Oesman Effendi

[Archive] Painting in Indonesia, Then and Now

This text was presented by Oesman Effendi at the discussion of fine art, part of the Jakarta Art Party II, Friday and Saturday, 7 and 8 November 1969, in the exhibition hall of PKJ-TIM, DKJ (The Jakarta Art Center, Taman Ismail Marzuki, the Special Region of Jakarta).

Opening of the Painting Exhibition from the collection of Jakarta Arts Council: THEORYLESS PAINTING. Curated by Leonhard Bartolomeus and Gesyada Annisa Namora Siregar, the show exhibited the works of Nashar, Rusli, Zaini and Oesman Effendi at Galeri Cipta 3 Taman Ismail Marzuki in 2017. (Photo: Eva Tobing)

Before I elaborate on this presentation’s title, “Painting in Indonesia Then and Now,” I would like to share my understanding of a few general terms that are used in relation to painting, in order to avoid any misunderstandings in the following presentation.

The term painting in Indonesia
Here I am referring to painting created by painters in Indonesia that is based on the knowledge of 20th century Western or modern painting.

The term painting
Here my use of the term painting, refers to a mature type of painting that exists in today’s tumultuous art world, that like Indonesia since its independence, has been forced to accept the laws of international society.

If there are deficiencies in my act, I do not apologize. My point here is that Indonesian painting must be measured based on the same standards that are used internationally, in the free world. It shouldn’t be a problem if these standards are someone else’s, for whether or not a painting is original or merely an imitation, it is either the product of one’s struggle or the fruit of their creativity. The question is, whether or not it can converse with the manifestation of international painting today.

The term Indonesia
Here I refer to the influence of the water, earth, and climate that make up a place, in this case Indonesia’s islands, and the way that these things help to shape the style and direction of a peoples’ art and culture. This applies to the form and basis of the Republic of Indonesia’s politics that are also determined by the nature of its islands.

The term painter or artist
What I mean by painter or artist is a person that is aware of their artistic calling and knows that the only way to enhance their art is to heighten their creative ability, by always sublimating a certain attitude towards life that is free and liberating. In doing this, one’s works will always appear new.

The term influence
This refers to a birthmark of sorts that appears in a finished work, or put differently, after inspecting a work that has just been finished, one realizes or notices the influence of another artist’s style. This sort of work cannot be admired. It is only when the painter is able to produce their own high-quality variation from the work in question that we might admire it. Until then, the work is an imitation, or even worse, a copy.

The term modern painting
What is meant here is, painting that is the product of individual expression, full of feeling and the desire to deliver the impulse and longings of one’s heart or the manifestation of one’s self in society’s midst, undisturbed by outside forces.

The following is an analysis of painting in Indonesia, beginning from my observations since 1934. Successful or not, it is dependent on how far I am able to merge myself with the works and the particular problems of painting, while at the same time, distancing myself from these things.

This analysis is based solely on the views of a painter. In order to construct a complete picture, such an analysis would necessitate years of work. Someday such a thing might be recorded in thick books, the product of art historians in Indonesia.

Painting in Indonesia before the Japanese Occupation
It can be stated that Indonesian painting or painting created by Indonesians that is familiar to the nation, emerged just before the 1930s. In general, these paintings were no more than an imitation of styles admired by our artists. At this time, it was very rare for Indonesians to choose to study painting or to become painters. Yet, while there are only a few painters, their names were quite well-known. If judged in relation to the current era, it can be said that the actions of these painters were revolutionary. Besides choosing to shape a new type of life, they were forced to deal with society’s attitude that afforded them little respect. Just think, because of such narrow-mindedness, how man tens or hundreds of individuals that could paint have been lost completely?

