• Southeast Asian Modern and Con auction at Christies

    Sale 2721

    Southeast Asian Modern and Contemporary Art

    30 November 2009, Hong Kong

  • Lot 1167

    S. SUDJOJONO (Indonesia 1914-1986)

    View of Bogor

    Price Realised  


    S. SUDJOJONO (Indonesia 1914-1986)
    View of Bogor
    signed 'S. Sudjojono' (lower left); stamped with artist's monogram and inscribed 'Bogor 1976' (upper right)
    oil on canvas
    22½ x 39½ in. (57 x 100 cm.)

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    Set in a panoramic format, View of Bogor is both understated and dramatic in its composition, discreet and affectedly grand all at once. The picture recalls and evokes the nature of Sudjojono's legacy as one of the most significant theorist and practitioner in modern Indonesian art, allowing viewers to apprehend the artist in his later years, still a steadfast observer of reality and perhaps even advanced beyond the fiery polemics of his earlier years concerning truth and reality.

    From the turn of the 20th century right up to the 50s, the art scene in colonial Dutch East Indies and later the young Indonesian Republic was proliferated with imageries of beautiful landscapes and women clad in elaborate and refined clothes which to the modernists were a gross distortion of the reality of the country. Such is the hierarchy of subjects and aesthetics as Sudjojono perceived when the artists of the opposing Mooie Indie clearly demonstrated a penchant for a romanticized and sentimentalized Indonesia with little no relevance to the daily reality of the people.

    Opposed to such aesthetic principles, Sudjojono stood for Truth - to be truthful to oneself as an artist and more importantly to reflect unbiased societal truths in his work - "Who will show the world: 'Look, this is how we are' A generation will dare to say: 'This is how we are', which means this is our condition of life now, and these our new desires. The new artist would then no longer paint only the peaceful hut, blue mountains, romantic or picturesque and sweetish subjects, but also sugar factories and the emaciated peasant, the motor cars of the rich and the pants of the poor youth; the sandals, trousers and jacket of the man on the street . This is our reality. And the living artist who does not seek beauty in antiquity or in the mental world of the tourist, will himself live as long as the world exists. Because high art is work based on our daily life transmuted by the artist himself who is immersed in it, and then creates." (Astri Wright, Soul, Spirit, and Mountain: Preoccupations of Contemporary Indonesian Painters, Oxford University Press, Kuala Lumpur, 1994, p. 157-158)

    The polemics of Sudjojono above were made early in his career before the intervention of World War II and the gradual development of Sudjojono's career. By the time that View of Bogor was painted in 1976, Sudjojono had, in the immediate preceding years, become much mellower as a polemicist though still painting pictures with voraciousness.

    View of Bogor presents a relatively unusual format, with the composition relying on fringe pictorial elements of houses, especially on the lower edge of the painting. A band of undulating rolling knolls, rendered in various shades of green and occasionally punctuated by swipes of earthly browns, constitute a central element in the picture. Above it, curls and wisps of white form brilliant white cloud forms slightly elevated above other greyer receding forms. It is a picture marked by a sense of quietude though the reminder of Nature and the outdoor elements are never far away. At the same time while the picture bears no human subject, it is obviously inhabited and alive with traces of houses.

    The picture speaks of a plain and simple reality, a reality of nature in its bare elements. At the same time, it bears not a slight hint of a quiet idealization of a certain way of life, an apparently plain but potently timeless rendition of a slice of Indonesian life.