The present piece aptly titled Wanita Dan Alam (Woman and Nature), is an intimate portrait by the artist, and conveys a certain quietude that may not be expected from his paintings. Inspired by the image of the Madonna as the epitome of female expression, the artist has placed his wife Rose and their three children as the primary focus of the portrait. Choosing this moment as his children sleep nearby their mother to become the subject matter of the artwork, S. Sudjojono has created a painting that shares a rare glimpse into his life as a husband, and as a father.
The artist perceived painting as the ultimate form of expression that transcended paradigms, and brought people together. Oftentimes the landscapes and people were gifted with precedence in the artworks. Be it a mountain or a farmer collecting rice, each being’s story influenced the underlining message of the paintings. Rather than acting as mere constructs that propelled the narrative forward.
In his later years, the artist’s paintings started to become more introspective, the themes reflective of his personal history, rather than the relationship that he had with his country. Conversely in 1958, S. Sudjojono was expelled from the Indonesian Communist party. It is said that the artist chose Rose over his nationalist ideologies, and acquaintances. Within this framework, Wanita Dan Alam (Woman and Nature), becomes an even more interesting, and valuable piece from an artist who may be better known for his political ideals, and staunch artistic principles.
Providing further insight into the private setting, the artist has versed a poem with the words written above the children’s sleeping heads:
Sumber inspirasiku, bagaimanapun sang hidup, bagus ini tak habis-habis,
Terus ku-isap kamu, sang duka dan suka, aku kaya.
Geramku sesamudra Lucas.
Garis-ku main sepanjang masa. Aku ada.
The source of my inspiration, life.
There is no end to its beauty,
I breathe you, the sorrow and ecstasy.
I am rich.
As the sea growls, the song of the waves forms a rhythmic melody.
My legacy remains.
Though he is absent from the portrait, S. Sudjojono’s presence is largely felt within the intimacy of the scene. He has painted a story that is wholly personal, and absolutely familiar to him. Wanita Dan Alam (Woman and Nature) is a courageous endeavour from an artist whose oeuvre was grounded in realism. With this painting, S. Sudjojono has voluntarily cast off his role as a painter. He has stepped down from the pedestal, and revealed himself to the watchful gaze of the discerning public as being merely a man.
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