Friday, September 05, 2014

The World of Faizal: Revival

Written by Kuss Indarto

One: Romance and Departure

June 21, 1991, a small plane of the government-owned airline of Czechoslovakia (before it split into two: the Czech and Slovak) was landing at Heathrow Airport, London, England. Among the passengers who rushed down, there was Michelle Le Masurier and her boyfriend, Faizal. The plane had departed from Jakarta and transited 4 times, in Singapore, Bangkok, Abu Dhabi, and Prague.

This was the first opportunity for Faizal to set foot on the mainland of Europe. And from that day until about ten months later, he settled in the blue continent. At least, in the first three months Faizal would have a lot of traveling in the United Kingdom. In a village which was quiet and beautiful, more precisely in the area of ​​Appledore, Bideford, North Devon, England, Faizal settled. He described that the area was scenic but remote enough that to meet the daily needs they should go to a nearby town for groceries once a week. And not far from where he lived there was a special area inhabited by artists – just like "the art village", which invited him to pay an occasional visit. 

This is the place, where Faizal seemed to find an "art oasis" where he was involved in the creative process. In this country, he not only lived up the romance with his girlfriend Michelle, but also tried to fight for his luck as an artist, as well as an adventurous or cultural pedestrian who experienced a "culture shock" because of the different circumstances totally different from that in Indonesia. In a postcard sent from Britain on July 7, 1991 to Hari Mulyanto, her best friend who used to rent a boarding house with him in Wirobrajan, Yogyakarta, Faizal wrote: "Hi, dear Mul ... How is my house? Good? Yesterday I went to Bristol (2 hours from London) to see a festival. Wow, it was amazing. There were music concerts, carnaval, dance, etc. It was really festive. "The quoted sentences seemed to show a “turmoil" of his psychological state between the excitement and shock of getting various atmospheres of new contexts and moments. 

Finding a new atmosphere was what kept Faizal moving. In fact, UK was not his only destination while in Europe. It was like maximizing using the opportunity while in Europe like visiting as many countries as he could do. In in the fourth month, the Netherlands became his vortex of attention and purpose. Amsterdam and Den Haag with their artists and galleries, and museums spread around the cities, attracted his attention, a young artist coming from a country that had not got a strong tradition of art and culture. His inner state fascinated by new things that he met, among others, was expressed in his hand writing on postcards which had been mailed to some of his close friends. In a postcard sent on October 10, 1991, Faizal again sent news to Hari Mulyanto, a student of the Department of Visual Communication Design (DISKOMVIS) who was close to him and once lived in a rented house with him. Faizal briefly recounts: "After a few weeks in the Netherlands, I think the city is very interesting and unique. Amsterdam is full of drugs, sex, and arts. In Amsterdam, people are found intoxicated by heroin everywhere and half-naked women in glassy sex shows, sex shop, etc. But art is also good here. We can find a modern sculpture in every place; in the railroad station there is a statue, an experimental (art) but unfortunately there is a lot of graffiti. The Hague, a little town, has a nice and rich museum... ."

Holland, which was impressive, indeed, finally appealed Faiza’s desire to settle on for the next few months, although he still had to go back and forth to the land of his lover, England. He must also have visited other countries in the mainland of Europe, such as France, Germany, Belgium, and others. However, the Netherlands was the one Faizal fell in love with, in which he then settled down actualizing himself as an artist and exhibiting several times in several galleries in Amsterdam.

Faizal’s departure to Europe, beyond the romance of his life, could not be separated from his strong appearance as a prominent young artist in his campus at the Department of Painting, the Faculty of Fine Arts (FSR), the Indonesian Arts Institute (ISI), Yogyakarta. He who had studied several months in UNS (State University of Surakarta) finally enrolled in ISI in 1986 and had such classmates as Yuswantoro Adi, Heri Kris, Ridi Winarno, Herly Gaya, Iswanto, Wiyono, Dwi Winarsih, and some others. In the third year of his study, he had made his reputation – quite far advanced from most of his peers. This shows that his artistic achievement received adequate academic appreciation of his lecturers. At the same time, the art market began to squirm and Faizal’s works to be readily exchange with rupiahs. Some lecturers, especially Gunarsa-who is also a national-level artist, gave appreciation to the excellent works of Faizal’s academic projects submitted. They were even considered better than the works of the seniors who had been popular in the art world of Yogyakarta and Indonesia.

The departure of this artist who was born in 1965 to London on the third week of June 1991 cannot be separated from his financial success of his solo exhibition at Duta Fine Arts Foundation in Kemang, Jakarta, which took place from February 19 to March 19, 1991. At that time, Duta Fine Arts was one of the commercial space art galleries (visual) that carries more prestige than others. Many artists were trying to get close to the founder and owner of the gallery in order to present their work in the gallery. Didier Hamel, a French, the founder and owner of the gallery was concerned to invite Faizal to carry out a solo exhibition for several reasons. In the postcard issued as an invitation, Duta Fine Arts noted that Faizal was a young talented artist who tried to build and question his own roots through sustainable art experiences with unique western-like techniques. The artist who had long curly hair was also considered to be prominent, for he had once received an award in the 6th Anniversary of ISI Yogyakarta in 1990. For Didier, this achievement is his plus points that might have not yet credited to other artists. 