Apart from the quality of these painters’ work, their efforts possess historical significance for Indonesian painting
Outside of the Indonesian community there were a significant number of Dutch and foreign painters in Indonesia who frequently held exhibitions. While the Dutch community’s purchasing power was relatively high, in general, the work of these artists cannot be viewed as responsible art. This is because such art was interested in motifs such as those found across this equatorial archipelago. These motifs became souvenirs once one left Indonesia. Although it appears that the foreign painting community wanted to monopolize the growth and market of painting, it is also as if the Dutch colonial community as well as the educated people of Indonesia were illiterate in regards to Western modern painting, as such, the direction and development of modern painting was stemmed. In 1935, the Dutch community as well as a number of Indonesian intellectuals were introduced to the works of some of the world’s great masters, thanks to the collection of Regnault. This continued for a few years with the annual rotation of works. Around this time, a number of Indonesia’s sons also began to throw themselves into the arena of painting. Books and magazines began to spread and exhibitions were visited. The adaptation of foreign art and culture began to permeate Indonesian art and culture. Even though at that time, the work of such artists was more a display of their desire to demonstrate a capability in line with that of the foreigners they were emulating. There was, however, one advantage for the Indonesian nation, amongst its painters were those who dreamed of an independent Indonesia or had a nationalist soul. This was something the Dutch did not calculate. For the Indonesian nation, eager to seize its sovereignty, the presence of painters, or more specifically, when the Union of Indonesian Painters (PERSAGI) was formed in 1937, a peak or height of nationalist awareness was achieved that was part of the long struggle for the nation. These painters pleaded openly for the right to life, the right to sovereignty. In addition, this event revealed the aspirations of a conscious nation that had begun to realize what one lives and dies for in the Indonesian archipelago. As such, with the establishment of PERSAGI, it can be stated that the basic foundations for the new nation’s art and culture were becoming clear.

This moment constituted a statement that the Indonesian nation also possessed the ability to paint and had a bright future like that which had been achieved by its ancestors in past centuries.

Painting in Indonesia during the Japanese Occupation
Although it seems like an impossibility, the occupation of the cruel fascist Japanese government also encouraged the growth of the nation’s artistic talents and its freedom to choose the direction of this talent’s development, marked by the attitude of liberty. This opportunity provided a great deal of force, acting like a workshop for those with the greatest skill as painters. Until now, the work of these individuals continues to reverberate, embellishing the development of Indonesian painting.

The results of this era were spontaneous and fresh, revealing works of brilliance.

A solid base on which to stand, supported by concrete evidence of a certain type of painting became clear.

Whether it was through painting exhibitions or the fact that talented painters were awarded recognition, the general public began to recognize the existence of painting. As painting became well known it also became clear what its relationship was to the ruling government, how far politics might influence its course, to what extent it should stand against society, and what its relationship would be to the younger generation. This would become its attitude going forward.

Painting emerged as a sign of culture that could no longer be separated from society. It is dependent on the artists themselves, where painting will be taken. The start, at least, was quite healthy and notable.

Painting in Indonesia after Independence
When Indonesia’s independence was declared, the whole nation, including its painters, joined in the fight for self-proclamation and self-liberation. Members of the nation risked their lives for the sovereignty of the people. This revolution had a significant impact on the development of painting. Never before had Indonesian painting been enlivened by such a large number of pure, spontaneous, and fresh works. Despite the low-level of education and technical ability of Indonesia’s painters, during the early years of the revolution the willingness to risk one’s body and soul without expectation of recognition were the impetus for such production. What a beautiful struggle this was.

Unfortunately, the secret of how to unconsciously create something with such great meaning – that is something which is full of life in its devotion to art and its ideals – has become hazy since the recognition of Indonesia’s sovereignty.

Indonesian painting has taken a wrong turn. Until now it has been the product of an inner impulse, derived from the depths of the painter’s soul. The direction determined by myriad external factors, governed by particular all-encompassing laws. In contrast, today painters and Indonesian painting, exists in a context of constant inner turmoil. Young painters and their work are being tested and challenged. In order to succeed artists have begun to realize that they must determine their own artistic style. If during the revolution itself, the romanticism of revolution and the development of a rebellious soul drove an artist, now it is life’s lessons. The result of these lessons, the means by which they settle and mature, are painting’s engine. In other words, the faith in one’s self and an attitude that life must be lived fully, both with joy and struggle must be nurtured, strengthened, and sublimated. Painting’s struggle must be washed of those characteristics and actions that are both low and dirty.

