As one of the most renowned and prolific living modern artists, Srihadi sought to express personal emotions and sensory encounters in their purest of forms. His aesthetic– likely a product of his training at the Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB) and later at Ohio State University—is both visually mesmerising and enigmatic. Evident in the present lot, is his ability to articulate the complexity of his experiences, especially with nature and the cosmic world around him. Indeed Srihadi’s horizon landscapes bespeak an impulse to synthesise strands of abstract expressionism within a Javanese philosophic framework.
Visually reminiscent of Mark Rothko’s colour field paintings, Srihadi’s Horizon employs a seemingly uncomplicated structural principle: two main, clearly-defined colour fields—representing respectively the land and the sky—are juxtaposed, one above the other. In Horizon, Srihadi stages not a mere depiction of the elements, but a complex interplay of structure, contrast and nuance. The sky in the upper quadrant of the painting is dominated by a deep shade of indigo, at once suggesting awe and surrender, as well as stillness and quietude. The lower two-thirds of the composition, is covered in various cool neutrals blended with a coat of cloudy white, to form numerous sublayers that seem to vibrate on the surface of the painting. By employing a more subdued colour palette, composed mainly of different hues of greyish blue, ash and taupe, Srihadi emphasises the earthly element of the land in contrast to the celestial infinity suggested by the dark blue of the sky above.
Yet, Srihadi’s composition remains far from monotonous: bold, thick stripes of black, burgundy and brown traverse the canvas. Srihadi’s contour lines, all angled differently in relation to the horizon, are juxtaposed in length, texture and thickness—some are layered with a smooth surface; others appear as hurried scribbles. These streaks act perhaps as a reminder of man’s presence, or human manipulation of the land, while providing a sense of visual musicality to the work. Conjuring the geometric plots of padi fields common in central Java, Srihadi’s perpendicular lines may also serve as reminders of his home island.
In Horizon Srihadi demonstrates his great finesse and restraint as a colourist. Eschewing miscellany for nuance, Srihadi conveys with great economy, the subtle intensity of his emotions. With a single undulating line, Srihadi divides the two fields of land and sky, simultaneously suggesting the blurred silhouettes and curves of distance hills. This single brushstroke builds into thick impastos of white that appear rippling like tides at the beach or swift gusts of wind. Ultimately, Srihadi’s colour palette produces an undeniably harmonious effect, while evoking the serenity, tranquility and deep spirituality of the cosmos.
As one of the tenets of his artistic philosophy, Javanese spirituality inspires Srihadi’s Horizon. Throughout his career, the Surakarta-born artist maintained a close bond with the island of his birth. But rather than interpreting Javanese culture in a literal fashion, Srihadi’s works reference Java in a sublime and synthesised manner. He draws from the ethos of rasa—variously translated as “affect” and “intuition”. It is a non-formalistic embodiment of perception, consciousness and emotion, manifest in the spiritual pursuit of an object’s essence. In reducing elements of nature to their purest of colours, Srihadi projects an abstract, extrasensory vision of the landscape. The earth and the sky, now seemingly ephemeral, exist as spiritual nodes within the symbolic system of essentialism that defines the Javanese expression of rasa.
It is important to note that in his pursuit of rasa in Horizon, Srihadi opts for abstraction—a formal technique associated with Western artistic movements such as American modernism, Abstract Expressionism, and Neoplasticism. Srihadi’s cosmopolitan outlook is a result of training at the Ohio State University (Columbus) where he experimented with both Pollock-like drip-painting and Rorschach-like blotting. The present work emerges out of Srihadi’s stylistic experimentations with figural symbolism and abstractionism. Without fully abandoning representation, Srihadi’s minimalist Horizon alludes to the New York School painter Mark Rothko’s focus on colour and emotion. The viewers become enveloped in the vista of indigo and grey laid before them. Similarly, Srihadi’s pronounced brushstrokes conjure Franz Kline’s gestural paintings which are known for their dramatic and angular motifs. However rather than using an opaque black, Sirhadi’s linear shapes are rendered in shades of dark brown, drips of black and thin streaks of burnt umber. In reducing concrete forms to color planes, Srihadi conveys his visceral experience of the landscape with relative economy and structural simplicity.
Despite drawing from a modernist Western analytic technique, Srihadi’s Horizon remains, at its heart, an ode to the island of Java and its spiritual traditions. Ultimately, the artist’s metaphysical yearning for oneness—an impulse deeply steeped in the Javanese ethos of rasa—forms the philosophic basis of this work, a multivalent contemplation on the sublimity of nature and the transcendence of the cosmos. Here, Srihadi ushers his audience into an encounter with the far stretched edges of land and sky, beautifully blurred into infinity.
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