Sepuluh Perantau of South Sumatra

 > Exhibition of 10 Yogyakarta based artists of South Sumatran origin at Jogja Gallery, Indonesia, 9 - 25 Nov 2019

At over 470,000 km2, Sumatra is the 6th largest island in the world. It is home to a population of more than 50 million people of various ethnicities including the Acehnese, Batak, Chinese, Indian, Javanese, Malay, Mentawai, Minangkabau and Nias. And within this populous island is the province of South Sumatra, seat of the Srivijaya kingdom (from 7th to 14th century) whose empire reached South Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and northern Borneo. Amongst others, South Sumatrans are also custodians of priceless heirlooms associated with the Palembang Sultanate including the rumah limas (traditional house), the aesan gede and paksangko (traditional, royal costumes), the trisula (trident) and the iconic gending sriwijaya song and dance customarily performed to welcome special guests. 

 

An exhibition initiated and put together by ten Yogyakarta based Indonesian artists of South Sumatran origin, Sepuluh Perantau is a collective display of the artists’ individual perspectives and attitudes. Entrenched within the psyche of the perantau (wayfarer or journeyman), a common cultural attribute synonymous with people of Sumatran origin. This gathering also breaks away from the traditional approach of the sanggar, a type of community artists’ collective as epitomised by Sanggar Bidar Sriwijaya, Jendela, Rumah Seni Muara and SAKATO groups since the 1990s. In this deliberate move of self-partition, the ten artists mark and pronounces the differences that separates their South Sumatran roots from the public and a convenient homogenising of the identity of Sumatrans usually dominated by those from the province of Padang in West Sumatra.

YARNO

Animal Story (2019)

180 x 280 cm

acrylic on canvas

© Sepuluh Perantau

What then differentiates this Sepuluh Perantau from others before them? Artists of Sepuluh Perantau are not a collective offering a new artistic or operational manifesto, nor are they democratising the representation of artists from their own ethnic community. They are a support unit onto themselves in a time where the art market shadows the discourse of art and artmaking and artists’ contact with critics and curators are commonly prefaced with transactions linked to commerce. For artists everywhere, the newfound popularity and public consumption of art has unveiled itself as a double-edged sword. While demand and access to art appears to be gaining momentum, the essence of art and artmaking is less and less queried.  Artists, such as Sepuluh Perantau primarily get together to find refuge within themselves and conserve a balance between philosophies, professional practice and consumption.

 

Sepuluh Perantau is made of Yarno (b.1970), Hayatudin (b.1972), Robi Fathoni (b.1973), Riduan (b.1976), Dedy Sufriadi (b.1976), Ronald Apriyan (b.1979), Decki Leos (b.1983), Erzane Nova (b.1983), Piko Sugianto (b.1984) and Lugas Syllabus (b.1987). They present their native environment of South Sumatra as common backdrop. To the outsider, South Sumatra’s natural heritage remains mostly unknown. There, there is Air Batu lake with its greenish-blue waters, remnant of an old mining entrenchment; Sembilang National Park, a refuge for endangered wildlife such as the Sumatran Tiger and elephant, Malayan Tapir, Sunda Clouded Leopard, Marbled Cat, and Sun Bear; the Punti Kayu forest surrounded by native pine trees; the waterfalls of Curup Maung, Gunung Nyawe, Temam and Mandi Hawa; and the legendary Batu Putri and Harimau caves where skeletal remains aged more than 3000 years from the Mongoloid era has been discovered.  

ROBI FATHONI

Beautiful Girl (2019)

155 x 140 cm 

acrylic, pencil on canvas

© Sepuluh Perantau

The presence and reference of this rich landscape is most evident in the paintings of Yarno, Lugas, Riduan and Piko. Even if often imaginary, these landscapes frame and establishes the structure and contextualises its intended meaning for the keen viewer. For Decki, Robi, Erzane and Ronald, the landscape manifests itself in a fantastical manner. Rivers, mountains and lands for them are transposed in illustrative, pop-like and animated tableaus. Meanwhile, Dedy and Hayatudin mark their landscapes via patterns, textures and texts in stylistic and symbolic scribbles. These landscapes all bring to life and gather memories of families, friends, homeland, everyday cultures and traditional ideologies. They reflect the bucolic mind of the perantau, unconsciously delivering solace, and a reminder of heritage, ancestry and rootedness.

 

The core characteristic of merantau (the act of journeying) lies in its temporality. The perantau is expected to return to his place and community of origin, bring home acquired wealth or wisdom to contribute to the evolution of his society. While many may extend their journeys into ‘migration’ with an indefinite plan for return, others, bound by inherited, customary stature as community elders are compelled to end their passage and return home to undertake traditional service. For the artist, this dichotomy between being foreign and local while at the same time existing as a citizen of a united republic creates friction and unsettling of a dream future. In the works of artists in Sepuluh Perantau, we observe this in the partitioning and consideration of the urban against the pastoral.