We must understand, that at that time while there were a great number of young painters, only a few possessed the skills necessary to protect the soul of their work. For this soul and their awareness were only just emerging. Time and experience are necessary to fine tune such things. Only time can tell if someone is a painter or an artist, or if they are merely decoration within a movement, bound to become extinct.

At the time of Indonesia’s transfer of sovereignty Indonesian society began to release itself from the isolation of World War II (from 1940 – 1945). Automatically, this meant that the Indonesian nation became a part of international discourse and subsequently, was forced to submit to international laws.

The means by which to maintain Indonesia’s sovereignty began to determine the nation’s direction, shaping every area of life.

From the moment that Indonesian sovereignty was recognized, the state began to regulate the lives of its citizens through basic democratic laws. Life began to be controlled by laws. The life of every citizen, including painters, was protected by law. The advancement of the nation through self-will, was the responsibility of every citizen. Painters, in their own way and with their own style began to contribute to the nation’s development. They began to practice in order to advance their talents and abilities. Society was invited to understand and receive life through exhibitions, courses, and magazines. Art academies were built in order to ensure the continued development of art and as a means to educate and guide young talent. The government was influenced through the determination of art and cultural policy. Lots of effort and thought were donated. Many were willing to sacrifice themselves in the struggle to maintain a healthy context for painting. In theory, with time, the life of art, can be made more passionate and prosperous. That is, supposing artists and society, in particular those with great talent, recognize their calling as well as the fact that it is only with diligence and honest sincere sacrifice that together peoples’ freedom can be guaranteed. Only then, can society be shaped and developed according to the desired ideals. However, it is certain that the life of the Indonesian nation as well as the life of its art, although free from isolation will not be able, on its own, to determine its direction and ideals. This is because of outside influences that have already flooded Indonesia to the point that no matter how intensely cultural experts try to reject that which is considered worthless or potentially threatening, or even ugly, it will be a futile venture. Ultimately, this is all dependent on the individual faith and attitude of Indonesia’s people.

What is the effect of exterminating something only because it is ugly? This is like all philosophical questions – even more so because there is a relationship with life itself – where is the limit of ugliness, or that which is called ugly? From here it is certain there will be a continuous expenditure of various kinds of energy, necessary to determine the indeterminate boundary of that which is called “ugly.” It is the same with the life of man, life grows. The meaning of ugly also grows, its evaluation changing. There is a certain freedom in taking control of something that is considered ugly.

So, if we find something unpleasant in Indonesian painting, assume that it is something that must be there, something that cannot be separated from its development. It can be said that no matter how intelligent a new nation is, throughout its development it cannot escape the weaknesses of its ancestors. It is clear that the nation must learn from the fiasco of its actions and experiences. It is not easy to unite a nation as big as this and to convince its inhabitants that that this union is a better alternative for prosperity.

It is in fact the case that the construction of a healthy Indonesian state was quite tumultuous, expending a great deal of energy, energy taken from the souls of the nation’s citizens. The energy and material wasted (maybe to the point that we can’t imagine) constituted an overall political, economic, and national crisis.

This was a crisis of leadership, a crisis of intelligence. Since the transfer of sovereignty until now, this crisis has constituted a long, drawn out process. At one point, it was even asserted that a type of intellectual prostitution (or perhaps better put, treason of intellect) existed. Thankfully today, the conviction to build a healthy nation has returned. However, the impact of this crisis has already touched every aspect of the nation’s life, shaking its basic foundations. Indonesian painting was not spared from this crisis, its foundations were also struck by this onslaught.

