Dwi Stya Acong is an artist from East Java, who was educated at the Indonesia Institute of Art, Yogyakarta (ISI). Now living and working in Yogyakarta, Acong produces work that is groundbreaking in its explorations of the fault lines between the segregated worlds we create for ourselves: by combining different styles of painting, he confronts the absurdity of the human condition, forcing us to rethink the relationship between man and nature.
This painting is titled Helliotropism, which refers to the directional growth of a plant in response to sunlight, as if drawn toward the Sun’s invisible force. The use of sunflowers here could be interpreted with this title in mind: the girl depicted is inexplicably drawn to it. However, Acong subverts our expectations with this piece. The sunflowers are painted in a style reminiscent of Monet and the Impressionists, with short, unblended brushstrokes to capture moving light, yet Acong renders their centers in gray and contrasts these exquisitely painted flowers against a field of black and the dirty green of the rice paddy field.
The girl wearing batik in the center of the composition is painted in a completely different style; her facial expression is painstakingly detailed and shaded in the manner of the realists. Her eyes stare blankly ahead and her lips are in a neutral line, her skin awash in a purple-grey that seems to suggest a corpse.
While the Enlightenment brought us an unprecedented era of development in the scientific world, its global export has led to the sequestering of man and nature. As William Wordsworth advocates in The Prelude, and as Acong implies in this piece, nature contains within it the radical ability to inform mankind, to lead us to a better path than the one on which we are walking to our inevitable destruction:
“The earth was all before me. With a heart
Joyous, nor scared at its own liberty,
I look about; and should the chosen guide
Be nothing better than a wandering cloud,
I cannot miss my way.”
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