DEDY SUFRIADI

I Cursed You into The Stone (2019)

260 x 1230 cm

books, cement

© Sepuluh Perantau

DEDY SUFRIADI

I Cursed You into The Stone (2019)

84 x 85 x 360 cm

cement, iron, 42-inch flat TV

© Sepuluh Perantau

Lugas Syllabus magnifies this friction in reflection of his personal experience in cross-cultural wedding and marriage where the clash of Javanese and South Sumatran cultures is mediated only by Islam, a shared faith. He anticipates the encounter of his work by young, connected visitors born in an age consumed by social media in inviting them to participate by transplanting themselves within his installation with selfies and an offer of lottery with the reward of an original artwork. Dedy Sufriadi jabs at fanatics of the contemporary artworld with ‘video art’ on a flat screen tv which appear to ‘adorn’ yet at the same time wedged and trapped within a monolithic, burdensome cement sculpture. This is a bold and cynical confrontation, away from the hypertext laden paintings he is known for. Ronald Apriyan put together an animated movie of his iconic and usually painted characters. This movie is presented in a specially designed cine-box theatre whose origins is traceable to the Nuwow Sesat (traditional Palembang house) and wayang (puppetry) traditions of Java. Piko Sugianto unfurls an expressive, monumental scaled painting executed on raw canvas. His calculated lines, scratches and riot of explosive colours are brought together in remembrance of the burnt fields, rivers, mountains and forests of his hometown Prabumulih. Hayatudin’s paintings mirror peculiar yet charmingly ornamental, hybridised, living creatures. Often finished in futuristic, metallic colour schemes, they pull the viewer and reader into the genesis of a mystical-pop microcosm. Yarno revisits themes engaged with South Sumatra’s rich flora and fauna ensnared at the juncture of man’s unceasing industrial evolution in confident and vivid fauvist strokes. The canvasses of Robi Fathoni, known in local circles as the master of graphite, illustrates for us to reflect the options for a future. He addresses concern for those dear to us and generations to come including our own personal responsibilities towards its viability and liveability. Riduan trawls landscapes, urban and arcadian, in mental and physical terms. He traverses his landscapes back and forth between its western technical format and alam semesta, the dialectical truth that pushes beyond earthly geographical boundaries to encompass the spirit world and the universe. Erzane Nova toggles the employ of markers, oil sticks, pastels, spray paints and brush work in creating his vista of robotic otherworlds in childlike naivete. And stimulated by a combined love for popular music, Kustom Kulture, Marvel-like and theme park realities, Decki Leos’ compositions are a synthesis of dark deviances and bright fantasies playfully dipped in the antithetical guise of its candy coloured filters.

DECKI ‘LEOS’ FIRMANSAH

All Connected (2018)

150 x 200 cm

acrylic on canvas

© Sepuluh Perantau

HAYATUDDIN

DNA Purba (2019)

200 x 180 cm

acrylic on canvas

© Sepuluh Perantau

RIDUAN

Marginal #2 (2019)

200 x 150 cm

acrylic on canvas

© Sepuluh Perantau

When I visited the artists’ studios in Yogyakarta, they shared that in most villages of South Sumatra, male youths of about 17-18 years old are typically ‘banished’ from their homes to ‘sleep’ in mosques. The youths customarily continue to make their domicile in mosques until they find a valuable prospect and/or a journey to embark on. This is their rite of passage. In many parts of the world today, working adults are not dissimilar. Transmigrating and on constant move away from home in pursuit of lifetime milestones to claim their rights of fortune as citizens of the world. Today, it is no longer sufficient to act glocal[i]. Our connectivity proves that the global is literally out there to be conquered.

 

The shoulders of artists can hardly escape the burden and legacy of heritage and tribal identity. This burden weighs heavier with age and incurred responsibilities. In the case of our artists, it is the accountability of being sons, fathers, brothers and elder members of a community.

 

With each day of practice, the artist interrogates the question of his very being, and struggles harder to find exact vocabulary to defend the substance and social consequence of his creations. He seeks equal partners to spar with and worthy targets to put away. His artistic vision needs to ring louder and more coherent beyond the comfort and confines of a converted audience. Sepuluh Perantau is a brave public uncovering of this veil, a shedding of the old, dry skin to stare eye to eye with an otherwise confident wisdom within the walls of a quiet studio. Here, advancing proactively, collectively and independently, our ten artists voluntarily present themselves bare, without the cover of gallerists, curators or institutions; to claim leadership amongst their peers and take on critical judgements.

IABADIOU PIKO

Wanderlust Series, From the End to The Beginning #1 & #2 (2019)

500 x 300 cm

acrylic, charcoal, bitumen, glitter, oil bar on canvas

© Sepuluh Perantau

RONALD APRIYAN

Bioskop (2019)

300 x 300 x 250 cm

multiplex, textile and paint

© Sepuluh Perantau

ERZANE NOVA ERLAN

Titik Pelangi (2019)

180 x 140 cm

acrylic, sponge, spray paint, sparkling, oil stick, marker on canvas

© Sepuluh Perantau

LUGAS SYLLABUS

Blessing Family on The Golden Tree/ Royal Wedding Series no. 1 (2019)

set of bridal stage dimension variable, acrylic, gold leaf on linen set with bridal stage and photobooth performance

© Sepuluh Perantau

[i] Being a combined relationship and attitudes of being global and local at the same time