The first trial for painting after the magnificent finish of the revolution, full of heroism and glory, was to determine its position in a constellation of painting that was increasingly subjected to firm politics, influenced by a particular ideology and state institutions. Of course, at this time artists had begun to live their lives as members of the democratic nation. The consequence of the long involvement of these artists in helping to determine the direction such institutions would take resulted in many artists prioritizing their political duties over art. Many realized that ideology or position must be determined first. Only later and on its own would art reach its prime. This situation has brought about numerous misfortunes. Until now a large number of artists are not able or ready to remove themselves from the trap of these institutions. The effect of a collective escape under one flag severely damaged the lives of painters, a reality that is reflective of parties that do not wish to change their outlook or mode of revolution. In terms of painting, a particular aesthetic became a necessary requirement in the production of a work of art. This aesthetic was a symbol of one’s faithfulness or loyalty to a particular ideology. As a result of the demand to depict certain symbols, be it consciously or unconsciously, these painters betrayed an inner calling to declare themselves as a product of their era. These artists threw away their freedom. These artists contributed their talents through ideologically determined lines. The result was the birth of a dynamic type of painting full of struggle, but also full of resentment and fanatical discipline. This school of painting was one with its nation of origin. It was a satellite of a school of painting that existed outside of Indonesia. This problem will continue to influence Indonesian painting because this school of thought has a great deal of influence. However, if looked at from the values of modern art, throughout the world this school of thought is not taken very seriously. These artists are too constrained. It is as if there is a fear to release one’s self from one’s bonds. This is because within this school, there exists a law of sorts that prevents artists from betraying a particular style. This is an incredible sacrifice. Therefore they are determined to win.

Throughout the period in which politics were seen as the commander, apolitical painting movements were not very loud or well known. Naturally, every action and activity was seized by that which was political. It was a process of not just movement, but winning. From the beginning, painters were quite aware of their calling and tried to enhance their abilities as much as possible, as any engaged citizen would do, in order to take full advantage of every opportunity as long as there was a space to do so. Yet, while they existed within organizations, in general the loyalty amongst these individuals began to shrivel. This was caused on one hand by the number of participants in politically oriented painted exhibitions. Over time and with more exhibitions there were eventually hundreds. The height of this came when those artists who were apolitical, chose to reject politics by being political, joining with Manikebu (Cultural Manifesto) because they felt that their lives were threatened; they knew, a total seizure of power would no doubt be accompanied by a total crackdown against that which was viewed as unacceptable, as is usual with patterns of totalitarian destruction. There is one characteristic in particular unique to this political era, if painters gathered, the topic of their conversation revolved around politics. Rarely did these artists discuss problems of painting that revolved around technique or artistic value, ideas might lead to new cultural ideals. Fortunately, there was an academic institution like ITB, that from its establishment, received guidance from specialists who fostered a healthy educational system. Meaning, a system that was interested in understanding the secret of a work of art. The educational politics of art at ITB developed or were developed according to a new method. Eventually ITB would become a bastion of art that upheld the values of free expression. Though in fact, when it was first established ASRI Yogyakarta was also based on a system of arts education that was free. However today, the product of its students too often, demonstrate political characteristics. In Jakarta, painting is dominated by individual free expression, a status that is strictly maintained, although – what is produced, if these artists exhibit, – often suggests that these artists are part of a single group. Besides activities in these three cities, Solo and Surabaya are also of relevance.

