Surrealist painting in Yogyakarta

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Marianto, Martinus Dwi
Faculty of Creative Arts
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thesis / dissertation description
Surrealist painting flourished in Yogyakarta around the middle of the 1980s to early 1990s. It became popular amongst art students in Yogyakarta, and formed a significant style of painting which generally is characterised by the use of casual juxtapositions of disparate ideas and subjects resulting in absurd, startling, and sometimes disturbing images.In this thesis, Yogyakartan Surrealism is seen as the expression in painting of various social, cultural, and economic developments taking place rapidly and simultaneously in Yogyakarta's urban landscape. Significantly, the structure of Yogyakartan Surrealist painting has been aligned with forms of Yogyakatan language patterns, in particular the punning which was fashionable in the same period.Yogyakartan Surrealism has affinities with Andre Breton's Surrealism. Many Yogyakartan artists were influenced visually by seeing colour reproductions of paintings by the major European Surrealists, which were printed in a number of art books coming from America and Europe. However, it is more appropriate to consider that seeing reproductions of Surrealist works triggered out surrealistic tendencies which had already been an important part of Yogyakartan life. Surrealism has been a state of mind in Yogyakarta's recent situation, as its cityscape increasingly looks like a collage with disparate, even conflicting ideas and subjects that mingle in an apparently casual ways.Beyond this, Yogyakartan Surrealism is also a variation of a realism which has continuously re-emerged through different forms in modern Indonesian art and which has been associated with independence and nationalism. In particular, realism has emerged in specific moments in Indonesian history: the impetus of nationalism, as seen in the painting The Capture of Prince Diponegoro by Raden Saleh; nationalism of the 1930s and 1940s as articulated largely by S. Sudjojono; national identity of the 1950s and 1960s, which was a period of a fierce art debate; the intention to contextualise art socially, culturally, politically, and economically; and recently, 'postnationalism' which realistically reflected Yogyakartan 'surreal' life.With respect to the recent situation, Yogyakartan Surrealism can also be seen as a mechanism to deal with circumstances under which people were conditioned not to express the 'real' direcdy or assertively in much of the daily life. With its absurd images and logic Yogyakartan Surrealism can be also seen as a forgetting mechanism, or an imaginary space in which people could escape conditions which were becoming repressive in many respects.