In the exhibition at the gallery, his economic achievement and existence were more established. The exhibition was a financial success. Faizal works were sold to the collectors. With that achievement, then, Faizal had so many provisions that he dared to fly to the UK. It was because he had got very good financial success from the exhibition.

For this artist, the attempt to progress and obtain the achievement in the gallery was in fact also unique. Initially, he intensively contacted a not-so-famous gallery in Denpasar, Bali, Bamboo Gallery. Some of his works were of its collection. They were collected not through exhibitions. Of these works, there was a painting which later passed on to the next collector, to the owner of Duta Fine Arts, Jakarta. A few months after selling his works to Bamboo Gallery, many artists in fact did the same thing. Faizal took pictures of his new works and then speculatively sent them to Didier Hamel's gallery which was located at Jalan Bangka I / 55, Kemang, South Jakarta. Indeed, it was like lust what he expected. Faizal’s dream was indeed what Hamel had been waiting for. "Wow... You are the one I've been looking for!", said Hamel as told by Faizal, an artist who graduated from SMAN 2 Solo.

Indeed, after collecting his works from Bamboo Gallery, Hamel tried hard to figure out who Faizal the artist was. So, without further talk, a deal for a solo exhibition in early 1991 ensued. Another opportunity for an exhibition in the website came after the first. Hamel worked well with Faizal. Hamel liked the character of the artist's works. Five years later, between June 25 to July 25, 1996, Faizal, again, held another solo exhibition, after his adventure across Europe. 

Faizal’s financial and existential achievements at the end of the 1980s and the first half of the 1990s had put him as one of the rising stars of Yogyakarta visual arts. This star who began sparkling was very much undiscovered, as usual, from the positive and negative perspectives, the pros and cons. This involves his personal matters and daily life to the conceptual problems in his creative process. 

There were people who questioned about his being obnoxious, thrifty, arrogant, and other attributes when he was a student and when he made interaction with his community in Yogyakarta. 

Hari Mulyanto, one of his best friends testified much on Faizal’s personal issues and art affairs. He knew these things a lot because when they were both students rented the same house on Jalan Capt. Tendean, Gang Puntadewa 11, Wirobrajan, Yogyakarta. Before with Hari Mul (as he was called), Faizal had lived with two other classmates at the Department of Painting, Yuswantoro Adi and Dwi Winarsih, in 1989-1990. 

"Faizal was so firmed, committed, simple, straightforward, and avoiding small talks, his friend Hari Mul testified. Furthermore, he added that if a person made a friend with Faizal, it would last long, durable. When living at the same house, they carried out some routines. In the evening after a meal he would start painting until morning and Hari Day would accompany him by reading books and graphic designing. "Sometimes the activity was interrupted with watching BF – blue film – (‘porn movie’ in Betamax format). After dawn, early in the morning, they usually had gudheg for their breakfast at Wirobrajan intersection, then went home, and slept until noon. And so on, and almost routinely done, "said Hari Mul. 

Just like many other students, especially the students of art, when making jokes, Faizal sometimes tend to be crazy and ‘vulgar’ (with the subject of a joke leading to pornography). It became a catharsis of the serious study, make life easy. 

Hari also said: "Basically Faizal does not like a person who pretends to be close with him and who is impertinent, this is asking one deserves. An alumnus of the Department of Visual Communication Design who now settled in Jakarta also told about the romance of a college life. One of their routine night activities was enjoying the audio-visual world in the form of porn movies. So often did they do these activities, sometimes they even had to rent many but did not have time to watch all the tapes. 

Friends from the neighboring college, the students of UMY (Muhammadiyah University of Yogyakarta) who were boarding at the back of the house rented by Faizal and Hari Mul came and joined watching the BF once or twice, initially. Bur, slowly but surely, every night the neighbor kids were always coming to watch. And unfortunately, more and more of them came because they brought a group of friends. It was quite troubling those duo ISI students, since their "theater" room which was only 3 x 3 meter squares packed up with 8 people busy watching BF. The room was certainly noisy, cramped, stuffy, and uncomfortable. 

Finally, Hari asked Faizal, “What do you think, Zal?” Affirmatively Faizal said, "Just let it go. Boys that cannot be controlled would be demanding more and more. Better for me to spoil them. 

Since then, Faizal even borrowed more BF tapes, and let the UMY kids and the gang watch the movie until morning. Meanwhile, Faizal casually but diligently continued to paint, and Hari Mul was also keenly reading books all night long as usual. "The new habits" lasted for days. "They seem to ask more. Renting BF is just for fun and variation for painting and reading books. Why does it finally serve like a safe house?" said Faizal resentfully. 

