ONLINE SUPPORT:  

ARTICLES

2010-02-20
Haris Purnomo at COCA, Seattle
Thomas S. Lamprecht

Haris Purnomo’s recent show at the COCA Seattle was a combination of paintings and sculptures from Purnomo’s most recent series. The work’s visual language employs images of tattooed or cocooned babies. Through this imagery Purnomo seemingly aims at addressing a number of social and aesthetic issues that are potentially complex and poignant.


The work is executed in a precise, calligraphic style that connects easily to the traditionally popular and historically characteristic qualities of art prevalent in the culture Purnomo comes from. The carefully nuanced, photorealistic images of naked babies with dragon and fire tattoos evoke a range of discordant references from old people and hipsters to skinheads, Maori warriors and Hells Angels. The babies float, fly or cluster in soft bundles full of little arms, legs, bottoms and bellies. They sleep, they gaze, they notice. Together they strive to viscerally seduce and create combined feelings of playful discomfort and whimsy. The monochromatic colors of the paintings and the careful avoidance of any gestural or brush stroke evidence underline the delicate, effeminate quality so prized by Indonesian cultural aesthetics. Yet the tattooed, delicate babies’ bodies hint at pain as well.


Purnomo is not at home with pain and discomfort. He is clearly a traditionalist in love with his craft. He is more familiar and comfortable with politeness and mild-manner humor. But he also has some other underlying ambitions. To that extent Purnomo seeks to find the balance between the Louis K. Meisel type of hyper-realistic obsession—where creating the virtuosic, saccharin infused photographic images with paint and brush is the aim in itself—and an extended conceptual function of an image.


Purnamo’s babies correspond to that deep traditional value of politeness which works all the better when manifested with cuteness and sweetness. He loves and talks about them as the key for a successful future of humanity. The babies have, of course, an important spiritual connection with animistic and Hindu beliefs that extend influences throughout Javanese, Islamic and other Indonesian cultures that often regard them as deities. They represent sentient beings still connected to the divine and not progressively distanced from the gods through the corruption of maturity. (In several Indonesian cultures babies are not even allowed to touch the ground, where demons dwell, until they are at least six months old.) Purnomo’s babies exemplify those deities in more ways than one. Their expressions are not only cute. They are dead-pan knowing, detached or inquisitive. They are baby Garudas, Vishnus, Shivas. They are Indonesian generals and Buddhas in one.

This is where Purnomo’s ambition takes his imagery into another territory. He aspires to play with politics and power. In some cases this is done subtly, in others less so. The large size of his paintings and huge baby bodies are aggressive in their massive volume. The somewhat predictable effect of juxtaposing violent images of dragons and flames tattooed with the implicit violence that comes from etching them on delicate baby skin, is but one way Purnomo tries to create that tension. It is a tightly manipulated tension to the extent that it becomes both self conscious and decorative. Purnomo catches himself trying and not being able to live up to his hope of profound juxtaposition. The babies very quickly become illustrations. Purnomo wants to position them on the edge of decorative aesthetic and profanity. He knows enough about art to want to drive his imagery onto a deeper level other than marginal aesthetic, perfunctory interest or shock.


The way he attempts to mitigate that ambition is by playing with the suggestion of violence and irony. It is a noble pursuit that takes a darker, sardonic view of the manipulations and politics of power. One baby in the series sports a knife tucked behind its ear like a pencil temporarily stowed, as if in between tasks. However, this more edgy vocabulary is still overridden by concern for offence. The baby has an endearing expression of curiosity on its face. The kind that makes people fall into baby talk. The knife could be stuck there by a playful adult. The image is more cute than telling. It ends up appearing mildly humorous and the implied threat dissolves. The distant echoes of memories of Suharto’s Jakarta genocide never balance the decorative cuteness and detachment of polite craftsmanship. The shrewdness and cold brutality within a peaceful and non-violent society never really comes to the fore.


