55. Geometric No. 025 Photograph by Taufan S Chandranegara

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Photography: Black & White, Digital, Full spectrum on Canvas, Paper.

Geometric No. 025


I learned about what is arts in a manner self-taught. Along with the time finding enlightenment. That the task of artist working with artwork creation. Didn't need lengthy description, just in quite short.


For me? Photography is Art. Cheers!


The author below, I introduce to you at Saatchi Art. A good friend and author of a book about me titled: PAINTING AS A THEATRE OF LIGHTS AND COLOURS, by Bambang Sugiharto is a professor of philosophy at the Parahyangan Catholic University, Bandung, Indonesia.


PAINTING AS A THEATRE
OF LIGHTS AND COLOURS

Modern fine art is a stage where so many ‘isms’ grapple with the issue of profundity and refinement of self expression. Starting with the problem of representation it successively came to problematize form, expression, unconsciousness, medium, affection, and finally the very concept of ‘art’ itself. The stage of modern art in fact has explored almost exhaustively any imaginable possibility of conceiving what ‘fine arts’ are. No wonder that the drama eventually ended up in a sort of tragedy : in such claims as “The death of painting” around 70s, or “ The end of art” around 80s.

From then on, what was essential in creating a work of art was no longer representation or illusion, but rather the communication of inner insight, utilizing any means and forms . And whether the work eventually deserved the predicate ‘art’ or not, depended upon the reaction of the appreciator stimulated by the work. The principle was a kind of reversal in the manner of the philosopher of phenomenology, Merleau-Ponty: space, for example, was not the setting that enabled objects to be arranged, but rather the result of the arrangement of the objects. Likewise, a work of art was not the cause of the emergence of appreciation, but rather, the contrary : it was the result of appreciation. It was the appreciation that made it a work of art. Conceptual art went even further: whether a work was art or not, depended on the conceptual-verbal intention or propositional statement of the artist. Works of art then, were only tautological propositions: the artist himself defined his work as art.

A different point of view emerged among the Italian artists, pioneered by Germano Celant, the so called Arte Povera. They wanted to bridge the dichotomies between artist and appreciator, art and life, nature and culture, reality and action, or even history and material reality. But in the end what they deemed important in creating works of art was really not the configuration of the artwork itself, but rather the process that the artist went through. What determined whether the work was art or not, was not its actual visual appearance, but rather the process of struggle that had given birth to it.

Beyond all that there were also the more radical artists, who totally broke away from the conventional framework of the fine arts, avoiding the artistic lifestyle of the “dandy”, then entering social problems with commitment and a strategy of “engagement”, that is, an attitude of involvement in social issues. This kind of artist did not really care about what kind of formal turn the manifestion of their art took.

As a child of the times, Taufan S. Chandranegara is a blend of all the above tendencies. What concerns him most is the communication of his inner struggle in capturing the essence of life, what he called “the artistic truth”; the painstaking process along his ever energized cultural commitment. He does not seem to care so much about whether or not his works are worth the label ‘art’. They do become art if appreciated that way. The forms of his artistic venture vary : ranging from a theatre actor , graphic designer, theatre art director, stage consultant, lighting designer, script writer, to painter and sculptor. It is obvious that his life has been revolving around theatre stage as its centre of gravity, and this, I think , is crucial for his artistic works.

*****

Although along he took part in the “New Fine Art Movement” around 80s (Gerakan Seni Rupa Baru-1987) - a well known revolutionary movement of arts in Indonesia which tried to debunk conventional modern concept of art and unleash new possibilities for doing art - Taufan’s serious debut in the world of fine art took on the form of conventional abstract painting rather than on experimental types of art.

