- Rudi Mantofani
- Cakrawala Warna #8 (Colour Horizon #8)
- Signed and dated 2012-2016; signed, titled, inscribed and dated 2012-2016 on the reverse
- Acrylic on canvas
Cakrawala Warna #8 depicts a dense forest shrouded by a field of technicolour triangular forms, revealing a powder blue sky and a tropical forest canopy. These bright triangular forms occupy over three quarters of the canvas, flattening the pictorial space through heavy repetitions and presenting a surreal composition in contrast to the realistically painted trees. Other pieces in the Cakrawala Warna series include horizontal stripes across the canvas, and a vertical fence-like pattern, all rendered in bright colours and covering behind it a landscape of trees.
Rudi’s Cakrawala Warna series pays homage to mid-twentieth century American Colour Field artists, including Ellsworth Kelly and Frank Stella, as well as abstractionists, exemplified by Kazimir Malevich’s Black Square (1915). In these instances, drawing is reduced to systemic reiterations, almost clinical in its precision of execution. However, initial impressions of coolness and austerity in abstractionists are immediately subverted by the vibrancy of its colours in Rudi’s composition, as if following in Impressionistic footsteps of Claude Monet. No two same colours lie adjacent as all are fluidly interweaved into a tapestry that gradually morphs between dominant hues, with the line of each triangle severing the relationship between each object, a treatise on the forced segregation of man into individualized entities. In this process, the relationship between subject and object is blurred: colour at once exists in relation to its objective context of a triangle within a field, but is also liberated as subject in and of itself, bringing colour relationships to an urgency and contingency of meaning as a metaphor for the compressed diversity of this world.
The lush trees in the background hark to the leitmotif of trees in Rudi’s oeuvre, but the title of the work calls our attention to the relationship between treetops and the infinite horizon of sky. These tree canopies crowd the remainder of the canvas unoccupied by his bright colours: the horizon appears to shrink in their upward growth. Rudi has often used trees as an allegory for human life, a marker of endurance and perseverance. In this instance, we may read these trees as a testament to the unyielding will of man to define oneself against the infinite, empty void of the sky, a celebration of the beautiful and tragic attempt to find meaning in an absurd, uncaring universe.
But perhaps it is the relationship between the abstract and the realistic that lends Rudi’s work such strength. This piece presents a maturation in Rudi’s painting, marrying his depiction of trees in surrealistic, Dali-esque settings with his penchant for flattening landscapes, firming his position as a seminal artist in the development of the genre of Southeast Asian landscape art. In 1993, Rudi co-founded Kelompok Seni Rupa Jendela (commonly known as the Jendela Art Group) with four other West Sumatran artists at ISI – Yunizar, Yusra Martunus,Jumaldi Alfi and Handiwirman Saputra – to innovate upon the “Jogja Surreal” style. They moved away from overtly sociopolitical themes that dominated artistic discourse at that time, favoring metaphorical and personal approaches to art. This not only breaks from a tradition of hyperrealistic colonial landscape art in the Mooi Indies (Beautiful Indies) style that romanticized Indonesia through the gaze of the colonizer as seen in Wahidi’s Mountain, but also steps away from the nationalistic agendas of modernist landscape artists such as S. Sudjojono, whose paintings were often also anthropological, ethnographic projects. Grand narratives are scorned in favor of postmodern ambiguity: through the interplay of techniques and genre, Rudi presents not a statement of how viewers should lead our lives, but rather the beginnings of a visual inquiry. Landscape art, in its most classical forms, are meant to represent the world – here, Rudi firmly presents a challenge to the genre by bringing the landscape into the inner world of our minds and consciousness.
This inward turn should not be mistaken for a quiet whisper on individual philosophies. Rather, Cakrawala Warna #8 attests to the power, roar and monumentality of the metaphor: the three meter by five meter canvas overwhelms the viewer by denying us an easy focal point. The idea that elements have essential qualities in form and shape is rejected for a composition that invites associative meanings to be created, shifting the onus of large scale paintings from a sum of its parts to a whole that can neither be deconstructed nor dissembled. Rudi’s visual metaphors distill and amplify ideas to increase their potential to flood our consciousness, transforming the activity of seeing from a passive act of consumption into a transfixing, emotive act of participation in the creation of art itself.
These visual relationships in Rudi’s work are not merely decorative, but are meant to present to the viewer an aggressive questioning of the very nature of being in the world. Against a field of multifaceted difference, we might perhaps find beauty and strength in the flourishing of human life. To live is to constantly reconcile contrasts, to negotiate the infinite and the particular, to vacillate between the vibrance of colour and the emptiness of meaning.