At the age of 88, Indonesian prolific maestro artist Srihadi Soedarsono reflects back in his career, curating the archive of his landscape painting as a medium of contemplation and satirical impressionism to human existence.
If there is a wise man who gives a lesson of life to their grandchild, Soedarsono’s works are truly a description of “Art as Prayer”. It’s been a while since one might just recognise his name in the current art scene today, but Srihadi Soedarsono has been experiencing along journey that has deeply shaped his reputation as one of the masters in Indonesian modernism.
2020 is the comeback for him to answer all the discomforts that have been lingering in his mind to be manifested into a retrospective presentation of landscape painting exhibit Man x Universe at The National Gallery of Indonesia. A total of 44 paintings encompass the visual narrative from the maestro’s artistic works from 2016 to 2020, linking his candour in expressing the greatness of nature and existentialism of being since he drew the first landscape sketch of Borobudur in 1948 when he was only a student in military group Ikatan Pelajar Indonesia (IPI) who turned to become a painter-journalist during the independence era.
Curated by A Rikrik Kusmara, art lecturer and connoisseur who used to be Soedarsono’s protegee, the exhibit highlights the essential core of Soedarsono artistry who has been consistent throughout his life as an impressionist painter. The exhibit is meant to connect humans to the horizon of nature and the infinite universe further inviting you to the gallery of contemplation where the audience could see the visualisation of the landscape to a portrayal of man-made catastrophe in the archipelago.
Beyond his conscious thought, the 88-year-old Surakarta native has naturally recorded the Indonesian landscape in different periods of time through his personal collection shown in the series of paintings. Grouped into four themes, the exhibit presentation highlights Soedarsono’s internalisation to his closest subject of nature, polished with the artist’s sense of faith and spiritualism. The latest painting Borobudur — The Energy of Nature (2019) created the red thread in the set of six prior paintings that illustrate the majestic imagery of Central Java’s Buddhist temple in different colour gradients, from dawn to dark, used as a symbol to represent the spirituality of human and the greatness of the universe. Series of Horizon paintings further explore his aspiration to mother nature, vibrating his true love to Indonesia.
Soedarsono keeps his vision awake to give a perspective on the paradox of reality occurring in the Indonesian landscape, denoting satirical strokes that reflects a negative magnitude from the artist on responding to the socio-political and cultural aspect with the landscape itself. Bandung Jelita I (1986) and II (2019) show the phenomenon of booming population that degraded the natural landscape in the land of Parahyangan.
On the other hand, the painting titled Papua — The Energy of Golden River Belongs to Its People (2017) puts a sentiment on greedy exploitation on the richest island. The latest Srihadi’s Jakarta Megapolitan — Patung Pembebasan Banjir (2020) becomes a retrospective piece that illustrates flood catastrophe that hit the capital city earlier this year, painted in the setting of Liberation Monument of West Papua that reflects us to learn lessons from historical mistakes.
On the other side of the room, Bandung-based emerging artist Eldwin Pradipta interprets the collection of Soedarsono’s painting into a new form of contemporary art, presented in video installation where the audiences could muse themselves with a motion of landscapes. The collection of Soedarsono’s landscape impressionism is also available in the book, written by his beloved wife Farida Srihadi who co-wrote the book titled Srihadi Soedarsono: Man x Universe with senior writer Jean Couteau. From a personal story that narrates a humble opinion on his creative soul to his life journey as an artist, one might recognise that Soedarsono is truly a national treasure.