- Claire Holt, Art In Indonesia: Continuities And Change, Cornell University Press, 1967, p. 238
Born in 1930, But Mochtar was an Indonesian visual artist who was one of the most respected modernists of his time. Mochtar graduated from the Bandung Institute of Technology before studying sculpture at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) in Providence, from 1960 to 1961, and proceeded to become a research fellow at MIT. Although the artist pioneered sculpture as an art form in Indonesia’s modern art movement, Mochtar was not partial to the medium; he embraced painting as another means of exploration within his bold oeuvre, making him a multifaceted artist with both the dexterity of a sculptor and finesse of a painter.
An eloquent exercise on form and color, Two Women offers viewers a chance to admire Mochtar’s two-dimensional translation of his eloquent three-dimensional language. In this painting, two women sit and stand quietly gazing into the distance, their angular features complementing their sharp profile views. As a seasoned sculptor, Mochtar’s style of painting is suggestive of a strong understanding of geometry, reminiscent of Cubist ideology in its rigidity and angular forms that embrace a discernible mode of abstraction. His paintings became proof of an embodiment of similar expressive principles translated across multiple artistic devices.
In the same vein as his sculptural creations, Mochtar employs sharp, interlocking geometric forms that are dynamically linked as they overlap against one another. Following the pattern of Cubist deformation, simplified triangular shapes rendered in subtly different hues form the structure of the painting while prominent lines radiate off the central figures. These structural arrangements of flat color show precise perspective calculations that form a confluence of the non-representational and representational. The vertically oriented panel of the painting elongates the slender women, whose bodies appear visually connected, suggesting strong ties to one another.
A true modernist, But Mochtar's sculptures and paintings exhibit his exposure to aesthetics of modernist movements from the West. Pioneering artists emerging from what is ubiquitously known as “The Bandung School” , incorporated their own cultural perspectives with Dutch art teacher Ries Mulder’s school of thought on cubism and abstract painting. This ultimately generated fresh modes of thinking and while Mochtar’s work retains a figurative quality, the school’s influence is vividly seen in his tendency towards alternative methods of visual representation.
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