrait painter, Pringadie, Hendra, Trubus, Omar Basalamah, Sukardji, Wahdi and others.

In 1937 Sudjojono and the brothers Otto and Agus Djaja founded PERSAGI (Indonesian Painters Association) whose members sought a synthesis of traditional and modern painting while developing a style of their own which was characteristically Indonesian. Other art groups came into being as "Seniman Indonesia Muda" (Young Indonesian Artists) and "Pelukis Rakyat" (Painters of the People). The leading man of the latter was category Affandi and artists of this group include Trubus, Nashar, Hendra Gunawan, and Sjafei Sumardja. Him-self an expressionist, Affandi was said to have opened "a new way of expressionism". He was one of the few Indonesian artists to have participated in famous international exhibitions such as those of Venice and Sao Paolo.

During the Japanese occupation, Indonesian artists were recruited to make posters for propaganda. They did accept the orders and thus had the opportunity to develop their artistic abilities, and during the Revolution did not stop painting.

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Since many artists had joined the guerilla warfare, their paintings consequently bear witness of those turbulent days of the revolution, like Sudjojono's "Flight" and Surono's Frontline".

In 1947 a college for art teachers was set up in Bandung which in 1951 was incorporated into the Faculty of Fine Arts of the Bandung Institute of Technology. Other steps towards promoting fine arts in Indonesia were the founding of the Academy of Fine Arts in Yogyakarta (ASRI) in 1950 and the Jakarta Institute of Art Education (LPKJ) in 1968.

Primitivism, naturalism, obstructionism, expressionism and impressionism have all been displayed in Indonesian paintings, and Indonesian artists today are developing new forms and styles by using feathers, bronze, velvet, glass, banana-tree barks, cloves, etc. Recently "batik paintings" by which oils and canvas are replaced by the ancient wax-and-dye technique, have become popular. Contemporary batik artists are Amir Sapto Hudoyo, who has a gallery of his own, Kuswadji, Bambang Oetoro and the Sumatran Amri Yahya all of them domiciled in Yogyakarta.

For the development and appreciation of the fine arts, Balai Budaya (Hall of Culture) and Taman Ismail Marzuki (Jakarta Art Center) have been founded. Named after the late poet-composer Ismail Marzuki, the Art Center has four theaters, a dance studio, an exhibition hall, a number of small studios for contemporary artists and residential units for members of the administration.

Present-day painters are Mochtar Apin, But Muchtar, Srihadi Sudarsono, Popo Iskandar, Abdul Djalil Pirous (calligrapher), Abas Alibasjah, Tom Harry, Cak Kandar and Jim Supangkat. Woman painters include Emiria Sunasa, the oldest of the group; Kartika, Affandi's daughter, Umi Dachlan, Sriyana Hudionoto, Agnes Julinawati, Nunung W.S. and Sisca Damayanti Soebyakto.

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Information provided by the Directorate of Foreign Information Services, Department of Information, Republic of Indonesia.

 


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