Within this context, the present painting The Ruins and The Piano is a distinct separation from the popular motifs, and narratives, that the audience may have come to expect from the artist’s collection of works. As per the title of the piece, a piano rests alone in a forlorn wasteland, divorced from its natural setting and placed into a foreign environment. Reminiscent of surrealist themes, the painting is demonstrative of S. Sudjojono experimentation with the genre’s aesthetics and principles, and appropriating them into his personal constructs.
In 1938 the artist together with Agus Djaja co-founded the Indonesian Drawing Masters Association, otherwise popularly known as Persagi. This art collective was dedicated to redefining Indonesia’s artistic identity, predominantly in the country’s modernist movement of that era. During the forties and fifties, the artist was also an active participant in other political groups that were gaining traction within the country. S. Sudjojono was one of the founders of the Young Artists of Indonesia in 1946, another group of artists who had similar ideals in the re-establishing of the country’s creative voice. However, the artist’s political activism came to a halt in 1958, when he was expelled from the Indonesian Communist Party for favouring his personal relationships above his political ones.
It was shortly after this period when the artist began to experiment with, and incorporate surrealist motifs into his artworks. The Ruins and The Piano was created during these years of self-exploration that reflected S. Sudjojono’s shift in ideologies and artistic affiliations. Though he remained faithful in his portrayal of the landscape as being the key protagonist in the paintings, the works that were executed during the sixties and seventies alluded to the artist’s cynicism towards the country’s political and economical future. The present work is expressive of this “Brave New World” paradigm that coloured the artist’s narratives of this period.
An artist whose paintings were governed by specific ideologies, S. Sudjojono revered family as an important part of his life, and celebrated these relationships throughout his oeuvre. His wife Rose was a respected musician, and the artist often depicted her playing the piano, or referenced music imagery in works that portrayed her likeness. In the present work, amidst the isolation of the landscape, the piano stands firmly in the centre of scene. Save for a missing chair, it is the only object that remains intact and unharmed. Within the artist’s framework, this may be a reference to his wife, celebrating her strength and support in times of need.
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