Abdul Aziz (1928 - 2002): In memoriam

Astri Wright
artdesigncafé - art | 1 February 2012
This text was written in very late January/February 2002.

Abdul Aziz (1928 - 2002)

Nationalist and revolution era painter Abdul Aziz passed away on January 22nd, at 10.30 am. He was buried the same afternoon in accordance with Muslim custom. Being a Hero of the Republic for his services in the Revolutionary Student Army, 1949, Abdul Aziz was put to rest with additional Military Ceremonies, with a Guard of Honour and a volley of shots fired over his grave. He left behind his wife, Mary Northmore, Director of the Seniwati gallery for Women’s Art in Bali, who said in a personal statement that he did not suffer for long and was calm at the end. She thanks everyone for their prayers and good wishes.

Abdul Aziz, originally from East Java but a resident of Bali for the last part of his life, was widely known and highly sought for his realistic paintings of village scenes and scenes from the Ramayana or other popular mythology, painted in high-contrast day-light. Many of his best known paintings used a theatrical illusionistic device that was uniquely his in Indonesian painting: wooden frames or doorways which he painted so realistically that they seemed like real ones were incorporated into the composition, but with the subjects’s heads or limbs overlapping these framing devices, which make them appear to be leaning out of the canvas, towards the viewer. In this highly skilled way, Aziz brought his painted subjects and his viewers together in the same semi-imaginary, semi-real space.

During the last years of his life he mostly abandoned painting for the pursuit of the art of building violins and recording music in his home studio. While collectors sought his work passionately, Aziz did not give in to the star-pressures of the art world and its indelible hierarchy-drive and marketing instincts, even though (or perhaps because) he was considered a senior master in Indonesian painting and would have been swept into the numerous social and artistic engagements such positions entail.