Hey. I felt like walking in the yard of the Parthenon in Nashville…
‘Cause if I thought of the original one in Athens, it would have been sort of more exaggerating. Yep, the building of Fine Art and Ceramic Museum had neo-classic, European Empire architectural style: the top of the front part had the shape of triangle—representing a crown of king—while there were 14 pillars in the front terrace patterning the doric order of Greek ancient architecture. Cool stuff!
It was pretty crowded in the yard, but not much in the building apparently. The ticket officer seemed to be kind of grumpy, still, just like in my previous visit last year—well, last year the ‘grumpy’ atmosphere was very mutual (your “huh?” is apprehensible, but I’m not gonna talk about it).
As what the name suggested, actually the museum displayed collections of paintings, earthenware, statues, and ceramic—the ceramic particularly was both domestic and foreign. But since the collections of earthenware, statues, and ceramic were not so many (I think National Museum of Indonesia has way more comprehensive collections), I was more thrilled of seeing the paintings—without admiring the other artworks any less, of course.
Each painting exhibited in this museum was categorised based on a particular period, ranging from late 19th century to 90’s decade.
Some of the oldest works created were by Raden Saleh Sjarif Boestaman (1807-1880) or best known as Raden Saleh, a Javanese noble of Arab descent whose painting education was firstly obtained in 1822 from a Belgian-born Dutch painter named A. A. J. Payen. He continued his painting education in some European countries, such as Netherlands and German, and learnt more about romanticism under the influence of a French romanticist painter, Ferdinand Victor Eugene Delacroix. Raden Saleh was widely known by his ability of addressing realities into his paintings—wandering to many places, he searched for dramatic elements and internalised them. Returning to Batavia in 1852, he spent his lifetime painting. Raden Saleh died in Bogor and was named as The Pioneer of Indonesian Modern Art. I took only three pictures of his paintings:
Shortly after, there was this period called Mooi Indie or Indonesia Molek (1908-1936), starting in early 20th century. The term was given to mark the beauty of Dutch East Indies nature paintings. Initially, Mooi Indie was introduced by foreign painters coming to Dutch East Indies due to their interest in its beautiful landscape and exotic native men and women, such as: Ernest Dezentje, Walter Spies, and Rudolf Bonnet from the West; Lee Man Fong and Biau Tik Kwie from China. But then the native painters also followed the style, including Abdullah Suriosubroto, Basuki Abdullah, Mas Pirngadi, Wakidi, and so forth.
The era of Persatuan Ahli Gambar Indonesia (1938)—the first modern art foundation ever founded, known as Persagi—was noted as the revival of Indonesian fine art with such paintings by Agus Djaja, S. Sudjojono, Henk Ngantung, Emiria Sunassa, and R. G. A. Sukirno. Persagi was established in the aim of encouraging native painters to create artworks which reflected the national identity—looking for the synthesis of traditional and modern paintings, also developing the Indonesian-characterised style. Persagi era was like the opponent of Mooi Indie, where it emphasised the actual reality of society at that time with its flaws and struggles—against colonialism—which couldn’t be found in all the beauty and perfection of Mooi Indie paintings. I have my own favourite painter of this period who often combined realism and cynicism in his works: S. Sudjojono, the secretary of Persagi.
When Indonesia was invaded by Japan, Persagi was disbanded by the colonials, and then replaced with Keimin Bunka Sidhoso or KBS (1942-1945). This cultural foundation wasn’t just established for one field (fine art), but also for theatre and film; literature; also music and dance. KBS gave freedom of expression to its artists. In fine art, there were four work plans: (1) providing places for painting practice, (2) providing places for exhibitions, (3) funding travelling exhibitions in several cities, also giving appreciation to best painters in competitions, and (4) organising technical and academical painting lessons—with Basuki Abdullah as the tutor. As Indonesia finally proclaimed its independence, KBS then no longer existed.
Starting in 1945, several organisations were established to put together ideas in art and culture—artists, writers, and humanists often gathered to hold trainings and activities. This period was called Era Sanggar, best known for its populist aesthetics. In Yogyakarta, Seniman Masyarakat was founded, and led by Affandi, followed by Seniman Indonesia Muda with S. Sudjojono as the founder. Other cities then had their own studios, such as Medan, Jakarta, Bandung, and Surabaya. The painters coming from this era were Sudjono Kerton, Affandi, Trubus, Hendra Gunawan, Barlin Sasmita, and so on. And by that, a new period called Era Akademi emerged, starting from early 50’s until late 90’s.
One says that by looking at a painting, we don’t just see a painting, but we see the painter: his point of view, what he has been through, his whole life. I guess that’s why I can’t just stop and think of one painter and wonder how he did it. How he actually did it. Also, my contemplation has not just ended there…
“And you, when will you start to sketch, draw, and paint something ugly again?”
Oh, man. Now that I’m writing this review, I once again think that I do have to get my ass back to this museum. Or checking out a gallery, maybe?