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Wayang and butterflies: Sasya Tranggono celebrates her love for Indonesia

Sasya Tranggono is showcasing her evolution as an artist of 30 years at her latest exhibition, which further solidifies her reputation as a master in the post-traditional arts.

The exhibition, “A Love for Indonesia”, runs until March 10 at the National Gallery of Indonesia and marks Sasya’s 29th solo exhibition while celebrating her 30-year career.

The displayed works include 21 wayang paintings from her entire career, nine flower-themed paintings, 10 butterfly-themed works and a wayang installation that was made purely for the exhibition.

Through the works, Sasya interprets major traditional art forms, such as wayang and batik, using methods that have made her one of the most productive and influential artists in Indonesia.

Sasya has stuck to her instincts by painting, arranging and creating wayang artwork the way she knows best.

Each puppet in every single one of her works conveys a different, visible emotion that can be seen through sequined, small eyes that practically interact with the viewer with an effective, penetrating gaze.

The artist said her primary influences were the same ones that drove her to start producing works in the first place: her supportive mother, who is a skincare doctor, and the environment around her, as she has been surrounded by loving people that have kept her going from the start.

Elements of god and faith are also very apparent in her paintings, as evident in the names of paintings such as Everything Comes from God, For You My Lordand I Believe in You (though this one could also be dedicated to the people around her).

Sasya explained that many of her works were rooted in her faith in god and the oft-forgotten concept of pure love when talking about god.

From the works, visitors are able to see Sasya’s artistic development and progress, as reflected in the differences in her works from the year 2003 and the ones made in the 2010s.

In most cases, Sasya’s decision to grow as an artist is a conscious one but, at times, her changes are driven by the opinions of those she values.

Sticking to her tried and true methodology may be what Sasya does best but she admitted that, after talking to her daughter, she felt the need to do more to address the disconnect between traditional art and the youth perspective.

“When I showed some of the works to my daughter, she said, ‘Mom, do something new with your work! It feels flat’,” Sasya recalled.

“So I tried to experiment with different things, such as painting my wayang works on canvas, or adding rhinestones to the art to give it a bit more flair. She still said it wasn’t enough though. But in the end, she still believes so much in what I do.”

These changes are perhaps most visible in her works post-2011.

Her more elaborate pieces utilize rhinestones, such as I Believe In You, a 2014 painting of a butterfly covered in sequins.

Sasya is planning a touring exhibition in Europe and the United States this year. The scheduled stops include Leiden Museum Volkenkunde and the Tropen Museum Amsterdam in the Netherlands, the Museum Fundacao Oriente in Lisbon and New York, where her pieces will be part of a fashion show.

According to the exhibition’s curator, artist Jim Supangkat, all of Sasya’s works have their own character and draw visible inspiration from the works of local phenoms in the wayang and batik worlds; as such, her works can be classified as “post-traditional”.

“Her works showcase the traits of post-traditional art outside of the Western gaze, where her works can’t be defined as traditional art. Rather, they show only tinges of traditional influences,” Jim said.

“Her paintings are pure still life. She organizes wayang golek (wooden puppets) like how anyone would rearrange everyday objects and just paints them. The narration in her art shows strong theatrical character as a result.” (ste)

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potojur

Photojournalism in the post-truth era

In today’s era of fake news, artificial intelligence and limitless computing power, verifying what is true is a hard task for the public.

Dutch photography curator Jenny Smets believes that the line between artist and journalist is slowly fading because visual language faces new challenges to change in the digital age.

Smets explored the concept of truth in depth in her recent seminar Future Scenarios: Fact, Fiction and Friction at the Erasmus Huis in Jakarta.

Her seminar looked at the trending topics and developments in modern documentary photography, showcasing works from various international photojournalists such as Cristina de Middel, Mandy Barker and Robin Hammond.

In compiling the collection of works, Smets traveled all around the world – including to Indonesia, Turkey and different cities in the United States and Europe – with the World Press Photo Foundation in 2018.

During Smets’ travels, she attended several photo festivals, looking at the similarities in the themes presented in the exhibitions.

Smets said one recurring theme was the concept of the Anthropocene era.

The theory of the Anthropocene era states that rapid industrialization has propelled mankind into a new geological era. With the actions of humans defining the whole planet’s dynamics.

“The Anthropocene era is a geological era in which we have lived now for a relatively long time,” said Smets, who is an independent curator of photography exhibitions, as well as trainer and director of photography of Vrij Nederlandmagazine.

“It is the era in which man’s actions – on our planet, on earth – are influencing nature and fauna more and more. Eventually, it will influence our own future, the future of mankind, and this can be in a positive or negative way.”

In the seminar Smets presented the work of Spanish documentary photographer Cristina de Middel, whose photo collection Excessocenus explores the exploitation of natural resources in Africa through a series of elaborately set up photographs.

“I went from Nepal to France to everywhere, but the same issues were all being talked about,” Smets said.

“These recurring themes are everywhere in the world, so this is something that is obviously fascinating us.”

In addition to Smets’ seminar, the Erasmus Huis also celebrated the Permata Photojournalist Grant 2018 (PPG) on the same day.