The babies’ most successful expressions are not the ones that the COCA audiences seemed to examine more closely. They are not the most obvious. Some of them are not really planned in the black-pupil deadness of their staring eyes. As in many examples of successful art making, Purnomo’s best quality comes not from being in full control. In those instances there is a promise and possibility of magic. The predictable, chintzy and lackluster recedes a bit.


It could be argued that the installation of Purnomo’s sculptures came closer to the objective of his vision. Shown in two separate COCA locations in Seattle, the clusters of hanging white plastic-mold, cocoon-wrapped, life-size sleeping babies are accentuated by pointed metal daggers protruding like stings from the bottom. They connected more easily with the threat of violence, and the dichotomy—or coexistence—of peaceful innocence and crude aggression. They are clearer in articulating their connection to the idea that the devil and God are, after all, one and the same. Like great Imams of Islam or Shiva, The Destroyer of the Hindu trinity, they aim to command reverence and fear.


In a way, the more direct function of the sculptures is not surprising. Purnomo is clearly not as much in love with or at home with three dimensional object making and gravity, as he is with his meditative, high-craft painting. The fact that COCA’s space did not allow for the installation to be too carefully displayed or arranged, also helped, however unintentionally. The industrially cast molded plastic material may be just a step removed from Purnomo’s preoccupation with perfectionist virtuosity and fastidiousness, but it’s enough. The process, at least, is not peaceful and it can be messy.


The installation of the cocooned, stiletto-bottom babies suspended in mid-air seemed almost like a clarifying statement for the paintings in the show. This is not to say that it didn’t retain some of the similar qualities of the overly cordial insecurity. However, it did force a different element; that of the art being put in another context and vernacular. Purnomo’s personal attachments and manner had to give way at least in part to less ingrained sensibility. Something more general occurred. This may not have made the installation stronger in itself, however, it allowed for another angle that could be seen as less monolithic. The contemporary art world fashions and competitive art awareness slid to the surface. Consequently it had to be considered in that context, although, as such it made a minor impact.


When it works, the overall strength of Purnomo’s artwork resides in creating a platform for unresolved whimsy. It falls short of being a punch line, a conclusion, and keeps the question hanging. In the end, the wondering travels the viewer tends to go through are not deeply visceral or profound. They do, however, aspire to intellectual intensity. It is about how close to those intensities Purnomo is able to get himself and then pitch it to the viewer. However politely.

read more in EXHIBITIONS @ C-ARTS VOLUME-12


HIGHLIGHTS
2011-03-30

Van Gogh Alive – the Exhibition set to open on 16 April 2011 

Singapore (30 March 2011) In commemoration of Van Gogh’s birth date today, the ArtScience Museum at Marina Bay Sands announced that it will host the world touring premiere of Van Gogh Alive – the Exhibition. Visitors will get to experience Vincent Van Gogh’s art work come alive in an exhibition that will combine the latest in sound and projection technology using images of Van Gogh’s masterpieces.

...read more.
2011-01-05

Works by Vincent Leow A mid-career survey of Vincent Leow’s oeuvre marking a new direction in the artistic practice of Leow,

...read more.
2011-01-05

Organized by Hou Hanru in collaboration with ShContemporary 9th September, 2010

...read more.
2031-01-01

An interesting exploration into art in Singapore by nineteen artists, including seniors like Tang Da Wu, Jimmy Ong and Zai Kuning “who have lived

...read more.
2010-10-06

The installations of Java’s Machine: Phantasmagoria by Augustinus Kuswidananto (a.k.a. Jompet) have been shown in a number of variations, exploring syncretism or strategies to reconcile

...read more.
2010-10-06

Filipino artist Bembol Dela Cruz presents the concept of art reflecting art, with an explosive narrative that carves life out

...read more.
2010-10-06

Islamic art in Indonesia used to be associated with religious calligraphy only, but in 2009 Lawangwangi’s exhibition of Contemporary Islamic Art showed that calligraphy is just a form of language.

...read more.
SPONSORED


EMERGING ARTIST

There is a new epidemic trend in the contemporary art of Asia sweeping through the population of younger artists: Animamix Art.

