Saturday, October 10, 2009

[c]artography, solo exhibition of Julnaidi Ms

By Kuss Indarto
There will be a time.... when an image with a name that it bears will loose its identity. (Michel Foucault, This is not a Pipe, 1983)

[1]: Searching for a Change

Julnaidi Mustar’s instinct of creative searching keeps moving. I distinguished his works in detail in 2005, when one of his paintings was chosen to be exhibited in visual art exhibition ““KOTAKATIKOTAKITA: Yang Muda Melihat Kota” in Yogyakarta Art Festival XVII, on July 2005 in Taman Budaya Yogyakarta. His work, entitled Kota Ritual Individualis (Individualist Ritual City) illustrates images of two piles of protuberant and pointed small and big stones. That strange stone looks arrogant. Tens of white boxes similar to crowded buildings grow about the stone. Jul seems like to tell about his strangeness to the (physical) situation of the city which starts to take a distance to its resident. Uniform cities but crowded, it seems that it is not more than a lump of conceited stone and raises a terror.

That was the perspective captured by the visual artist from Minangkabau when he responded the curatorial theme about city at that time. As a curator of the exhibition, I chose the work because its character looks so powerful. Consequently, Jul’s painting was chosen with 36 other works. There were more than 400 work proposals were shoved aside from the exhibition whose participant recruitment by a selection system.

The work of Jul was way different from the tendency of previous works that can be summed as “figurative-abstract”. This kind of work once supported Jul’s existence that is more convinced to trace his career as an artist. It showed up in the momentum of Philip Morris Indonesia Art Award 2001 which put his painting, Ideologi yang Terkotak-kotak (Fragmented Ideology) (150x150 cm, acrylic on the canvas) as a finalist (Top 84)

Meanwhile, if we reexamine the painting, Kota Ritual Individualis (Individualist Ritual City), there is an interesting point from the work, which is the visualization of stone. It can be the important “stone period” in his creative process. Other Minang visual artists, like Jumaldi Alfi, Tommy Wondra or Gusmen Heriadi, and others also carried out stone in their works. I do not know for sure who Yogyakarta visual artist explored stone materials for the first time is at that time because it is, of course, will invites a long and unfinished argument. The interesting thing is, approximately two years later, 2007-2008, the public could find many artists presented various of stones in their canvases. These kinds of works inundated in every exhibition and painting auction houses. “Stone surplus” had happened in the canvas of Indonesian visual artists. It is as same as the overflow of works of art’s “stream” whose main subjects are cloud, mist, or tangled thread to the extent of Indonesian artists’ paintings.

Yet, when stone subject and short of precisely found a euphoria point in the canvas of many other visual artists, Jul seems avoided it. Stones in the canvas have found its plethoric point. It was hardly to find a strong concept of stone in a canvas, many other visual artists merely tried to present the aspect of visual exoticism. Hence, then, the point of banality immediately came. Jul, although did not think himself as a “pioneer” or “founder” the idea of “stone in the canvas” renewed his creative subject quickly at that time.

The public then could see his “new” work. For example, the one that could be seen in an exhibition to commemorate 100 years of Maestro Affansi, Boeng Ajo Boeng: Tafsir Ulang Nilai-nilai Manusia Affandi, early September 2007. The exhibition that held in three venues (Affandi’s Museum, Bentara Budaya Yogyakarta dan Taman Budaya Yogyakarta) involved about 100 artists, from Heri Dono, Entang Wiharso, Eko Nugroho, and many others. Jul’s work, entitled Gerbang Asa (The Gate of Hope) (150x300 cm, acrylic on the canvas) has strictly signaled an obvious different basic visual aspect. Jul’s creativity had moved and shifted. He did not make a material, named stone as a prominent subject any longer. In “The Gate of Hope”, it is illustrated the image of board arranged consecutively from left to right and it transforms of an image of a big door fulfilled about the canvas. The door or the gate stands on the image of verdant grass.

This kind of work tends to consume Jul’s attention to re-present the exoticism of landscape or panorama like his buried personal memory in his childhood when he experienced watching landscape paintings. And the “tradition” of scenery painting or that kind of naturalism grew a lot in his childhood environment in West Sumatra or in his study environment in Visual Art Secondary School (SMSR) Padang. Accidently, tens of years before Jul studied in SMSR, there was a figure of naturalism painter, i.e. Wakidi, an artist from Semarang who was seen by one eye in his era because he “merely” became a “mooi indie” painter whose works merely exploited the nature exoticism and perceived taking a much distance with the social condition. His paintings are perceived as touristic just like “mooi-indie” painter from Netherland who travelled to Indonesia.