After a period of time, what happened to them? Later known, these UMY students did not perform well in their study. Their exams were in mess and even worse. Many of them dared to pay prostitutes and rotate her for anyone of them in one of the boarding room and they watched each other. And finally they scattered and no one knows where they are now. It was really one of the concrete evidences that BF could break mental health and BF was not good for youth. What about Faizal and Hari Mul? Yes, they still continued to paint as usual, to graphic design, still to keep reading books. All normal, as if nothing had happened. Faizal’s step as an artist gradually continued to reach the path of success.


[Two: Productivity and Market Snare] 

Regarding Faizal’s relationship with the collectors or enthusiasts of his works at the time, (once again) according to the testimony of his friend Hari Mul, it was also quite interesting. This artist could be said to have a quite clear stance and commitment in such a pattern of the relationship. He could not easily be controlled by the collectors when it was not in line with his own desire. To Hari’s knowledge, there were times when a lot of collectors paid a visit to the studio, which was also a boarding house for both of them, and none of the collectors was able to dictate Faizal and force him to paint the subjects or objects of their wish.

There is an equal position in the relationship between the art collectors and the artists. Faizal, however, would paint as he wished. As free as a bird. Hari Mul recounted an event when Faizal was reluctant to be driven by the collectors.

Once — he forgot when exactly the event took place — Faizal was visited by a collector from out of town. The collector was interested in collecting his paintings which were still in the process of making and finishing at that time. Replying to the offer, Faizal could only agree.  Deal. A moment later, after the collector left his house, the original colors of all paintings which had already been dealt upon (sold) were changed into the colors totally different from the ones which had previously been witnessed by the collector. 180-degree different! Seeing the "unfortunate" signal, Hari Mul spontaneously responded with a question: “My! Why do you change the colors, Su?” ("Su" is a short form of the phrase "asu", which means “dog”, a friendly swearword uttered by a close friend). At his ease, Faizal answered: "Let it go. I don't like it at all when paintings which have not been completed are bought. If tomorrow he is unwilling to collect, well, let it go!”

The story about the relationship between artists and collectors is indeed diverse and each has its own perspective. In the second half of the 1990s, for example, when in Yogyakarta there was a kind of trend among the collectors to buy paintings in a wholesale way and to compensate them with such things as oil paints, electric appliances, and others. Faizal was also affected by this symptom. Yet, unlike other painters, according to Hari Mul, this artist was even able to "force" a collector from Bandung to barter his new serial BMW car with Faizal’s paintings. This had caused a commotion among the fine arts community in Yogyakarta. Then, what was Faizal’s comment? “Well, what is the point of bartering paintings only with cassette radio players?  Well, why not bartering them with kitchen utensils as well… ha-ha-ha. For me, I’d rather ask for a car.  As you see, it’s OK for him… ha-ha-ha. He doesn’t mind, “Faizal responded calmly, as it was recounted by Hari Mul. At that time, there was another painter, Erica Hestu Wahyuni, who also did the same thing, and with the same collector. Yet, on the opposite side, there were voices which disagreed with Faizal’s decision about the "barter" because this might lead into overproduction of paintings, which later on could bring in a negative "counter attack” against the particular artist in the fine art market. The price of the paintings might potentially decrease, or decline, because the artist was less able to control the position of the circulation of his paintings in the market.

However, apart from that problem, since the emergence of Faizal’s works in several exhibitions, the works had drawn a lot of attention among the collectors. Faisal’s early works were responded well in the market; those which were the collection of an East Nusa Tenggara-born collector from Yogyakarta, Mohammad Yamin. Basically, he was a dealer of antiques. Gradually, the works of paintings became the subject materials that he was looking for. There were many artists from Yogyakarta whose works were collected by Yamin, including the works of Heri Dono. Later, after Yamin died, many of the collections were sold by his family.

In addition to the name above, the figure of Oei Hong Djien (OHD), no doubt, became the destination for Faizal — and for many other young artists at that time. In the writer's visit to OHD’s residence in mid June 2014, there were still a dozen of Faizal’s works stored properly. They were ranging from paintings on paper, on canvas, on sculptures (3 dimensions). The works included two sculptures, one of which is titled "Girl Called" M "with the Green Bird" (1994, painted in fiberglass, 57 x 30 x 20 cm), which was collected by OHD when this artist made a solo exhibition on 1-16 April 1994 in Mirota Kampus, 2nd floor, JL. Godean km.2 Yogyakarta. Faizal still recounted very well the success of the exhibitions, in which a collector from Bali, Suteja Neka (the owner of Komaneka Museum, Bali), bought up most of the works on display. OHD still properly kept Faizal’s painting which was named to win the Best Painting Award at the Dies Natalies VI celebration of the Indonesian Arts Institute in 1990.