While initially on its surface Indonesian painting suggested political whisperings, morally, it has always been caught up in a process of trying to escape the tumultuous realities of life as well as the conflict between development and destruction. The assaults and trials faced by painting, invited or not, will continue to clothe the life of painting. Throughout its development, the problems of Indonesian painting, have increasingly become similar to those problems faced by painting around the world. From a flood of literature about painting to scholarships that have afforded painters the chance to study abroad. From the desire to shape Indonesian painting to the disappearance of painting’s geographical boundaries. From the ability to shape the political direction of painting to the encounter with the impotency of official organizations – all of these factors, from the slogan “art for the people,” to the elimination of this slogan as well as the departure of high quality works abroad. From the effort to foster talent to the existence of fine art graduates afraid to call themselves painters. From the love of traditional art to the complete dismissal of anything considered traditional. From a poverty of knowledge that makes it impossible to master that which one represents. From confining one’s self, to raising one’s self up, to introducing one’s self to the world. From a particular ideal that forces the production of a singular style. From nationalism to internationalism. From quiet domestic relations to an incredible productivity of cultural knowledge shared abroad. From domestic peace to the arrival of winds from abroad (the “Beat” generation, cultural explosions, existentialism, the assistance of foreign nations and organizations, pop art and op art, giant efforts in art, happenings, hippies, and jippies, black power, Vietnam Soul, so on and so forth).

In the days to come, the things that occupy the thoughts and worries, or the bright spots that are beginning to appear in every free nation, will inevitably become the preoccupation of painting in Indonesia. But for now, let’s review, to date what has been achieved by painting in Indonesia created by our great sons. Is it enough to position ourselves in the international arena with the hope that we will contribute something new to the development of international painting? To do this a work must be original, not an imitation. At first, Indonesian painters merely imitated what they were impressed with. The era of Persagi, was more experimental, marked by the desire to declare the existence of a talent and ability. This was the beginning or birth of actual works of art in Indonesia. During the Japanese occupation, numerous figures emerged that demonstrated originality and a bright future. The desire to develop painting in Indonesia became clear. The start of the revolution or the era of the physical revolution marked the height of a spirit and spontaneous energy amongst artists. This suggested that Indonesian painting faced a bright future. Today, in the era of independence, we have reached the true life of what is referred to as painting. From its start, those who wished to stay active in painting, began to study intensively in order to improve this field.

These individuals began to master problems associated with painting, from painting’s form to its content. Painting became a livelihood as well as a tool through which to achieve a desired revolution. Painters began to recognize the true limits of their ability and creativity. Yet, at the same time, manipulative attitudes and corruption, masked by slogans that were valid during this era began to emerge. A collective self-sustaining movement emerged. No part of this had anything to do with the birth of quality art work. However, it should be noted, that technical ability continued to increase. This was the result of a certain discipline that was expected of the era’s accepted aesthetic. No matter how busy and intense this painting movement was, it was very rare to find a painter who followed the impulse of his talent and was faithful to the direction of his ideals, namely to become a great painter in the real sense. The fact is that the condition and situation at that time was not conducive to the birth of such energy. Understandably, there had not been enough time for artists to train and correct themselves in order to prepare an inner spirit and knowledge of painting that would allow them the distance to assess the essence of the object to be painted. As such, works were obscured by the artist’s ego and the material of the art work. In addition, we cannot forget the relationship with society, the power of buyers from Indonesia and abroad, collectors and art dealers, or those who exhibited together abroad, innumerable factors have influenced the direction of our painters’ actions. Sometimes we are dazzled by the intense activity of certain exhibitions, where it appears that the works displayed are intended only for a particular buyer. If you encounter the unexpected, simply pay attention to the trends that result in money. Too many works are conceptual, made by convection or prefabricated. This disease is spreading to young painters. It is astounding that painting students exhibit works that are obviously derived from the example given by their seniors and are so bold as to ask the same price that their seniors would! This is a phenomenon that you will not find in another country.

Besides searching for a trend that might sell – for survival purposes – many also created works that at first glance, appeared brilliant. These works were brilliant because the result was no less than that of the original painter or the inspiration taken from abroad. Statements like, “the motif is part of the true path,” in the use or application of certain shades or color combinations, to the canonical forms of foreign works are defended furiously. “In the world of modern art, every work of art from wherever and from whatever era belongs to man.” What is wrong with appropriating something that is good? We know what is good. “Must we destroy Rome in order to build a new Rome” said the fierce hero. What is strange about this hero, before making such a commotion about the identity of a painter/artist, it seems that he already understood the problem at hand. Most modern painters with talent know enough about what it takes to give birth to a meaningful work of art. Despite this, they are swept away by an extraordinary ability to create what was already created by great artists before. The result of this is one characteristic of particular significance. These artists attempt to create something even greater and more complicated, deconstructed, and sweeter than the original. While, in contrast the original is always characterized by a search for simplicity. Many painters forget the origin of an image’s birth.

