RESEARCH & ESSAY.
Born in Kisaran, Sumatra, on December 14, 1917, S. Sudjojono’s talent and intelligence of painting during elementary school amazed his teacher, Yudhokusumo. The artist was then adopted by the Yudhokusumo family and asked to move to Jakarta. After completing his Junior School in Jakarta, Sudjojono continued studying at the Teacher School in Lembang, West Java, then went on to Taman Siswa, where he eventually taught for a while. In 1973, along with several fellow artists, Sudjojono established Persagi, an association of artists who wanted to rejuvenate art in Indonesia. As the main figure in this organization, Sudjojono did not merely paint in his characteristic realist style imbued with spirit of populism and nationalism, but also formulated ideas about the ideal style of painting that he wished to attain. It is in these formulations that Sudjojono’s role in the development of art in Indonesia will be remembered forever.
When pursuing his career as a painter, Sudjojono was also known for his criticism of what he termed Mooi Indie artists, who were Dutch and local naturalist artists known for a traditional adherence to depicting idealized representations of the tranquil scenery and beautiful exotic scenery in order to attract tourists to the region. For Sudjojono, Mooi-Indie is considered to represent the Dutch Colony perspective, not their homeland itself. He criticized many his contemporaneous artworks that presented the beauty of landscape festively springing at that time. He argued that such paintings followed the track to Mooi-Indie style as Indonesian archipelago was conceived with its entire beautiful, romantic and peaceful ambience in nineteenth century. All painters concealed the fact contradicting to later epoch. Sudjojono firmly believed that true work of art is “Jiwa Kethok” in Javanese philosophy (In English: visible soul), or the embodiment of artists’ soul on their works of art. Artworks are visualization of the soul of the relevant artists, even if the objects painted are a clone from the visible actuality. Based on his outlook, this occurrence would happen as soul is not a room cliché portraying the fact as it is. He illustrated the creative process in beginning from eyesight captured by the soul, and then it is visualized on artwork. Not like Mooi-Indie style painters, these realism painters just cling to Moo-Indie principles who merely serve the tourists.
Sudjojono is considered a pioneer of social realism in Indonesian art, and the artist elevated the realism of Balinese Hinduism by entitling ‘Pura Satria’ on the present work. Located in Denpasar of Bali Island, Pura Satria or so-called ‘Pura Pedarman Agung Ksatria Denpasar was illustrated by S. Sudjojono on the present work. It is a sacred temple for Hinduism people to celebrate a ritual ceremony connecting with Balinese Hinduism. Pura Satria was a Hindu temple legacy of Kings of Bali empire, especially in Southern Bali. Pura Satria is a large and beautiful royal family temple used as a ritual precession by the royal family and community. Sudjojono painted this artistic royal temple in predominantly reddish-brown while the noble descendants in green, blue, white, and yellow that all are exhibited in ritual procession for ancestors. The women are shown in carrying ritual offering of fruits over their heads, while the men carry the banner “Kober Gana” for apotheoses, Sanghyang Siwa.
This ritual ceremony is intended to maintain a harmonious relationship with God, people and nature. Once aware, this becomes easily identifiable in the Balinese way of life, architecture, agriculture and tradition. It is believed that the wisdom of living true to these elements brings about prosperity and harmony. ‘Pura Satria’ subject on the present work, Sudjojono dared to change the world of artworks in Indonesia at that time. By his fast and spontaneous brushstrokes resulting densely layers over canvas, the present subject displays a factual illustration for points of interest in real life society. As a realism painter, his artworks defied the “Pakem Mooi-Indie” art style, a principal of Indonesian artworks mostly trailing the Mooi-Indie art rule style in Dutch East Indies requiring the detailed, just pace enjoyable and exquisitely drawn. The Mooi-Indie art styles have never revealed ipso facto or home truth in the homeland. (Siregar, 2010: 36). Temples in Bali is one of Sudjojono’s sources to paint it on his works. For example, see his work ‘Pura Kembaran, Sanur’ (102 x 81 cm), painted in 1972, and it was sold at Christie’s Hong Kong, 26th November 2006, lot. 110, for HKD 3,704,000, initially estimated between HKD 880,000 – HKD 1,200,000 (see fig. 1).
Siregar, Aminudin TH. Sang Ahli Gambar: Sketsa, Gambar, dan Pemikiran Sudjojono. Tangerang dan Jakarta: Sudjojono Center dan Galeri Canna-Indonesia, 2010, p. 36.