The senior art collector from Magelang also gave adequate appreciation to Faizal. In a note written in the catalog of the artist's solo exhibition in Mirota Kampus in 1994 — titled "The Happy World of Faizal" — OHD, among others, wrote: "... So, it is not wrong if it is stated that Faiza’s paintings are like the paintings of a small child. It is because when painting, Faizal wants to be free like a child, free from the binding rules of form, color, and composition. Indeed, Faizal’s paintings are like the paintings made by children, but their quality often exceeds that of his senior... Even a novice in the field of paintings will easily recognize Faizal’s paintings. Faizal has even exerted influence upon younger painters ... " Yet, in another part, OHD also reminded this artist to: "… keep improving himself, not easily be satisfied with what he has achieved, be diligent, be courageous to search and dig for new stuff while taking advantages of his past experiences, work in accordance with the pure conscience without favoring the market, since a young painter often founders in the middle of the journey just because of the success that comes too easy.” 

OHD, in a discussion with the writer, said that he often invited fellow collectors or collectors to-be to pay a visit to Faizal’s studio. Openly and honestly, the owner of the OHD Museum also recounted that he and his colleagues tried to visit the house and the studio of a little more senior artists, Heri Dono and Eddie Hara, but they did not meet with them both, and then a visit to Faizal’s studio, as a substitute, became the main alternative. And he was so appreciative because Faizal was almost always ready with new and interesting works, and his productivity was relatively high. Moreover, as a young artist who had just started to show his existence, the price of his works was still very affordable compared to that of his senior. "Yes, about Rp 1 million for each work. Even for the smaller size painting, particularly the one created on paper, the price was less than that figure, "said OHD. He then compared the prices of the works of the artist Ivan Sagita, which was the highest price at that time. "Around a dozen million for each surrealism work,” OHD stated. It was understood because at that span of time Ivan Sagita’s top works, of surrealism style a la Yogyakarta, were born and they became the center of attention in such important events as the Jakarta Fine Art Biennale (1989) and the Yogyakarta Fine Art Biennale (1990). 

Regarding Faizal, gradually, especially after the mid-1990s, to OHD’s knowledge, it was said that Faizal’s high productivity had been considered more or less to ignore the aesthetic quality of a work. This, inevitably, had its own risks for the artist who was less explorative for his works.

Meanwhile, Siswanto, the owner of Mirota Kampus, Godean, in a conversation with the writer on 18 July 2014, recounted the "success story" of Faizal’s solo exhibition. The artist had indeed been "targeted" to a make a solo exhibition in his gallery which was located on the 2nd floor, above the supermarket which also belongs to him. It was the second exhibition. Before this, he had housed a solo exhibition for Nasirun. Siswanto chose Faizal for simple reasons, i.e. the works of this young artist were good and "cute", they were being discussed by many parties, and he was still relatively easy to "get in touch". He had wanted to house an exhibition for the works of Heri Dono which shared the same characters as those of Faizal, yet it was very difficult because this artist had high mobility and was often invited to exhibit abroad. The collector of Djoko Pekik’s monumental painting titled "Berburu Celeng” (Hunting for Wild Boar)" had never expected that the response of the visitors and market was so festive. He had never expected, too, a few days after the opening, the collector Sutedja Neka came from Bali to his gallery and bought up many of Faizal’s works. Indeed, the festivity of the opening of Faizal’s exhibition was not less festive than the opening of senior artist Bagong Kussudiardjo’s exhibition in the same place a few months later.


[Three: In the Siege of Dynamics and Isms] 

"THE BIRTH" of Faizal as an artist (and of his fellow artists in his generation) to the world of visual arts in Yogyakarta from the late 1980s to the early 1990s was relatively attractive and "lucky" because more and more complexities had grown in it.

First, there was a pretty tough contest in the landscape of visual arts in Yogyakarta (in particular) at that time. There were at least three creative tendencies emerging in the canvas of the painters at that time, that was the surrealism style (a la Yogyakarta), abstract style, and naivism style.

The surrealism style (a la Yogyakarta), as defined by M. Dwi Marianto in a book entitled “Surealisme Yogyakarta” (“Surrealism of Yogyakarta”, 2001, p. 211), is: "a form of thought which is constructed by the conditions in which people lose their awareness of  time and space, when the  traditional, the modern, and the supra modern, the poor and the rich, the religious and the secular, the propaganda and the facts,  the past and the present line up together... through absurdities and incongruities here and there, the surrealist artists from Yogyakarta make a response to the situation in which a firm stance, the voices of the individual, and individualism do not get a chance to be articulated. "Of course, the works of visual arts with surrealism style a la Yogyakarta are different from those appearing in the earlier days in Europe and first coined through the publication of the First Manifesto of Surrealism by André Breton in 1924 in Paris, France.

Surrealism in Europe is related to the problems of psychoanalysis and psychotherapy. This movement has its roots from Dada Movement formed in Germany, Switzerland, and France at the end of World War I. Dada Aesthetic itself is in fact anti-aesthetic.  Its goal has been to deny the rationalism, empiricism, and particularly aesthetic, arising from the social, cultural, and political rules, such as the reasons that had triggered World War I. Meanwhile, the surrealism in the visual arts in Yogyakarta in its extreme could be described as the practice of the creative process of the artists who have been dazzled by the visual exoticism of artifacts of  fine art surrealism in the West while "storing in a drawer" (probably ignoring) the conceptual aspects of the works.

