In the words of Sudjana Kerton, from Tanah Airku, My Country Indonesia.
Sudjana Kerton was a Sundanese painter, born in Bandung in 1922. Kerton spent a significant amount of time in the West, studying and living in the Netherlands, France, and the United States for 25 years. It can be said that his artistic paradigm was highly influenced by his exposure to Western art, his patriotic ideology as well as the witnessing of Indonesia’s modernization. His time spent abroad brought him a wealth of interesting experiences that had a lasting influence upon his work thereafter, and, in the same vein as other artists who witnessed the transition of Indonesia’s colonial era to Independence, his choice of artistic expression conveyed a deep concern for the common people, particularly the farmers, of his country.
Harvest is a powerful juxtaposition of composition and color that conveys a tropical intensity and richness. In the painting, Sudjana depicts a group of hardworking paddy farmers reaping their crops against an idyllic backdrop of lush fields. Huddled and working together, they appear to share a casual camaraderie. The warm, apricot blouse of a hunched farmer juxtaposed with subtle hints of turquoise and blue dominates the right half of the picture field, serving to balance the panoramic composition. The human figure has been explored expressively as Sudjana uses deliberately simplified, effortless lines that produce semi-abstract forms, leaning towards a cubist tenor. The fields, executed with heavy, yellow dashes varying in size and thickness, densely occupy the scene to produce a magnificent and vibrant symphony of painterly expression. By highlighting the people on a grand scale, Sudjana Kerton captures his audience’s attention and reveals his keen interest in human behavior and kindred relationships.
The recurring theme of nationalism in Sudjana’s work embodies the artist’s mastery of poetic themes infused with a sense of communal friendliness, sincerity and simplicity. Inspired by Diego Rivera’s murals after a trip to Mexico in 1963, Harvest serves as testimony to Sudjana’s fascination with the Mexican artist’s murals. A captivating sense of mythology subsequently began to permeate Sudjana’s paintings in subtle form, as he transformed the plights of quotidian existence into a celebration of human connection. Upon his return to Indonesia in 1976, he was faced with a rapidly changing country and had realized how twenty-five years away had affected the nation. However, the artist continued to fill his canvases with honest and sharp memories of his environment and his home, depicting a past that he undoubtedly cherished and reminding the people of their roots to Javanese traditions.
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