A few days after graduating from junior high school in 1996, Priyaris Munandar decided to decorate a part of his neck with tattoos. They depicted elephants holding hands (or trunks?) Perhaps these elephants were a kind of fantasy imagined by this young man in hopes of receiving blessings from the God Ganesha, the symbol of intellectualism and beauty in the Hindu tradition. We know of course, that for centuries now the history and culture of Java has always been close to that of Hinduism.
Naturally Priyaris' parents were shocked at those elephant tattoos. But what could anyone do? Those tattoos were a kind of symbol of defiance for this young artist towards the expectations of his father and mother who wanted their son to go to SMTI (Industrial Technology High School) in Yogyakarta. By attending this school -- along with the connections that had been built up by his father -- Priyaris could quickly finish school and become a civil servant, with privileged means, in the Archaeological Service of Yogyakarta. However much his parents hoped, though, such things cannot be forced.
Priyaris, the eldest son of Isdiyanto and Sepiah, chose to attend the Arts High School (SMSR) in Yogyakarta (it is now under a different name -- Vocational High School 3, Kasihan, Bantul, Yogyakarta --or SMKN). He was set on making his childhood dream or obsession come true -- of becoming an artist. By setting out on a different path than what his parents wanted, Priyaris began to stake out his artistic tendencies through the formal education at SMSR which he started attending in 1996. Exactly three years later, he graduated. Naturally, his time at the school was filled with his first creative experiences that rooted him. This school for dozens of years now was home to many artists who are now well known: Dede Eri Supria, Lucia Hartini, Dadang Christanto, Butet Kertaradjasa, Suwarno Wisetrotomo, and others.
In 1998, Priyaris tried to apply to the Faculty of Painting at the Indonesian Institute of the Arts (FSR ISI). At this time he failed to gain entrance. He was then able to be admitted to the Art Department of the Faculty of Teachers' Training at the University of Sarjanawiyata Tamansiswa (UST) Yogyakarta. Here he studied and attended classes for two full semesters, before re-applying to FSR ISI Yogyakarta. This time he succeeded in being admitted. Along with him as students at that time who were later to be his colleagues and friends were: Agus Triyanto BR., Arya Sucitra, Hamdan, Iqrar Dinata, and others. This was the beginning of his process of exploration as an artist-to-be and discovering a place todevelop himself into a true artist.
Priyaris' time in the academic circles included discovering many senior teachers and professors who were also artists who were idolized and looked up to in the art world, such as Aming Prayitno and Edi Sunaryo. For him, they were not only teachers who were able to position themselves as true teachers, but also able to maintain close and warm personal relationships with him, including becoming friends outside the structured, formal and academic world.
Meanwhile, outside the formal classrooms, Priyaris began his creative explorations. These took unusual forms and became a characteristic of the art students of FSR ISI Yogyakarta to often be involved in improvisational activities, outside the formal campus activities. One activity that became a part of Priyaris' life at that time was playing music. With several friends (Rio, Lita, Simon) he formed a hardcore punk group, called Beol Band. With this band, the artists/musicians found their own artistic ecstacy.From 1999-2003, as a local band, Beol Band often performed in a variety of campuses in the Yogyakarta area. They even had a gig outside Yogyakarta. One was in the Sports Stadium, in Bambu Runcing Temanggung, Central Java, though the end result was not terribly positive: a Honda Grand motorcycle, still relatively new, was stolen. Another band from the ISI Yogyakarta campus that was popular was Black boot led by Budi Bodonk.
Still in the arts scene, between playing in gigs with the band, Priyaris joined the Geledek group. This group of artists twice held art exhibitions, in 1999 and 2000 at the Benteng Vredeburg in Yogyakarta. Unfortunately this did not continue because of a lack of "creative ideology" and close emotional ties between the members which could have kept them together.
The next art group to be established with 8 of Priyaris' friends was Blok 9. This consisted of Priyaris' colleagues in the Minat Utama Seni Lukis of FSR ISI in Yogyakarta, the class of 1999. There was Arya Sucitra, M. Alimin SW, Iqrar Dinata, Hamdan, Agus Triyanto BR., Puji Rahayu, Edi Maesar, Wayan Widianta, and Priyaris Munandar himself. They held at least two exhibitions, one in Sangkring Art Space, Yogyakarta, and in Syang Art Space, Magelang. In the future, there is a good possibility that this art group will still hold a collective exhibition although their "creative ideology" is not yet clear. However, at least a few of its members have already begun to show signs of having strong artistic works. This is important to fuel the growth of the group's creative spirit.
Priyaris Munandar's creative journey is still far from being over. He admits that his achievements are still few in number and there aren't any that are phenomenal in nature, meaning that the public hasn't yet fully recognized him as an "arrived" artist and in order to build up his reputation. Of course, at this point, time will tell. As an artist, this young man with a moustache and long wavy hair is certain of his choice in his artistic endeavors, that “an artist brings into being, but is not brought into being; an artist creates, but is not created." Yes, this is indeed an art philosophy. This is also a kind of slogan that challenges him to keep on going along his artistic path, one that will lead him to a stronger reputation and social legitimacy.
Priyaris at least wants to prove in his own way that the choice to become an artist is a valued point in his parents' eyes. His younger siblings have chosen various professions to become capable in their own occupations whether it is in the Police Force or as a teacher and all of this is indeed worthy of appreciation. As his choice to become an artist will be as well.***
(Re-written by Kuss Indarto)