In Indonesia, it is really only children that can be called geniuses for they draw without thinking. However, when they begin school, they judged and guided by example. This is despite the fact that all modern educational systems, when it comes to painting, are directed towards the development of a free soul. This is how someone becomes a painter, not from the masterpieces of foreign artists that are made barometers of one’s ability. So, while one wants to be rated highly, if they have forgotten the secret of genius that children possess, where is it that they must return?

This childish soul must be nurtured and trained, through all means possible of seeing and measuring oneself. All problems and knowledge must be mastered. All of this must be driven by a firm attitude. Again, and again critiquing oneself until one realizes their talent’s true calling. This is what is hoped of Indonesian painters, though unfortunately, until now few painters like this have emerged in Indonesia. Those who will obtain and stay within this situation are those who are consistent. One’s firmness of choice and truthfulness of path will be determined by the series of work produced during one’s development. Let us honestly ask, how many painters in Indonesia possess such purity and honesty that demonstrates consistency from their start until now? Although the results have not been particularly brilliant, and also appear to be left behind by the modern concepts that many painters have embraced, isn’t the result that of a long and mature struggle? A characteristic of what is called true art? Aren’t the results achieved by the international experts also the result of a long exhaustive struggle? Should we be angry or discouraged if someone says Indonesian painting does not exist and will only be born one hundred years from now? Aren’t we a new nation that is just learning how to paint? Indeed! If one looks at how big our struggle has been and the outcome of our abilities that have been scattered to every corner of the world, is this enough to be viewed as a condition of our painting’s existence and its success? There is one thing that consistently frustrates Indonesian painting, namely, the existence of a perfect aesthetic or a perfect technique, that would result in a work, automatically classified as a masterpiece. This lack is the result of a singular disability. Indonesian painting has no brand. There is no personality. There is no identity. The painter has disappeared. The artist has been removed from the work. So, who is there in his place? A voice. The voice of the master who has been imitated. We are his followers. But not his disciples. If this is true, he would not expect us to follow him literally. What he hopes and recommends is that the artist will remain true to oneself. If someone asked, “Should we not paint according to a particular style or follow a certain school?” The answer would be, sure why not. Everyone is free to choose what it is they are drawn to. The problem is, do you want to become the voice of the master? Or your own trumpet? Do you want to become a small person? Or a great person? Do you want to become a satellite? Or your own sun? One thing is commonly forgotten in regards to modern painting in Indonesia. That is, an art work is in fact a self-portrait of the artist. Unfortunately, most artists have not yet asked of the work of art, whether or not it is an image of themselves.

There are still many attitudes that need to be improved, many hearts to be explored in order to determine true ability. If one considers the age of painting in Indonesia, it is not too late. Even if one completely devotes themselves to their talents, decades are needed for the development of this type of consciousness (for those who are bright, less). What I mean, is that at the age of 35 – 45 an artist will finally face themselves. Around this age, an artist has reached a maturity in his preparation to become a full artist, true to himself. Society still has time to wait. Indonesian painting will emerge, it is in the making.

Still, people ask, is it possible that Indonesia will develop a unique type of art that has its own brand? Of course, this is possible. History has already proven it. No less, in the context of strict terms and conditions. Just look at Buddhist art spread across Asia. Although the requirements of architectural and sculptural arts are the same, in every region and nation a particular variation of Buddhist art, unique to that area was born. In other words, the nature of a region determines its art.

