The image of Basoeki Abdullah in the eyes of youngsters is only a painter of both beautiful women and scenic views.
Engaging in the National Movement of Loving Museums 2013, Basoeki Abdullah Museum holds a painting competition titled Basoeki Abdullah Art Award (BAAA) 2013.
There are 108 painters, whose age ranging from 15 – 25 years, participating in this competition. Conversely, there are only 10 nominated artworks and the three amongst them are chosen as the best artworks.
This event is held for the first time, with juries consist of Agus Dermawan (Art Critics); Yusuf Susilo Hartono (Painter and Art Journalist); Mikke Susanto (Curator and Lecturer of ISI Yogyakarta); Aris Ibnu Dadodjat (museum observer); and Nesther (painter).
The best three artworks consist of the artworks of Hareanto Simatupang titled Nenek Nyuntil / Nyuntil being a tradition of elderly women using a combination of natural ingredients such as betel leaves and gambir, chewed together in a bunch for purpose of cleaning and strengthening their teeth (oil on canvas, 100 centimeters square in size, 2013): Niko Wiratman titled Eruption Behind the Beauty of Mount Merapi (oil on canvas, 100 centimeters square in size, 2013); and Camelia Mitasari titled Indonesia is still Beautiful (oil on canvas, 120 cm x 90 cm, 2013).
“These three young artists have their own uniqueness in interpreting the figure of Basoeki Abdullah and his artworks; that are known for painting the beauty of Indonesia or known as Mooi Indie,” said Mikke in a press conference of winners’ announcement of Basoeki Abdullah Art Award 2013, at Museum Basoeki Abdullah – Jakarta.
Hareanto’s artwork (21) – the student of Faculty of Language and Art of Medan University – for instance, is a portrait of an old lady doing nyuntil/nginang. The juries think Hareanto is able to interpret the forgotten artworks of Basoeki Abdullah.
According to Mikke, Basoeki Abdullah does not always paint beautiful women, important figures like countries’ leaders, or scenic views, as what the community known until very recently. Basoeki also had painted traditional village people in the middle of their activities.
“In some of his artworks, Basoeki had painted a grandmother or a grandfather with particular gestures, blurred and smooth techniques. Through Hareanto’s artwork, we see the similar figure of a grandmother, not unlike Basoeki’s point of view but in a close up method,” said Mikke.
Moreover, Hareanto’s painting technique has also become the object of attention of the juries.
Just like Mikke said, it takes patience and high precision level in painting a figure portrait. That goes the opposite way of the young artists who usually wants their artworks to be done quickly. “I appreciate his artwork very much, since it takes patience; time and precision in getting the colors and harmonization right. Those are the artwork’s advantage,” said him.
A similar assessment is found in Camelia’s artwork – a student of Faculty of Fine Arts/ Painting of ISI Yogyakarta and whose age is 20 years old. The painting’s objects in her artworks are also those frequently seen in Basoeki’s painting, namely the farmers plowing the rice field and a figure of Balinese dancer. Also, the appearance of wayang golek represents the Basoeki’s hobby as a palace painter that collects wayang.
“The content of Camelia’s artwork is very interesting. Through this artwork, she states that Indonesian exotica can only be seen through paintings, not able to be directly seen especially related to the issue of natural resource internationalization namely komodo islands, impacted on the estranged Indonesian community to their own natural resources,” listed Mikke.
The last winner is the artwork of Niko Wiratma (22) – a graduate of Faculty of fine Arts in Maranatha Christian University, Bandung – depicts the condition of a village after the eruption of Merapi a couple of years ago. “It is very easy for the visitors to correlate his artwork with Basoeki’s artworks. Mount Merapi is one of the objects repeatedly painted by Basoeki Abdullah included in Indonesian scenic view theme,” said Mikke.
Though so, the visitors can clearly see the different point of view of these two artists in displaying the beauty and reality of Mount Merapi. “If Basoeki’s Mount Merapi looks consistently beautiful, Niko’s shows a distinctive beauty. The theme, however, is the one reducing the distance between this young painter with the figure of Basoeki Abdullah,” he said.
The Hidden Self of Basoeki Abdullah
There is an intriguing conclusion taken by the juries when they assessed the received 120 artworks. Most of Basoeki’s depictions by the young painters are limited to his partiality in painting self portraits or important figures, beautiful women, and also the scenic Indonesian views.
“What is painted by these young artists is only a small part of the real Basoeki Abdullah. He was not only a mooi indie painter like what S. Sudjojono depicted,” said Mikke. For example, Basoeki ever tried his hand on abstract paintings for some periods. The artworks are now in possession of some famous Indonesian collectors. Hence the inexistence in public.
Besides, Basoeki’s nationalist self, his relation with Indonesian independence pioneer – President Soekarno, and his elite relations with some of this country’s important figures also has not grace the discussion topic often. “Including his closely-known humorous, innocence, and openness self,” said Mikke.
Then, who to blame from the absence of knowledge of Basoeki in the mind of young generation? Is it Sudjojono, who labeled Basoeki as a “last painter of mooi indie”? Or the inability of the government especially Museum Basoeki Abdullah in familiarizing the figure of Basoeki to general public?
Yusuf Susilo states that managing a special museum like Museum Basoeki Abdullah is not an easy feat. It takes extra supports from various sides and hard work to familiarize the community to this maestro. “Competition events become important as parts of the effort. It is surely accompanied with other exhibitions and discussions regarding this painter,” he said.