SINGAPORE.- NUS Museum and Gajah Gallery presents the works of art collective Jendela in the first part of two major exhibitions on Indonesian contemporary art from February to April 2009
Consisting of graduates of Institut Seni Indonesia (ISI) in Yogyakarta, Kelompok Seni Rupa Jendela (Jendela Art Group) is now one of Indonesias most prominent contemporary art collective. The meteoric rise of Jendela that began in the mid-1990s is both fascinating and confounding. Starting from the mundane, Handiwirman Saputra, Jumaldi Alfi, Yusra Martunus, Rudi Mantofani and Yunizar produce works that are visually seductive and clinical in their articulation, absent of the strident social imageries typical of Yogyakarta art. Is this a reaction against political art? A turn towards formalism? Or can we release them from the burden of reductive interpretations? This exhibition stages an encounter with Jendelas play of the ordinary, invoking a crisis of signification, one that oscillates between irrational fascination and context.
Jendela first exhibited as a group in 1997. Despite a partnership that began more than a decade ago, the members of the group maintain fluid artistic relations based on individual directions and, practical inter-personal support needs. Each individual articulates position that is distinct and independent, engaging with the group to share perspectives in production and as a network of support. As a collective, the artists did not develop a manifesto to define or clarify their philosophical ideas. However, significant in their response to public discussions about them and their work is a common resistance against a reductive reading that essentialise their practices. While they all belong to a common ethnic group originating from Sumatra, they also resist commentaries that explain their practices as a response to the dominance of the Javanese culture or as an indication of the 'innateness' of their originating Minang culture in their artistic psyche. Their works often draw extreme perspectives from art critics. On one hand, their works are often seen to be nothing more than dexterous manipulation of forms and materials so as to produce sensations that are relevant to the globalised market system, alas without a signification that is contextual to allow enduring reading. On the other, the apparent 'formalist' approach is seen to be a valid response to the contriteness of the 'grand narratives' offered by mainstream Yogyakarta art which thrived on figuration and social commentary and indeed the demands of a global exhibitionary system for the culturally authentic and political. This exhibition recognizes the limitations of these positions and attempts to situate them as complexities that complicate readings towards nuanced and multivaried perspectives. This is done by placing the works according to a range of themes that acknowledge their capacities to intimate towards conceptual and formal positions, such as on one hand, the tendency towards a formal purity, and on the other, intimation towards commentary and examination of the human condition. While works are placed accordingly to their assigned theme, it must also be noted that each may function multivariously in addressing a range of perspectives.
The exhibition is curated by Ahmad Mashadi (Head, NUS Museum) and Enin Suprianto (Independent Curator, Indonesia). It is jointly organized by the NUS Museum and Gajah Gallery, Singapore.
Ahmad Mashadi remarks, The emergence of the group had prompted discussions about its significance across the spectrum of the visual arts community, from critics to curators to collectors. This exhibition provides a platform to show and examine some of the important works of the group over the past years. By organizing these works along discernable themes across the various artists, I hope we are able to reflect and amplify some of the pattern of ideas we may associate the artists practices to. I think the audience will find that central in the artists thinking is the need to allow for an encounter between art and viewer that is open yet productive, perceptually driven rather than simply dependent on the sense of the familiar and recognizable typically associated to Indonesian art.
Enin Supriyanto remarks, When we talk about the Jendela as a group, we tend to generalise the similarities of their art practice. This show will lay out not only those similarities but also the difference of each members artistic approach by arranging them in thematic grouping. At the same time, as the show gathers each artists works from different periods it will provide us with the opportunity to witness how each artist develops, changes, evolves over the years. The NUS gallery space, as it is not a very clean rectangular space that we can easily just put all the works in, is giving another opportunity for the artist and the curators to rethink about the formal presentation of some works in their relation to the space. I certainly hope that the show can be seen as a complex presentation of Jendelas art works as an installation in itself that will give the audience a chance to enter the more or less complete Jendela experience.
This project marks the groups first exhibition in a major museum institution outside of Indonesia. A post exhibition catalogue will be published to mark its occasion.
JUMALDI ALFI (b. 1975, Lintau, Sumatra Barat) is a painter who works sequentially on a set of ideas and themes. Common among these series is the urge for immediacy through the act of drawing, marking and scribbling applied over variations of scapes, clued by way of elemental aspects such as foreground, horizon and depth. Alfi markings are feverish, shifting and ever-transforming against a tableaux that is disconcerting in its fixity and quiet monumentality. This is heightened in his drawings characterised in contrast by the proliferation of figures in various physical and mental states.
RUDI MANTOFANI (b. 1973, Padang) is a sculptor and painter, with an uncanny ability for realism and irony. His works reference the familiar but only to titillate by introducing a sense of the extraordinary or absurd a banana sculpture splits to reveals its Javanese textile-patterned flesh, guitars with elongated frets, globe that sits deflated in an idealized landscape of lush green, a glorious blue sky juxtaposed against an artificial plastic turf. These play of contrasts and illusions challenge expectations and attitudes, urging one momentarily to suspend disbelief and weigh possibilities and implications.
YUSRA MARTUNUS (b. 1973, Padang Panjang) is a sculptor and painter. Similar to the ways in which he allows himself to be fascinated by materials and their formal qualities, his works seduce the audience by their singular celebration of materiality and the sensations they offer. Yusra uses an array of materials and industrial techniques to produce objects that surprise. At times the works semi-liquid appearance betrays their actual material constituent. At other times, their clinical finishes mimic modern everyday consumables, but deployed to invoke a sense wonderment and refelection.
HANDIWIRMAN SAHPUTRA (b.1975, Bukittinggi) works with painting and sculpture and in doing so deploys a strategy that involve the study of objects often as mundane as bits of hair, fiberglass, cotton, thread and plastic and image. Moving from manipulated to painted objects, these elements are often enlarged and enhanced. Their new status is accompanied by a deliberate play of ambiguity. A piece of cotton, re-expressed as a diptych or triptych, is transformed into a monumental shifting and moving against a background of empty vastness - and at times an overwhelming image of cathartic awe and sensations.
YUNIZAR (b. 1971, Talawi) is a painter. His works may be described by an attempt to advance his preoccupation for still-life. Bottles, potted-cactus, apples and other elements are painted singly, and later reproduced in simplified outlines, eventually multiplying exponentially as miniscule elements on a vast canvas, as crammed two-dimensional landscapes choking on its own reproductive capacity. At other times he obliterates this multiplicity, displacing it with a single figure, or a head, unsmiling, disfigured and consumed by a sense of estrangement or exile. In a distinctive series Coretan (Marks), lines and markings are deployed as frantic utterance obfuscating and never declaring any form of intent. However, the sense of narrative is kept remaining in the fringes of the frame, is eternally held in anxious tension.
The official opening will take place on the 27th of February at 6.30pm at the NUS Museum