Such a reality is achieved through the meditation of the creator. That is, thanks to the intention of the creator and their unity with the problem at hand. A modern example of this is Le Corbusier’s creation of a new city in Chandigarh, India that paid heed to the shape of cities and architecture unique to that region. Or Japan’s distinctive art of modern design that allows anyone in the world to recognize that something is Japanese, even if only a few people are truly familiar with the art and culture of Japan.

In order for a unique brand such as this to emerge, an artist must intensely and diligently create according to the pure calling of his soul. I believe that Indonesia’s environment will influence the mark of its artists. For example, I am positive that work created by the artist Rusli, could never be created by someone that was not from Indonesia, although Rusli himself might not acknowledge this.

The question arises, what then do we call the painting that exists today? There is good news. It has been proven that Indonesia is full of first class talent. The result of this talent is of a high quality and continues to advance. However, it has not yet reached the level that is hoped for by painting. The question arises, is this not the judgment of a hypocrite?

There are many ways to judge something. First, there are those who begin from the situation at hand, viewing problems as a product of development. In general, these people praise everything that is growing or gifted. In order to stimulate rapid progress and instill confidence. They are full of excitement. At times, they are completely happy. While at other times they see individual weaknesses. But for the sake of all concerned, these types of people are in a state of constant flattery. This is the moral order of their name. This is the way of doing things in Asia. To the point where they are able to convince themselves that theirs is the true path. Just look at all of the slogans related to the nation’s progress. Everything is always progressive. Until an atomic bomb arrives from something that has been seized. But it doesn’t happen. The slogans undergo a 180 degree turn. And…every path that has already been forged takes a new direction. For me, this type of judgment is what we refer to as hypocritical.

The second type of judgment comes from foreigners. Because a new nation begins to move forward, they believe it must be pushed. “Let us progress,” they state. “Prove it with evidence. Support. Trade. Law. Give sweet criticism. You know, this is an absurd manifestation, a nation that just yesterday knew nothing, all of a sudden able to conjure something similar to us.” But, those who are approached are only those who have position. This system is called “aid.”

The third type of judgment. This is a new field for critics. The study of all “isms.” View painting exhibitions. Compare everything to these isms. That which fits, ok. That which doesn’t fit, not ok. Criticism must continue. A balanced criticism that is. But scholarship is going in every direction. There is a responsibility to culture, to our nation’s painting. We might call this system a “venomous snake.”

The fourth type of judgement, is where we view everything that is ours as sacred. “Watch out, if there is outside criticism. I will record you.” This system is that of a “ghost.”

Finally, the fifth type of judgement, is that in which we “realize” we are human. Painters are also humans. Humans make mistakes. They are full of disabilities. Every step forward, is accompanied by a step back. What has been left behind. Every success, reveals the true self. We must continue to work hard. But also, be our own toughest critics. Look well beyond our ideals and desire to advance. There is one goal – through constant awareness reach the next level. The consequence is that we are still inferior. But not arrogant or stubborn or sharp. The only one who judges us is ourselves.

I try to use this fifth type of judgement.

So in my opinion, painting in Indonesia is still growing, it doesn’t exist yet, it is still in the process of finding its own unique shape.

 

Translated by Katherine Bruhn and edited by Edwina Brennan, for the catalogue of “Hello World. Revising a Collection”, published by Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart – Berlin Nationalgalerie – Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, 2018.

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Oesman Effendi (b. Padang, 1919; d. Jakarta, 1985) was a painter who was better known as ‘OE’—his initial that is used for his writings—reviews, or critics that were published in magazines and newspapers. He studied painting at SIM (Seniman Indonesia Muda) and GPI. Along with Abdulsalam, he was the first designer of national money of the Republic of Indonesia. Then he continued his printmaking studies in Academie Della Arte del Disegno. He was amongst the planners of the curriculum of LPKJ (Lembaga Pendidikan Kesenian Jakarta, now Jakarta Institute of Arts). His artistic practice is based on 3K: kejujuran (honesty), kewajaran (ordinary), dan kebersahajaan (modesty).