 

 

Amalia Kartika Sari

 

Each artist has a full right, and at the same time an obligation, to explore forms and ideas continuously, although naturally there will be many obstructions and challenges along the way.

Hayatudin

 

“A community is often proud of a certain building, viewing it with a sense of grandeur. Meanwhile, a range of monumental idioms are often used to mark great moments in history. 

Edo Pillu

From different generations and cultural backgrounds, S Teddy D and Daniel Flanagan present together their collaboration on Transubstantiation.

Daniel Flanagan

From different generations and cultural backgrounds, S Teddy D and Daniel Flanagan present together their collaboration on Transubstantiation.

 

S Teddy D

Not unlike other Filipino-Americans who journey to the Philippines to learn more about their roots, Hanna Pettyjohn undertook such a passage in reverse.

 

Hanna Pettyjohn

I do not wish to become a president, professor, doctor, governor, celebrity, corruptor, politic expert or anything else.

Nyoman Darya

Solo Exhibition:

 

1998 Urban Personality Exhibition, Chongqing, China

2001 Hangzhou Jincai Gallery

 

 

 

He Wei-Na

Ong-Arj’s painting has point out thoroughly content in a society condition today. Even it express through looks weird human image.

 

Ong-Arj Loeamornpagsin

Fazar paints with his heart. He believes that his interpretation is like “worship”. Any composition existing in his painting is his effort of concretizing what he feels.

 

Fajar Roma Agung Wibisono

With great imagination, he has been using a very unique artistic language to express his very much primitive and strong emotion on the surrounding characters.

Yang Pei Jiang

In Ardana’s works garlic becomes most artistic in various ways it is rendered whether it is presented individually or in groups of bulbs, cut open, blown up, its thin and transparent layers peeled, as well as severed and torn.

Dewa Ngakan Ardana

Filippo Amato Sciascia (born at Palma, Di Montechiaro, Italy, 1972) will present his solo exhibition of his recent works titled Lux Lumina at Kendra Gallery of Contemporary Art from the 12th December 2009 – 14th January 2010. 

Lux Lumina

Hui Xin’s art addresses both the phenomenon of our constant need for visual stimuli, as well as our desire to be surrounded by objects that give us pleasure. His new paintings and sculptures bring out a dichotomy between naive happiness and adult-themed amusements.

Hui Xin

Since childhood, Nano has enjoyed reading comics, even producing his own comic book in junior high school. Comics became the first visual art Nano came to know. 

Nano Warsono

2002:"Ilusi Koran", Semarang Gallery, Semarang. "Transisi", Bentara Budaya Yogyakarta.

Budi Ubrux

Selected Solo Exhibition 

2005:“Paradoks Batas”, Edwin Galeri, Jakarta. 2003: “Painthink”, Edwin Galeri, Jakarta.

F. Sigit Santoso

He got  The Special Award  From The 25th Exhibition of Contemporary art in 2008 and winner Prize from 11th Panasonic  Contemporary Painting Competition when he postgraduate. 

Chalermpon Ratanakomonwat

The inspiration behind his recent paintings came in 2005 while he was observing his second child was a son. People say that when babies sleep they are guarded by angels. This common experience evoked a wave of questions: Was the baby dreaming? What was he dreaming about? What was he feeling?

WAHYU GEIYONK

“Many artists like to ponder on the past and the present through the history of human civilization,” says young artist Wang Mian. “With pieces of information and inspiration they

WANG MIAN
SPONSORED

LATEST ISSUE
ISSUE #23
C-ARTS VOLUME-23
price: $10 USD

ART AGENDA

The Tang Shipwreck: Gold and Ceramics from 9th-century China
www.golinharris.com
 
Don’t Forget To Remember
www.dontforgettoremember.org
 
Solo Exhibition of Sui Jianguo and Zang Kunkun happening at MOCA and Linda Gallery
www.lindagallery.com
 
Rhapsody for the Otherness
www.oneeastasia.org
 
Gajah Gallery presents A celebration of our 15 years
 

Our Sponsor Links