Nindityo Adipurnomo at Cemeti gallery, Yogyakarta, Indonesia (1988)

Astri Wright
artdesigncafé - art | 27 December 2011
This article was previously published in the Jakarta Post, on 16 July 1988, p. 6 with the title "Young artist synthesizes tradition and modernism". In the article, Nindityo Adipurnomo’s second name is spelled "Adipurnama".

Nindityo Adipurnomo at Cemeti gallery

On July 1st, an exhibition of Nindityo Adipurnomo’s paintings and drawings opened as the fifth solo exhibition showed at Cemeti, the gallery Nindityo manages with his Dutch painter-wife, Mella Jaarsma. His work will be on view for the whole month of July.

Still a student at the Indonesian Institute of Art (ISI), Nindityo Adipurnomo is already actively exhibiting work which he feels expresses himself and his artistic preoccupations. The turning point in his feeling about his work came after he took a leave from ISI and spent a year in Holland.

"Before I went to Holland, I painted the way we were taught at school, learning about color, composition, technique. I painted with my head only. In Holland everything was so different— the weather, the people, the food, the light— everything— that I started seeing myself and where I come from with new eyes. And this influenced my painting. Now I feel like I am painting from me, from my heart and my unconscious."

Nindityo Adipurnomo, originally from Semarang, was brought up Catholic.

"But after being abroad, I realized that a Javanese Catholic is different than Catholics elsewhere, because we have internalized the Javanese culture since childhood. We’ve gone through all the Javanese ceremonies— from the 7th month ceremony when the woman is pregnant, to the 7th day ceremony after birth; the feet-touching-the-ground-for-the-first-time ceremony, the circumcision ceremony and the 40 day mourning period after someone dies... So in addition to our faith in God and Jesus and Mary, the Javanese ceremonies become a deep part of us. This goes for the mythology too..."

Nindityo Adipurnomo and Ganesha
Nindityo Adipurnomo, tall and strong-built with long hair brushed back from a high forehead, looks like a young seeker-of-truth out of a classical novel. When he gets excited talking about his work, his hands open and clench into fists as if he is trying to physically grasp those elusive things he is trying to express.

Several of his large canvases directly reflect his preoccupation with Javanese religion and mythology. Working in a mostly abstract mode with abstracted figurative elements, the Ganesha figure appears frequently in his work. Also the theme of Bima’s dangerous descent into the ocean on his search for self-knowledge excites Nindityo Adipurnomo. He identifies strongly with Ganesha in his role of protector, and with Bima, who though commonly seen as a more physical fighter-type, in this story proves to have uncommon spiritual depth and commitment as well.

In a thick swirl of color, we glimpse a form reminiscent of Bima’s upwards-curving headdress and his arms with the pointed finger-claw held out in front of him as if seeking balance in the turbulent depths of the ocean. Half a foot under the painting hangs a carved beam, painted gray and white, a single line from the painting continuing across the void of the wall to be picked up again by a carved line on the beam. This is a technique which Nindityo Adipurnomo likes to use— using the space of the wall as an integral part of the space of his work, as well as integrating the frame with the painting itself. Thus his "painting" is not finished with the canvas and does not only operate on the flat dimension.

"I am interested in the one-, the two- and the three-dimensional, as well as in negative and positive lines; I want to work with both the nature of wood and the nature of paint, bringing one over into the other", Nindityo Adipurnomo explained in front of an untitled work framed with carved and curved bark-planks which he gets from a local saw-mill.

Nindityo Adipurnomo: Meditation
Nindityo Adipurnomo, who meditates according to a Chinese method learned from a teacher in Magelang north of Yogyakarta, is also interested in C.G. Jung’s theory of the unconscious. His drawings, he says, are done freely, with as little intent and rational control as possible, in an attempt to work directly from the feelings located in the unconscious. "Maybe my drawings are better than my oils for this reason. Maybe some of the immediacy is lost when I rework a sketch into an oil-painting", Nindityo worries.

Maybe this is true, but it seems the two formats are different enough that they need not be compared. The sketches are small, intimate and spontaneous while the oils are larger, more monumental, more controlled, holding a promise that it will be exciting to follow Nindityo Adipurnomo’s work in the future.

In a context where some contemporary artists continue to repeat the icons of the past more or less mechanically and others use them in their art as mere decorative forms devoid of original philosophical significance, it is refreshing to see an artist who is preoccupied with interpreting the past into an idiom of his own, an idiom that does not ignore the tensions and the possibly fruitful syntheses between the modern world and the old.