Gajah Gallery Jakarta is delighted to present Beyond Borders: Minangkabau Art and the Fluidity of Cultural Dynamics, showcasing a roster of pioneering and emerging artists from the Minangkabau region. The exhibition will be accompanied by writing from art historian and LIAS PhD candidate Aminudin Siregar.
The land of Minangkabau has an undeniably important place in definitions of Indonesian art, relevant and recognisable on both a local and a global scale. Early in the country’s art history canon, we find the acclaimed figure, Wakidi, a Semarang-descent who – although born in Palembang – had made Bukittinggi his land of devotion as a painter and an educator. With a visual tendency towards the natural landscape (mooi indie) and soft colour schemes, he stood out from other artists who produced similar works. Significantly, his artworks have played an influential role in shaping the identity of Indonesian painting.
A pioneering figure in the visual arts, Oesman Effendi was an artist and art intellectual whose practice of abstraction–taking from natural forms, or in his latest development, refracting objects so that they are almost unidentifiable–represents the tireless process and exploration in art practice. His sharp observations and critical thoughts have also been published, and continue to be a source of reference for cultural discourses that persist to this day. With regards to collective movements, Itji Tarmizi – who was part of Pelukis Rakyat and Sanggar Bumi Tarung – takes inspiration from the daily life of the people, the foundation for his work. This element reflects an acute awareness of social existence and that, at the heart of it, artists are part of the people. As such, Oesman and Itji collectively represent the diverse artistic practices of Minangkabau artists.
Amidst the prevalence of art practices that were often imbued with socio-political elements in Indonesia – specifically in Yogyakarta – in the late 1990s, a group of young Minang artists known as the Jendela Art Group (KSR Jendela) took the road less travelled, treading a steeper and almost impossible journey against the mainstream and the market. Yet, instead of being excluded from the contemporary movements at the time, they brought a refreshing perspective to the uniformity of artistic practice. The members of KSR Jendela, represented through the works of Yunizar, Rudi Mantofani, Handiwirman Saputra and Yusra Martunus, continue to actively contribute to the dynamism of Indonesian art today.
Remarkably, the spirit ignited by the previous generation of Minang artists continues to burn brightly for the coming generations. Their critical approach to prevailing trends and tendencies of a certain period is reflected in the artistic practices of Ibrahim, Erizal As, Ridho Rizki and Fika Ria Santika. Erizal successfully finds a strong artistic identity in each of his works: the gestural textures etched on his canvases present a powerful sensorial experience. For Ridho, his exploration of depicting objects through a strong formalist foundation is intriguing, resulting in works that experiment with human optical workings. Fika, on the other hand, continuously develops the aesthetic value of forms and the sensitive treatment of materiality in her works. The three of them apply careful analysis of ongoing trends and use them as a guide for the artistic path they will pursue.
Gajah Gallery, thus, presents works of artists closely related to the Minangkabau region. As opposed to an over-generalisation or an attempt at ethnocentric romanticisation, the Gallery consciously opens a wider scope for reading the vibrant artistic and cultural dynamics of the region from the past and into the future.