However, the "imitation" of the Western surrealism has gradually also produced works carrying substantial value inviting work concepts that go with the conditions and way of thinking of the artists here, as reflected in the relation between the works and the values of local philosophy (Java, Bali), the local wisdom, and so on. The stars of surrealism style a la Yogyakarta at that time, among others, were Ivan Sagita, Agus Kamal, Lucia Hartini, Efendi, Sucipto Adi, I Gusti Nengah Nurata, Probo, V.A. Sudiro, Totok Buchori, Boyke Aditya Khrisna, and many other names. In the Biennale of Visual Arts II in 1990 and Biennale of Visual Arts III in 1992, the surrealism style (a la Yogyakarta) was very dominant, and was even awarded "Best Work" (now the label no longer exists). It also received the same award in the Biennale of Visual Arts VII in 1989 in Jakarta.

The abstract style of visual arts has also been practiced by so many artists; even so in the late 1980s and early 1990s the style was still occupied by the prominent figures of surrealism. This art style, of course, could not be separated from the influence and important role of two senior artists, who were also lecturers at the Faculty of Visual Arts at ISI Yogyakarta, namely Fadjar Sidik and Aming Prayitno. Several groups of young artists at that time also tried to actively foster the arts of abstract style, among others, by establishing Gambsa art space (a short term of the name of the village where their headquarters lied, Gambir Sari) supported by Iswanto, Heri Kris, Nyoman Sukari, Putu Sutawijaya, and some others. After the prominence of surrealism, later on, throughout the second half of 1990s, Yogyakarta visual arts were colored pretty much by the abstract visual arts or abstract expressionism. The young artists from Bali fostered this sort of visual tendency.

Then, in between the two tendencies above, the visual arts of naivism style arose in Yogyakarta. In short, this style referred to the tendency of painting which visually practiced simplification, deformation, reformation of original forms and anatomy into unique, childlike, and anatomy-free subjects. This insight was more or less equivalent (but not precisely) with the definition of Naïve Art introduced by Robert Atkins in his book “Artspeaks: A Guide to Contemporary Ideas, Movements, and Buzzwords” (1990, page 106): “Naïve art is produced by artists who lack formal training but are often obsessively committed to their art making. It may appear to be innocent, childlike, and spontaneous, but this is usually deceptive. Naïve artists frequently borrow conventional compositions and techniques from the history of art and many maintain a remarkably consistent level of quality.”

There were some artists who created their work with this type (more or less) naivism. There were two young artists who were persistent in using this type, and were very prominent in the 1980s-1990s, Heri Dono and Eddie Hara — both enrolling in the FSR ISI Yogyakarta in 1980. Faizal then also got into the circle of this style tendency. There were also other names arising afterward such as Erica Hestu Wahyuni, Yuni Wulandari, Pandu Pribadi, and others.

Indeed, it is very careless if I claim that only these three tendencies that have dominated the visual arts world in Yogyakarta. In fact, out of these three styles, the world of visual arts in Yogyakarta was also enriched by experimentation of ideas and artifacts of visual art works of the artists, both on and off campus. This reality could not be separated from The Movement of New Visual Arts in 1974 whose main players were the students of STSRI "ASRI" (Institute of Visual Arts of Indonesia "ASRI", which in 1984 became the Faculty of Visual Arts ISI Yogyakarta). The influence of this art movement still continued to blaze in the years to come yet with different formats and artistic-aesthetic achievements.

I don't know for sure whether Faizal was strong enough to employ any of the symptoms of experimentation on his art works as an important part of his creative processes, and whether he considered the Movement of New Visual Arts as something inspiring for him. However, in his solo exhibition in Mirota Kampus in 1994, some of his wooden sculptures and colorful fiberglass were considered so attractive. From the exhibition, at least there were two works of sculptures collected by the collector Oei Hong Djien, and he had the impression that the reason the wooden works could attract the attention of the visitors was because the way of their visual exposure was unique and distinctive. This collector even still displays his collection of carpet measuring around 2 x 2 meters designed by Faizal.

Then, out of the discussion about the trend of visual styles among the artists, there was another point, the second point regarding the symptom of internationalism among most of visual art artists in Yogyakarta or Indonesia (in a broader scope). The important thing to note in this developing period was that the contact between the Indonesian contemporary art and the international contemporary art can be attributed to the raise of regional contemporary visual art forums such as the forums of contemporary visual arts taking place in Japan, Australia, and in other Southeast Asia countries. The symptom of the "internationalization" through these regional forums was an indication of a great leap forward, that was the understanding of the contemporary art emerging in the late 1990s after the internationalization had taken place for about 10 years.

