Yogyakarta-based artist Priyaris Munandar knows that he has to deal with facts of history and dare enough to present the annals of ancient trade routes on canvas. His recent solo exhibition at the National Gallery is meant to raise questions, inviting audience to know more about history and travel through time to look closer about mystery of civilization.
Titled Napak Tilas Peradaban, the exhibition is a big collaborative production between Sarasvati Art Communication & Publication and the National Gallery supported by a number of institutions such as Studio Lir Ilir, PT Pos Indonesia, Ministry of Trade, Widayat Museum, OHD Museum and Museum MACAN.
The exhibition is held in conjunction with Jakarta’s 492nd anniversary this year, represented in the painting that depicts Batavia as “Queen of the Orient” —- a busy city (before it was named Jakarta) known as a major trading hub in the colonisation era.
His work depicts ancient trade routes such as Jalur Rempah (Spice Route), Jalur Sutra (Silk Road), Jalan Raya Pos (Groote Postweg), Jalur Kuda-Teh Kuno (Old Tea Horse Route), Jalur Tokaido (Tokaido Series) and other routes for salt, incense, tin and amber.
A total of 36 paintings were created over a period of three years through a production process that involved exploration and research. Munandar was inspired by literature and historical documentaries illustrating reality around those eras. He also captured historical artifacts carried by missionaries and wanderers, shown through various symbols on his impressionist paintings.
Munandar’s exhibition is connected to how each historical routes helped spread commodity, knowledge, culture and religion that has shaped the vast cultural identity of Indonesian society today and the origin of globalisation.
The 41 year-old artist is passionate about colossal artistry in movies and in old paintings. Using acrylic, Munandar’s work is not thick as an oil painting, but more fluid by reinventing the style of Chinese-Japanese water painting, finished with vertical and horizontal stretched strokes. Most of his acrylic paintings are visual landscapes without a main character with humans drawn in different roles and interactions. His painting is mystical, imaginative, poetic and enchanting.
“Colossality influence my works especially to give a broader framing to put multiple heroic and other characters in landscape. People must look closer to see what happens in each route what historic moment that happened at that time,” according to Munandar, who graduated from The Indonesian Art Institute (ISI) in 1999.
Some of his paintings, namely Spice Route of Sriwijaya Period, Ribbon City in Bandung, Groote Postweg in Anyer, or 18 Steps of Pu’Er Tea Processing, paints history without travelling to those places. Munandar drew the iconic Post Road in General Willem Daendels in Java, completely using his imagination and historical artifacts. He has never been there personally.
Curator Wahyudin explained that the exhibition is supported by the installation of documentaries, artifacts, smells, and board game to bring the visitor to artist’s mind. A place where people not only see the visual works but learn pieces of history.
“In my opinion, Priyaris Munandar’s painting in this exhibition is unique or unequaled in the Indonesian painting treasures. Even though similar artists exists, this is the first time an Indonesian artist has worked intensely on the subject of commerce on dozen of canvas sheets. Indeed, artists can illustrate the facts of the reality which happened in the past but the research help creative process” Wahyudin added.
The exhibition runs from 26 June to 15 July at the National Gallery of Indonesia (Building A), Medan Merdeka, Central Jakarta.