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Arin Dwihartanto Sunaryo
Arin Dwihartanto Sunaryo’s Volcanic Ash Series #4 (2012) appears entirely painterly, but was in fact made using a combination of resin and, as pigment, volcanic ash from the 2010 eruption of Gunung Merapi, the most active volcano in Indonesia. (This disaster claimed more than 100 lives and left a deep impression on the artist.) The use of these materials results in vivid gradients of natural color. Arin’s curiosity about the fluid character of paint, and his attempts to create a flowing effect, began while he was working in oils in 2005. First experimenting with applying resin to canvas, he eventually began using the resin-and-pigment mixture on its own, allowing the mixture to determine its own form by splashing it on glass. From this point on, the artist took up new tools and altered his format from a vertical to a horizontal plane. Sunrayo&rquo;s visualization and technique also changed, as he began to “paint” starting with the immediate surface of the image, gradually working back to its base.
The relationship between aesthetic expression and political engagement in Indonesia is intimate and influential. In the narrative of Indonesian art’s development during the decades of struggle that led to independence in 1945, and in the years that followed, art and artists have played a significant role in direct political engagement and social and political critique. They have often organized themselves into groups such as the Polemik Kebudayaan (1935–36) and LEKRA (Lembaga Kebudayaan Rakyat, or People’s Cultural Institute/Organisation of Artists (1950–c.1965). Beginning in the ’70s, collectives that combined the aesthetic with the political, such as the Gerakan Seni Rupa Baru or Indonesian New Art Movement (1975–1979) and Komunitas Utan Kayu (c.1994– ), continued this commitment to political movement, remaining active right up to Reformasi (reformation) in 1997, which saw the deposition of the then-incumbent President Suharto. Where art and politics converged, aesthetic expression tended toward the representational, the figure of the people occupying a central position. With the ubiquity of figuration in the early ’90s, the Minangkabau (West Sumatra) collective Kelompok Seni Rupa Jendela (KSRJ, or Jendela Art Group, 1993– ), elicited criticism for work that appeared at first politically noncommittal in its apparent focus on the manipulation of objects, shapes, and colors. However, KSRJ’s aesthetics succeeded in opening up dialogue around a less self-evident form of politics in contemporary practice, one in which Arin’s practice since 2005 has also been involved. In Volcanic Ash Series #4, the traces of historical event and social circumstance are preserved in the resin, which thus embodies both the land and its politics—including a politics of art—in palpable form.