Some young artists started to take part in important events, those that carried the symptom of the internationalism. For example, FX Harsono, Heri Dono, Tisna Sanjaya, Dadang Christanto, and others became the participating artists in the Asia-Pacific Triennale of Contemporary Art (APT) in Brisbane, Australia. After that, many artists in turn took parts in the selection for Fukuoka Triennale, and for others. Actually, Faisal – with his visual - creative capability and his relatively good English — had the potential to become part of the circle. Unfortunately, he did not seize the opportunity even though he had started to frequently go abroad. His selection and concentration on art did not seem to follow the internationalization tendency, the one that he himself had in fact experienced and the tendency of which was pursued by those artists mentioned above.

Next, the third point, history recorded that the art market in Indonesia had started to grow quite strongly. It was closely associated with the statistic of the Indonesia's economic growth which was moving up. An art critic and observer, Agus Dermawan T noted that  the year of 1987 – a year after Faizal studied  at ISI Yogyakarta — was considered to be the year of the boom of visual arts in Indonesia. Observers from abroad and the mass media Le Figaro in France even said that the bustle of the visual art market in Jakarta resembled that of the art market in Paris. Further, in his essay entitled “Seni Rupa Indonesia dan Gelombang Ekonomi”( "Indonesia Visual Arts and Economic Waves") in the book entitled “Paradigma dan Pasar: Aspek-aspek Seni Visual Indonesia” (“Paradigm and Market: Aspects of Indonesia Visual Arts,”2003 p. 63-64),  Agus Dermawan wrote: "... In 1987, in Jakarta alone it was recorded that there were 116 exhibitions taking place. It increased almost 40% from the previous year. The frequency of exhibitions was followed by the enthusiasm for purchasing the paintings. During 1988, for example, there were about 4,000 paintings sold at the official exhibition rooms... ."

That fact continued. In fact, the enthusiasts of art works, namely the collectors — who had been credited for appreciating the art works through transactions — had been regarded as a "threat", i.e. "authorities/rules". Dr. Sumartono in the book entitled “Outlet, Yogya dalam Peta Seni Rupa Kontemporer Indonesia” (Outlet, Yogya in the Map of Indonesia Contemporary Visual Arts", 2000, p. 39) wrote: ...Wealthy collectors, less and more, have become the authorities/rulers. They exercise personal power which often overpowers the authority of the artists, even senior artists, except those like Affandi who, in a difficult economic time in the past, was still a magnet that made the collectors hunt for his works. Some sample collectors who have become the masters of the world of art are Ciputra and some of President Suharto’s children. In the market of  Indonesia Visual Arts VIII, which took place at the Hilton Hotel, Jakarta, on 27-29 March 1991, for example, Ms. Herdianti Indra Rukmana (Mbak Tutut) represented by her younger sister, Ms. Titiek Prabowo spent more that Rp 100 million in one night to buy 13 pieces of painting. “The fact of this quotation inevitably was sensational because the price/amount was high enough at that time when the rupiah exchange rate against the dollar was still in the range of Rp 700 - Rp 1,000 per dolar. The price of a painting by Nasirun – now one of the top artists – was only around Rp 1 million or even below. The tuition fee for ISI Yogyakarta students, for Faizal’s class, was only Rp 45,000 per semester, and then rose to Rp 90,000 for students who enrolled in 1988.

Yet, apart from the discussion about "threats", "authorities", and so on, the presence of collectors and the situation of art market which began to get stronger at that time gave a lot of positive things for the (prospective) artists. Faizal was one among the many (young) artists who were convinced that the visual art world was a life choice and choice of profession.

The emergence of Faizal as an artist came within a period of favorable time and opportunity as I have mentioned in some points above. The galleries or art spaces both initiated by the Government and by the private sectors began to grow. More and more collectors were springing up and more importantly, the spirit of competition among the artists grew tougher (especially in Yogyakarta). This had enabled the artists to reproduce powerful artistic-aesthetic accomplishments. Faizal was one of the children of that period who had become a rising star among his peers of the same age and generation. It was part of his talent, uniqueness, hard work, discipline, and will to become a thriving artist. He also made the right choice by choosing ISI Yogyakarta as a strategy to explore and sharpen his existing potential. This campus provides competitive situation and supporting lecturers. Such lecturers as Nyoman Gunarsa, H. Widayat, FadjarSidik, Aming Prayitno, Wardoyo (senior), Danar Sugianto, and others gave him higher stimulation in his creative movement.


[Four: Influence and Search for Self-Authenticity] 

