Patrick Wowor is nowhere near close to eternalizing his painted popular figures. He, conversely, paints along “the dark faith” of those figures.
There is a different feeling inside when entering the 3rd Gallery of Taman Ismail Marzuki. 140-centimetre-square canvases are lining on both ground and upper floors. Those are the paintings of popular figures. At least, those popular figures whose life histories are not that smooth.
People will easily find these faces covering the magazines, especially those interested in the movement at the end of New Order. In other words, those are the familiar faces of Indonesian independence movement. Those faces are not painted in an eye-pleasing portrait. They appear in grieve-laden expression.
Take the painting of Widji Tukul, a poet and a member of Democrat Republic Party. He is painted half bodied with white paint spread. It seems to remark the condition of Widji Tukul’s face after he was beaten by the authorities.
One of his eyes is bandaged, while his buck tooth is protruded. There is an intended underline in this drawing. The misery of Widji Tukul is expressed in a more verbal way by large, blindly-applied brushstrokes. This drawing creates a further distance from the usual beautiful image that people expect to see when seeing figures in both paintings and photos.
Patrick Wowor paints in his own way. He is partial in painting the faces of famous people and in turn, getting a place for himself in public. However, he does not do that by applying those figures as mass idols like the paintings of Marilyn Monroe or Madonna. He is far from eternalizing the popular pop icons. He likes to go straight to the deeper experience of their misery.
This is the reason why the exhibition held from September 19-30 is being themed Underexposed. The theme Underexposed came from the terms in photography which means the resulted photos need more lights or being rather dark.
Patrick uses the term in his paintings as a strategy. His paintings do not consist of defined figures in the canvas. The figures are not clearly defined, but they are not completely missing. They exist, but they do not completely exist.
This underexposed strategy is also chosen by Patrick Wowor to determine which figures to be painted. Besides Widji Tukul, there is also another unique figure like Wikana. He is the actor behind the kidnapping of Soekarno and Hatta in light of the Republic Indonesia’s proclamation of independence. He became a member of MPRS and he had a chance of being a Minister of Youth.
He, however, went missing after the 1965 incident. This becomes the subject of interest for Patrick Wowor. He was not the only figure who went missing in that problematic year. Wikana was one of the missing figures in that chaos and Patrick Wowor reminded his audience of that fact.
History is so smeary, more than so when it appears only in letters. It feels abstract to our mind. In lieu of that, the painting of Henk Sneevliet is his way of describing the face of this rarely-mentioned figure in Indonesian history. In fact, Sneevliet was the one who brought the idea of communism to this country in 1913.
Henk was only known through a line in history textbooks taught to students at schools: the first person to ever bring communism to Indonesia. There is no more explanation after that. There is no information to compliment his existence.
As a historical figure whose role was important in the establishment of Tiongkok Communist Party and in struggles against fascist Nazi, Sneevliet has no place in this country. A century later, only Patrick Wowor who gives him a tribute by paint him in the canvas.
Patrick also paints the central figure in the establishment of Indonesia: Soekarno. Even if this prominent figure had been noted since the beginning of his movement in the history, his life ended in a tragic way.
He was gone from the historical arena and he shunted/being shunt from the political world that he had been in since he was a young adult. There is an unstoppable irony in Soekarno’s portrait above a 140 centimeter-square canvas.
Inside his 18 artworks, though, Patrick is not completely consistent in realizing the underexposed concept. As a proof, he does not hesitate to paint his own friends. We, as the audience, have little to no knowledge of what his friends are like in reality. It is only by underexposed that we are still able to guess the direction of Patrick’s artworks. ***