In the beginning abstract-expressionism came up, on the one hand, as a sort of breakthrough in the modern tendency to reduce the essence of reality simply to the mimesis of natural shapes; on the other, it was also a liberation of fine arts from its representational burden so that a painting be able to articulate better the spiritual inner-world. Influenced by Theosophy, through Kandinsky, Malevich and Rothko, it was believed that human interiority had its own language, language of colours and shapes. What counted then was not the figure, but the intensity of lines, colours, brushstrokes, texture, etc, in short, the elementary factors of a painting. It was quite a paradox , however, that just when the subject matter of a painting was the most intimate interiority, the painting became autonomous, non-representational, hence alien.

In Taufan’s works, however, it is not so much a contemplation in the sense of an inward movement that has animated the works as an explosion of his powerful and unbridled inner energy; it is not outside-in, but rather, inside-out. Like when he creates a concept of a theatre stage, his focus is on colours, lights and their dramatic movements. Most of Taufan’s abstract paintings seem to come out of this thick sediment of his inner experience as an actor and stage designer, a sediment shaped by the mysterious tonality of life. The paintings are a sort of eruption of this unconscious memories and sensibility of human characters and dynamics of life in theatre. In his paintings of “Shadow” series this is manifest even more strongly. While in the abstract series he explores colours in terms of light and movement, in the stage-concept of the “Shadow” series he seems to focus more on colour blocking in terms of space, light and drama.

But what is interesting in Taufan’s paintings is that behind the aggressiveness of colours and brushstrokes there hidden a tenderness, some kind of a pathetic longing which seems to be tormented by something (not clear what). There is here and there a sort of sublime spirit trying to liberate itself from the whirlwind of unnamed fury. That is why despite their wild brushstrokes, the paintings are often times strangely lyrical.

Indeed, Taufan’s abstract works are not a celebration of the dark and chaotic soul of the Pollock’s kind, for instance, although Taufan also takes up the subject of tragedy, agony or anomie and makes use of coincidental effects or impromptu combinations like Pollock. Neither they are like Rothko’s serene and contemplative paintings which are theosophical, although Taufan also talks about heaven, earth or genesis. There is an aura of optimism in his works. Behind the seething colours there is actually an almost ascetic discipline to always insert the light of bright colours. Just take a look at the paintings like “The Beautiful Day”, “A Thousand Wind”, “the Sunrise” or “Heaven and Earth”, for example. And although his paintings are mostly straightforward and non rhetoric, the eloquence of colour-play is outstanding, such that the aggressiveness remains tame and sweet. His skill in handling the tonality of colours and lights prevents the whole configuration of his minimalist forms from becoming monotonous and repetitive like minimalist music. They, instead, become dramatic theatrical scenes or even a carnival of colours. Given the general aggressive atmosphere, this may sound ironical indeed. Take for example the carnival of colours in “Ikon 008” or the theatrical transparent layers in “Ikon 010”.

Taufan’s abstractionism took on rather different character again in the “Zero” exhibit, 2006. As if anticipating the “No End” and “The Scene of an Era” series of 2012, in the “Zero” exhibit he already worked on the topic of death. There were still some remnants of satiric anger toward the rampant hypocrisy and destructive sectarian instinct or ferocious animalistic tendencies in Indonesia’s tumultuous condition. The rest were personal symbols which oftentimes were ambiguous. But what was striking this time was unusual long format of the canvas. The long format seemed necessary to build a kind of plot, to construct narratives, perhaps also to create sensation. The narratives were shaped by creating symmetry where certain patterns were repeated at the right and left edges. The result was each of the series of painting appeared as a visual symphony with its own various movements. So the narratives appeared in the rhythm of forms like in the “Dead Bird” or the “Dream Dead” paintings. In this perspective, the “Animal Wanted” painting seemed to be the one seething with strongest rhythm, where the red hues transformed themselves into animalistic figures.

On the whole, however, there were tensions that made some of Taufan’s paintings looked awkward : perhaps the tension between the need to tell a story and the need for spontaneous expression, between figurative and non-figurative play of forms, also between doing reflection and making satire. If in the previous works Taufan showed wild expression of colours like jazz compositions with its unexpected colour collisions, in the “Zero” series the works were more like requiem symphony, a sort of meditation on the death instinct. They were no more like amplified diaries which spontaneously played with surface. This time there was , instead, that effort to harness the emotion, form and composition.