The interesting point of Faizal’s works in the beginning of his existence lies in his freedom to make visual expression on canvas. In addition to the naivism or naïve art style that had exerted influence on his insight on how to execute his ideas, there was also COBRA style reflected in his works. The style of innocent expression, which was free and without burden, from the works of Karel Appel was quite inspiring to the birth of his several works — especially in the period as of 1990 or earlier. Karel Appel is an artist from the Netherlands, one of the five members of CoBrA (Copenhagen, Brussels and Amsterdam) — in addition to Pierre Alechinsky (Belgium), Cornelis Corneille (Belgium), Asger Jorn (Denmark) and Karl Pederson (Denmark). In his visits (several times) to Netherlands Faizal had seen directly the works of Appel displayed in many galleries or museums — especially in the Stedelijk Museum — which enabled him to use them as a source of ideas for his works. It was very influential. The works of Appel, which he had previously looked up in the books in the campus library had inspired him,  moreover after  with his own eyes, he could enjoy directly the canvases or walls full of “free style” nicks and scratches  typical of Appel. In about 3-5 years after studying at ISI Yogyakarta, the influence of Appel’s works was so obvious. It can be seen from the documentation of his works, such as the painting, titled "Fabulous Animal" (1989, 60 x 80 cm, acrylic on canvas) and "Bird and Strange Figure" (1990, 100 x 100 cm, oil on canvas). And after a visual enrichment, after he had seen the works of Appel in the Netherlands, Faizal's works tended to be more colorful, so festive with their bright and brilliant colors. Yet, his scratches slowly softened, tended to be quite neat, not as wild and expressive as they used to be.

The influential factors on Faizal’s works were also part of the risk that was inevitable when studying in a formal education in which the teachers or lecturers were also qualified artists — and listed in the world of visual arts in Indonesia. He called Nyoman Gunarsa as the figure who instilled a spirit so strong to make art work as free as he wanted. In addition, there was Widayat, whose visual characters in arts had attracted his attention and had indirectly contributed to the enrichment of form and composition of his works. His works also draw attention and indirectly contribute to the enrichment of the style and composition of Faizal’s works. In addition, the works of COBRA group and of Paul Klee from Munich, Germany, some world class artists, also inspired him.

There is one interesting example which can serve as a "meeting place" among the works of Paul Klee, of Widayat, and of Faizal, that is, the figure of a bird. Paul Klee — even though he is commonly known more as Expressionism adherent— but very often he started his creative process by including nature (botanical imagery) as the main subjects of his works. Nature, in his creative eyes, was not ingested directly as the source of ideas, but its substance was further dissected, and the result of the dissection was the one to be put on canvas. This is in tune with his Creative Credo contained in his book "Paul Klee: The Thinking Eye" (1961, pages 66-80), in which in the sentence he distinctly says "Art does not reproduce the visible but makes visible." I can mention one of Klee’s most important works which had presumably inspired Faizal, that is, "Landscape with Yellow Birds" (1923/32). On the painting there are seven tiny yellow birds. The shape is simple, but the colors and the placement of the seven birds produce a strong accentuation on the work. The images of diverse flora which dominate the area of the painting seemed to be "subdued" by the 7 small birds whose colors stand out.

So are the figures of birds in Widayat’s works. (Such figures of birds are found in Widayat’s works) The maestro whose works are classified by critics as "dekora-magis" puts the images of the birds as an important part in many of his decorative works, full of dominant trinkets in each piece of his works. Sometimes, the images of the small birds in Widayat’s paintings are precisely painted with the consciousness to place them as decorative elements, like the figures of big trees which are pictured to have branches, twigs, and leaves with a rhythmic visual motion.

However, there are also works which place images of birds in a proportional number, and with a prominent pattern of placement. The painting "An Ideal Family" (1978, oil in canvas, 93 x 107 cm) is an example in which there are 4 little figures of birds among a family of 4 figures. There is only one white that stands out compared to the 3 other birds whose colors are almost the same as the background which is so ornamenting. Birds in the works of Widayat are given a lot of portion to give added- value to the “magic” of the works.

Meanwhile, in Faizal’s paintings, the images of birds also occupy a prominent, even important position. From the beginning of the process of his emergence as a young artist to present time, many birds have been placed to fill his canvases. He might inevitably get the inspiration form his lecturer, Widayat, but gradually the images of birds in his works have very specific distinctive points. Even with the works by other artists adhering to naivism style, the images are distinctive.

In his works made in the 1990s, there were many figures of bird appearing "at pleasure", like perching on a woman’s head, on top of a dog, or as if they were positioned as witness" for the human beings being making love, and so on. Look, for example, the painting titled "... (blah, blah, blah, blah)…” 

Now, Faizal is also still "calling" the birds to accompany him and give him the typical accentuation over his works. In his latest works, which were also exhibited this time, birds were given a sufficient portion to show off. For example, on the work entitled  "Sang Buddha” (The Buddha",  2013, oil on acrylic, 100 x 150 cm), there are 5 birds with their deformated forms different from those he created a dozen years ago. The white birds are fighting, to draw attention, with snake images, with all forms of flora deformation which were complex,  colorful, and with images of galactic objects in space. Different, again, from the painting "Taman Safari” (Safari Garden", 2013, acrylic on canvas, 100 x 150 cm) which, overall, is also very colourful, so the existence of  the 3 birds at a glance is clearly visible but is not so prominent because all objects are competing for attention. In some of his works, from year to year, birds seem to be placed not only as complementary objects or ornaments in a painting, but also as a subject that symbolizes  freedom and  infinity. It is clearly pictured, especially on the works created when Faizal was still young. I think, birds in Faizal’s canvases cannot be disassociated from their connection with and from the influence of the works of his teacher and inspirator, Widayat.