The PPG is a program for aspiring photojournalists to showcase their work. The 10 participants, each of which has some form of photography or journalism background, were given the topic of diversity and two months to produce their own photo story.

After the two months concluded, the Erasmus Huis hosted workshops in which Smets helped the participants create a story out of their photographs.

“After they [PPG participants] finish shooting they have a huge number of photographs, but they are not edited, its not the story yet,” Smets said.

“So, you have the most basic ingredients, the photographs. The most difficult part I think is how you make a story out of these building blocks.”

Bayu Eka Novanta, a participant in PPG 2018 and a freelance photographer from Malang, East Java, says that working with Smets was an amazing experience.

For the grant, Bayu made a story about former transgender sex workers who now live with their children and have turned to religion.

“Jenny arranged my photos, they are more organized and the message was very deep,” Bayu said.

Another photojournalist in the PPG, Aprillio Abdullah Akbar, said that Smets pushed them as photographers to deeply consider their choices.

“[Smets] was always asking me as a photographer who made these photos, about for whom this photo story was made,” Aprillio said.

“So, what I do can be understood by me as a photographer and by the audience as a photo viewer.”

Aprillio worked on a story called “Resilient”, which tells the story of the mission of the Ciliwung Rawajati Women’s School for gender equality. The school uses education as a solution to overcome domestic violence.

The photo stories produced from the PPG program will be shown to the public from March 20.

Smets said she hoped the PPG program would help expand photojournalism in Southeast Asia.

“I think what I am doing here is trying to educate. What I am doing here is a very important program to make sure they can tell their own stories instead of us coming here and telling it for them.” (hdt)

The writer is an intern at The Jakarta Post

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cacat

Speaking through Color: Exhibition showcases paintings by artists with special needs

How do you express yourself if verbal language is inaccessible? This is the challenge experienced by people with disabilities who are non-verbal and therefore cannot communicate through speech.

Teachers at Jakarta’s Daya Pelita Kasih center believe the answer is through creating art.

The center supports students of all ages who have unique and specific needs relating to their disabilities that include dyslexia, attention deficit disorder (ADD), cerebral palsy, down syndrome as well as learning and behavior difficulties.

Some of the students have Autistic Spectrum Condition (ASC), and therefore struggle with social skills, speech and nonverbal communication, restricted thoughts and behaviors.

Alongside academic education, life and work skills training, the center places an emphasis on creative therapies, including music, painting and handicraft skills to support students to reach their potential.

“We started the art project for therapy purposes. When they paint they can focus more and express their feelings through the colors,” explained Katharina Lita Wewengkang, the center’s founder.

Their art programs have been so successful the foundation has put on exhibitions at various hotels in Jakarta since 2012. More recently, in 2017 the Alila Hotel in Seminyak, Bali hosted an exhibition of the student artists’ work, and last year some participated in exhibitions at the National Gallery of Indonesia in collaboration with the Cultural Attaché of the Spanish Embassy.

Their latest exhibition, “Painting a Better Future”, is hosted by Erasmus Huis in Jakarta until March 15.

Jane Gabriela is a 17-year-old artist who paints using her fingers and hands, and has been exhibiting her paintings since 2012.

Although Jane has ASC and is nonverbal, she is able to write about the meanings behind her paintings.

Referring to Doorway to a Dream ( 2018 ), Jane’s mother Elizabeth Rosalina explained the painting represents a bird’s nest: “it is about how everybody wants to have a safe place, an eagle’s nest to feel secure in”.

The center’s co-founder Gitta S.van Engelen explained how emotion is reflected through the color choices students make when painting.

Student artists, she said, are encouraged in their work creation but are never pushed toward using any particular color or method.

“Red can be seen to show anger. In this one the colors are softer, and this they are harder,” Gitta said, referring to two paintings displayed side by side which reflect subtle differences in how the artists were feeling when they created the pieces.

Waterfall Valley ( 2019 ) was created by Indhy Mutiarahma, an artist with a heartwarming laugh who is also non-verbal.

Her mother Dina Cholidi described the painting as showing hope. “She uses orange to paint hope and happiness. Light blue also signifies a happy time […] There was one time [visual art teacher] Mr Harry got very frustrated because she was painting so well and then she painted everything black, maybe it was a mood swing.”

Teacher Bertha Thaga described Indhy as one of her favorite students. “The first time I taught her, it was so hard but then I tried to get to know her. Now we are best friends, not like teacher and student, but she’s like my sister.”

Social skills, including turn-taking and cooperation, are also developed through art therapy, as well as self-confidence, coordination and fine-motor skills.

Through exhibiting their art, the students are able to see the pleasure that their work brings to others – with many paintings being purchased, giving them a fantastic sense of achievement. Seventy percent of proceeds from sales go to the artists and the rest to the foundation.

“We try to help them further their ability and their strengths. They can earn something and make a living,” said Katharina.

Visitors to this exhibition cannot help but lean in to the vibrancy flowing from these paintings which instil an unwavering zest for life. (ste)

— The writer is an intern at The Jakarta Post

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