In 2007 “Love” exhibition the awkwardness came up again. Most of the painting of this “Love” series were not convincing. Taufan looked doubtful between saying something and depicting particular figures. In “Monalisa”, “Robot”, or “Yellow Earth” for instance, he seemed about to say something, but the configuration turned out to be awkwardly abstract that it was not clear what he was really up to. When he stayed in pure abstractionism like the paintings “My Soul”, “Waiting” or “Hope” for instance, he was relatively safer.

A different aura came up again in 2010 “Shadow” Exhibit of which his works were mostly sketchy pictures of theatre stage as mentioned before. The works here were, to me, the clue to all his other works, since it was the imagination of theatrical stage which, I guess, had animated his way of looking at colours, space, dramatic plot and movements, and light. The conflicting and overlapping brushstrokes of his abstract stage paintings were always parts of a story, or better, a dreamy nature of drama. This would be more obvious when we correlate the paintings with the real stage-set he created for real mise-en-scène. We can say that the stage paintings were not only outline sketches or recollection of memories, of the drama, but rather, the efforts to capture the soul of a drama, that is to say, the soul of life. After all, Taufan was not only a stage designer, he was also an art director, and still more, an actor. As such, for him what really counted was the inner dynamic. The visual manifestation of the stage represented the inner dynamic of human spiritual life : its conflicts, characters, and mysterious fate.

In 2012 Taufan exhibited rather different abstract paintings again in the “No End” series and “The scene of an Era”. In these series, the abstractionism was more a play of symbols than a blast of passion. Parts of the hands of the crucified Christ, eyes watching in the sky, a cut off torso, a building caught fire, etc. were almost invariably combined with sky as the backdrop. The result oftentimes was actually more like surrealist painting, yet with no elaboration in its details. Again we find here an awkward tension between figure and non-figural brushstrokes, between narratives and simple language of forms. It seemed that Taufan did not find it easy to get rid of such dilemma.

*****

After the frenzy of abstractionism in the period of 2000-2005, by the end of 2005 Taufan came up with his graphic works, reminding us of his job as a graphic designer. In this “Oral” series most of the works were satiric, some of them were even frontal attack to the actual corruptive political condition of Indonesia. His works were more like banners commonly used in political mass rallies, and it did take the style of street graphic. He was not so much playing with ideas as with visual graphic effects which mostly were beautiful. Especially when he dealt with digital print, the composition of layers, forms and colours were more ripe and controlled than those in his spontaneous paintings. Take a look at the work “Illegal Logging” for example, or “ The Children Poetry”. Although in terms of idea they might sound too literal, the visual configurations were beautiful.

His skill in working with computer digital techniques resurged again later especially in the “Dead End” series of 2012 (as seen in his video). His abstract digital prints this time really combined lights, colours , the play of space and fragments of torso. The results were sometimes so bleak yet stunningly beautiful, furious yet lively festive, oftentimes ferocious and disastrous yet profoundly poetical. A bizarre vision of human destiny indeed. Take a look at the works number 005,006, 015, 020, and 023 in particular. The compositions of forms and the movements of colours were mostly breathtaking. The fragmentary mutilated human figures, oftentimes depicted as parts of a mannequin, mostly looked soulless, in pain, or at a loss. Most of them depicting the violent civilization under ubiquitous yet anonymous power, the power of technology, communication, economy, politics and even religion. The drama of colours and lights, in particular, were outstanding. Actually, compared to his oil paint abstract works, to me his digital prints are visually more impressive and powerful. However, I understand that in terms of the artist’s own process and passion, it might be the other way round.