Even when they are viewed based on the basic framework of his work composition, it is undeniable that Widayat has exerted a strong influence on his students, for example, on the composition of the "circle" in the middle of an area in a painting. This composition is depicted, for example, in the painting of "Watching Cockfight" (1979, oil on canvas, 78 x 156 cm). Many years later, whether Faizal was aware or not, the basic outline of the composition of such works was also depicted in Faizal’s works, yet certainly with the different type of expression which was modulated to the character of the works. Such a composition, for example, can be seen in Faizal work entitled  "Washing Her Hair" (2013, acrylic on canvas, 100 x 150 cm), or in the painting "Go To School" (2013, acrylic on canvas, 100 x 150 cm). 

I guess, this is just a little symptom that appears in Faizal’s process to establish a distinctive identity for his works. It is undeniable that there must be no works with true originality nowadays — just as there is nothing really new under the sunshine now. However, the process inspired by the senior artists or his favorite artist (which is experienced by all artists) seemed to be addressed with great improvisation by Faizal. And this gradually shaped the self authenticity in his works. In the age of his artistry which has not been so long, the father of three children had once got relative strong self-authenticity, which had made his works to have a distinctive feature. His paintings are adhering to “very naive a la Faizal” style and that is the dentification attributed to his works by the public of visual arts in Yogyakarta. In the age which (at that time) had not yet reached 30 years, Faizal had touched the altar of stardom as an artist. His reputation as an artist had been shaped, and the market was so boisterous to surround him. That was the big challenge to be faced by the artist in order to be able to remain in the top level, or to vanish completely caused by laziness araising from the stardom. 

NOW, Faisal is back to try to enlist himself to the important map of visual arts in Yogyakarta, and perhaps Indonesia. The situation and challenges have changed a lot since he withdrew from the circle of the hustle and bustle of visual arts in Yogyakarta, at least, since December 2000. Personal and domestic problems had given him compelling reasons to settle in the land of his birth, Solo. Psychological maturity has possibly been formed after the husband of Ike Palupi has got and played with his three beloved children: Kenwani Amisani Faizal (or Keni, born on 8 November 2003), Nalafreja Wanisae (Nala, 28 September 2008), and Cikalwani Latisae Faizal (Kael, 4 September 2012).

Then, what kind of ammunition does Faizal bring this time to greet the public of visual arts (in Yogyakarta) again? Viewed from the preparation of this event, there were a dozen of  two-dimensional  works (paintings) and  some three-dimensional works in the form of wooden statues, used boats, as well as two "antique" cars whose outer parts (bodies) he has worked on. A fairly intensive preparation in the last one and a half years is an attempt to give the signal and a new understanding for the public that Faizal is unwilling to sink, to vanish without a trace, and to be forgotten by the history of the visual arts (Yogyakarta). It is certainly not easy amid the dynamic of world of the visual arts in Yogyakarta and Indonesia. 

At least, there is a basic shift of the substance of the works which are displayed this time, compared to the  artifacts of  his works which have been exposed  and remembered very well by the public so far. Faizal is trying to enrich the  problems of ideas of his works with themes that are more diverse. If  in the previous years  the themes of his work were very personal — especially in the period of the early 1990s in which his themes were very egocentric — then  in this occasion such  themes have dwindled but have not disappeared completely. There are themes about the Buddha, a matter of crucifixion, a long-sized painting, as well as a statue about the "appropriation" of the monumental and legendary work of Leonardo Da Vinci, The Last Supper. These are interesting themes because basically Faizal is an adherent of Islam, thus when he  goes into the themes related to the religions outside of Islam, what is he really up to? It seems that the depth of meaning of  the theme about religions is a spirit of spirituality, not merely its religiosity that is pursued by Faizal. For him, the value of spirituality is one level higher than that of religiosity because the spirit of life of human beings is established, among other, through tranquility which can be gained through any kinds of  paths. And religion is, indeed, one of the paths (but not the only one) to find the spirit of life.

There are also installed three-dimensional works in the forms of kinetic sculptures which are drumming a mortar and at the same time pounding rice. There is an  installation of statues of colorful boats with their fishermen lining up in a room. These works seem to try to give comment, to testify, and to be a medium of reminder about the basic nature of this country as a maritime and agricultural country.

These themes certainly are not the themes that would not like to demand the appraisers to frown with a serious and tense expression. The character of  Faizal’s works is one that is full of excitement. Thus, unable to escape from this side, he made works to be displayed; those that are reflecting joys. There are many themes about families narrating the situation of a family having a picnic, watching a circus, practicing to ride a bike, and so on, as the subject matter  in these works. This shows, once again, the aspect of spirituality state of the artist which is enlivened by the presence of a family.

Now, Faizal is back on the stage of  fine arts (in Yogyakarta and Indonesia). It is appreciators and time  will tell or they will serve “The Adjudicator”  in  the return of this artist. There is no need to hide your return, Buddy. *** 

Kuss Indarto, art curator.


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