Then, Julnaidi’s works with the “aura” of landscape actually did not stand up alone. At that time, there was a little collective stream among some visual artists from Minangkabau who tried to dig out a matter of landscape visual again. Maybe, it is such kind of “neo-mooi-indie”, which rises from collective memory to re-read the exoticism of Ranah Minang (Land of Minang) panorama. “Mooi-indie” is reinterpreted as an important part of creative journey of Minangkabau artists who want to negate the assumption that landscape/scenery painting is not always “bad” because it has the ability to have a substance trough its visual aspect. Lanscape painting can be also executed with uncommon way, not only replacing exactly as its reality to the canvas, but also can be given newness in its perspective. This is what Jul and some other Minang visual artists did. Solo exhibition of Julnaidi, entitled Garden of Silence in 2008, I think, is one of the broadening of his creative framework in sensing the concept of panorama. Generally, of course, it becomes an important part of his rather deep concept about creativity meaning: presenting a change, propose newness.

[2]: A navigator and A Composer

This time, in his second solo exhibition (excluded academic exhibitions), Jul re-carries out relatively “new” thing, either from visual observation or conceptually. Maybe, it is not so new for artists or art public generally. However, if we see it from the Julanidi’s creative journey for these years, tens of works presented this time contain of creative development which are properly being discussed. They also contain of a risk because the shift of visual form that he explains does not relatively just set out visual exoticism aspect which “overwhelmed” compared with previous works which is visually more “sweet”.

Map becomes the main element of his tens of works this time. Map, kartografi or cartography (Greek: chartis, map; graphein, written) is placed as a subject matter to be a symbol system which piled integrally with other subjects, such as the image of light bulb, envelop, series of numbers, barcode, and others, and all of those things looks like spreading out on extent of wrinkled paper. Definitely, that big paper is stretched roughly and untidy, but it is like being squeezed. The aspect of “remnant” of this squeezing produces a specific aesthetic image.

There is a unique connection point between map in Julnaidi’s aesthetic haul and consciousness with map or cartography in its first meaning. Historically, public has known there are some versions of cartography first creations that become a part attached in the history of human existence. One of versions recognized as the proof of the fist map in the world is the map of city Anatolia estimated made in 7000 BC. There is also a discovery of the map of holy city Nippur in Babylonia made in Kassite Period (around 14-12th century BC).

Meanwhile, Ancient Greek and Rome considered as nations with sophisticated culture are estimated have created map in 6th century BC. However, the first world map is created by Ptolomeus in the second century and entitled Geographia. The “world” map which meant by Ptolomeus at that time was assumed only depicting Europe area only. After that, there are many documents and historical evidences that put some areas with a massive culture that had “map history”, like Arabs (can also be recognized as Islam), India, and China.

Subsequently, the map development keeps continuing evolutionally for time to time. In the middle ages, the development of map relatively went on dynamically. Some points can be noted here, for instance Nicholas Germanus who developed further Ptolomeus’s Geographia. Martin Waldseemuller in 1507 made a world map which used American terms to be used in Europe after the expedition of Amerigo Vespucci in America continent. And in the flaw of Western knowledge’s “power”, there is Piri Reis from Turkey (claimed as the representation of East and Islam) who completed the world map with outlines of the costs of America, Europe, and Africa continent, till the Sea of Antarctica which is considered more precise and detailed. The map made in 1513 was big enough, that is 95x65 cm and made of deer leather.

Then in 1570, Abraham Ortelius, a cartographer from Netherland, published Theatrum Orbis Terrarum which is considered as a modern atlas. The improvement keeps continuing with the achievement of France astronomer, Giovanni Domenico Cassini who started making the first topographical map in 1670. His step was continued by his grandson, Cassini de Thury who completed his grandfather’s work in 1789 and 1793.

From that brief history, it can be concluded that map making and inventions are the combination of human being’s ability in mastering the world of knowledge, aesthetic and technical problem to deliver information effectively with a “simple” style. The comprehension have been through the first understanding toward the creation of a map as a device to define, explain, and know their existence (human) in the world.

Then, what can we get from Julnaidi’s works that place map (Indonesia and world) in every its canvas? I don’t capture a difficulty of Julnaidi’s thinking in exploring the history of map. Yet, that spirit of map’s existence in fact seems to give the first stimulation toward the birth of his works.

As If Jul places himself into two “shapes”: as a “navigator” who puts a map in front of him, studies it, examines it, for then he “drives” his creative and aesthetic instinct by referring the map as a “material” for his works. Map is placed for two things, as a main subject and as a supported instrument for his works which one and another exists in a complementary relation. In another position, Jul acts as a “composer” who changes lines of notes that spread up around it. The map that presents in a scrap of worn-out paper, the image of light bulb, envelop and etc become a group of notes that are not yet common to be orchestrated in a canvas. And Jul dares to do that so he is successful enough changing it well.

In the end, the public are more or less like being awoken by a rather basic tendency from the existence of Julnaidi’s works, which is trying to do a disguising strategy of signs toward what he got from the reality. Maps are not completely maps that public is thinking anymore. Hence, just like what Gilles Deleuze said (The Logic of Sense, 1990), maybe, It is not an icon in its gradated shape. Nevertheless, it, those images, has a positive power to reject the original and the copy, the style and the reproduction.” This is “simulacra” of Julnaidi...

Kuss Indarto, art curator.-