One of the most important Indonesian artist to have emerged from the 1970s era, FX Harsono's art practice, like many of his contemporaries including Jim Supangkat and Aming Prayitno from the Gerakan Seni Rupa Baru (New Art Movement) which was most influential in the second half of the 1970s, has consistently been marked by a keen awareness of the most pressing social and political developments within and outside of Indonesia.
This present lot, Speechless #2, visualizes the artist's observations on the politics of fear and the unspoken racism and ethnic discrimination that prevail in everyday life in Indonesia, experienced by Harsono himself. The motif of the needle which appears on the two ends of the foreground of the painting is the artist's personal metaphor for something that is seemingly small, trivial, and insignificant and overlooked but quite certainly harmful. Harsno elaborates: "Latent and systematic disquiet is identical with the fear created by those who want to maintain their domination; such is 'the culture of fear'" (Hendro Wiyanto, A Conversation with FX Harsono: From Opposition to Pain in On an Icon in titk nyeri , point of pain, solo exhibition catalogue, Langgeng Icon Gallery, Indonesia, 2007, p. 52)
The artist's unusual self-portrait behind the two framing needles - holding up his eyelids and peering intently out of the picture surface - can be read as a stodgily determined insistence on viewing with clarity. The question of seeing lies at the heart of this observation - seeing as a form of awareness with consequential social empowerment. It is a modus operandi that has been characterized by Hendro Wiyanto, curator of his most recent exhibition in March and April 2007 at Langgeng Icon Gallery, titik nyeri , point of pain, as organic -
"Harsono is not only an 'activist artist' - a label that is often already satisfactory to our average artists to bear - but is among few 'organic' artists that we have. To the word 'organic', I'd like to give the significance of 'continuous efforts to give weight and context of life to one's art forms, and, reversely, to reorient, and even put to test again - with all its risks - one's discourse of art with respect to the problems of life found on the way." (Hendro Wiyanto, On an Icon in titk nyeri , point of pain, solo exhibition catalogue, Langgeng Icon Gallery, Indonesia, 2007, p. 7)
FX Harsono's ability to respond to changing times and to stay abreast and relevant in his own socially-oriented art practice is clearly articulated above. This is also seen in the artist's choice of medium. Trained in graphic design, Harsono conceives of his pictorial composition on the computer with the aid of design software. With the digital print of his composition, Harsono is freed up to paint emotionlessly. To him, the act of painting becomes manual reproduction, and not as a process of creative expulsion or a visual record of deeply felt emotion. It is a systematic and clearly articulated position on the process of artistic creation which rejects high modernism's insistence on painting as a cathartic act and the painter as a naturally endowed figure of genius and deep spirituality.
In this way, Harsono insists upon art's social relevance and the ability to develop abreast of itself in continuously evolving world where digital and information technology bears radical effect on art practice.