*****

That said, in his “Esei” 2005 exhibition, all of a sudden Taufan showed a quite different tendency. While his graphic art was technically skillful and his later abstract paintings were a sort of explosion of a mysterious inner energy, seething with wild brush strokes and surprising hues, this time the works in the exhibit were quite another thing. His series of “Esei”( Essay) seemed to show Taufan’s different side of soul. His almost autistic play of forms and colours was too tame, too sentimental for an explosive Taufan. We cannot but wonder : what the heck was going on with him. In this series of “Esei” Taufan seemed dabbling in the possibility of transforming lines of twigs, foliage or flowers into images of human’s organs, the sensual ones in particular: breast, buttock, etc. There was that libidinal leitmotif lingering persistently in most of the works, sometimes shyly. Some of the sketchy works, however, looked raw and uncertain, especially those with faces or hand-like figures (esei 012, 014, 015). The surrealistic images did not look ripe enough. Although the blue-sky backdrop mostly helped alleviate the images, in some cases it did not. Taufan seemed to be playing with spontaneity, a sort of Bretonian psychoanalytic free-association, perhaps. Still, in general the exhibit showed more of an on going search, an obsessive search, rather than a significant achievement : the search to articulate one’s own ambiguity.

The works, however, were by no means lousy or uninteresting. It was just that there was something premature in some of them. Viewed as a whole, they did promise something greater to come, perhaps an unusual struggle of mind and shape, or an intriguing adventure of desire in articulating its own ambiguous metamorphoses. Taufan did not lose his autistic intensity anyway, the obsessive intensity. Esei 018-021 proved it. They were fascinating. And the strange sculpture (esei 022) in the exhibit could be seen perhaps as the crown of his new experiment. Indeed the sculpture was something unusual in Taufan’s work-record, yet it gave a hint of what to come next. Taufan is surely a restless person, a truly nomadic soul, who always comes up with surprises. But this time the surprise was not as explosive as it used to be; it was, instead, dreamy, a sort of doubtful steps of a sleepwalker; perhaps steps which sought to break through his own confusions in the period of in-between.

Later in 2012, Taufan came up again with some sculpture works, in the series “The Scene of an Era” (Group exhibit). The forms were different from those of the “Esei” exhibit. In the “Esei” the sculputures were a kind of extension of his abstract paintings : they were painted with abstract patterns, garnished with flowers and geometric lines. In ”The Scene of an Era” series of 2012, we cannot find such decorative tendency anymore . Instead, this time the sculptures were tragic and dark, not only the colours, but also the figures : cut-off hands, black head, the crown of barbed wires, machete, sickle, etc. The tragic and violent sense of a tumultuous era was overwhelming. And what was mysterious was the allusion to the tragic suffering of Christ. Perhaps it gave a hint of Taufan’s childhood memory, the time when he was very close to his catholic aunt who made him familiar with the figure of Christ. Despite his seems to admire and see Christ as a symbol of heroic human conscience and love against all odds. This also explains the reappearance of the figure of Christ, and Mary, especially in his 2012 abstract oil paintings of the “No End” series as well as “The Scene of an Era”. In the “No End” series parts of the crucified Christ’s hands appeared here and there, His angry or sad eye lurking in the horizon. The backdrop was invariably sky, sky with different colours. Perhaps Taufan wanted to bring forth “love” being tortured or ‘crucified’ again relentlessly today in a civilization characterized by the play of anonymous power which generates violence everywhere. And this is more obvious in “The Scene of an Era” series, where the dying head of Christ and the mourning Mary appeared again and again in some of the paintings. But above all, the allusion to Christ might be connected to his conviction that the pinnacle of aesthetics is nothing but death itself, as he once put it. Death in love is, for him, the real beauty, the “artistic truth”, so to say. Perhaps the figure of Christ, Mary and the crucifix (in fragments) refer also to the eternal dream of unconditional love in the human world. “The power of love makes the world shine a light to the imagination of a beautiful soul”, Taufan once said.

*****


Subjects:

Materials:

55. Geometric No. 025

Taufan S Chandranegara

Indonesia

Photography

Size: 45 W x 45 H x 1.3 in

This artwork is not for sale.

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