(Indonesian, B. 1973)
Cahaya Bumi (Light Earth)
signed, titled and dated 'Rudi Mantofani Cahaya Bumi 2005-2009' (on the base)
stainless steel
124 x 135 x 70 cm. (48 7/8 x 53 1/8 x 27 1/2 in.)
Executed in 2005-2009

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Lot Essay

The appearance of Cahaya Bumi (Light Earth) (Lot 33) by Indonesian contemporary artist Rudi Mantofani at auction marks the first occasion a spherical world globe artwork of the artist in three-dimension is offered. This is in spite of the fact that the globe has always featured prominently in Rudi Mantofani's oeuvre, from his iconic globe painting, Dunia Jatuh ke Bumi (Fig. 1) to the three dimensional works where the globe, inflated, deflated or re-shaped, morphs with and suggests other objects.

Born in 1973 in Padang, West Sumatra, Rudi Mantofani studied sculpture at the Indonesian Institute of Arts (ISI) in Yogyakarta from 1993 to 1996. In Indonesian contemporary art presently, the early to mid-90s generation artists from ISI have risen and consolidated their places as leading figures. A significant number of them, including Mantofani, are of Minang descent and hail from West Sumatra. Together with four other Minang artists who had come in the early 1990s to study art in Yogyakarta - Yunizar, Yusra Martunus, Jumaldi Alfi and Handiwirman Saputra - Rudi Mantofani formed the Kelompok Seni Rupa Jendela, or Jendela Group for short, in 1993.
During a time when art-making was strongly influenced by socio-political exigencies, the group marked their emergence in Yogyakarta presenting artworks which bore no apparent conceptual or visual linkages with the turbulent realities of 1990s Indonesian political and social life. Instead of flashpoints and conflicts, the artists of the Jendea Group explore aspects of the transcendental, the overlooked and the banal.

The imageries employed in Rudi Mantofani's visual world reveal such an orientation. Realistically rendered as they may be, the visual elements in his canvases and the body of three dimensional objects are set apart from daily life by little more than a subtle suggestion of the deconstruction of meaning. During the mid-2000s, Mantofani increasingly turned from painting abstract all-over canvases to painting objects as metaphors of symbolic expression.

He constantly attempted to find new, pared-down metaphors of symbolic expression: a rock, a twisted string, a sliced fruit, often juxtaposed, Daliesque, against vast, hauntingly barren landscapes. His works alternated between surrealism and abstraction, frequently conjoining the two disparate modes into a perspective entirely unique to the artist. Mantofani's works bring to mind the Rorschach test blob, cunningly constructed to simultaneously infer everything and nothing. Meaning, through the prism of Mantofani's artistic filter, is often allocated by the viewer's range of comprehension and emotional functioning, rather than the actual pictorial composition.

Cahaya Bumi (Light Earth) may initially seem like a ready-made, its meaning gleaned from situating the world in a different contextual field. The globe works of Mantofani similarly allude to an object of life, oftentimes referred by Mantofani himself in the titles to his work as the symbol of humanity. However, his world globes also purposefully evade universalism.

Upon closer observation, one sees that Mantofani's world globe has taken as its primary model a globe made in Indonesia, with the names of countries, cities and oceans are all spelt in Bahasa Indonesia. They signal a localisation of a, otherwise, universal object. In this way, Mantofani's works recall and contrast with Alighiero Boetti extensive Mappa body of works where the language spoken is a universal language of colours and designs of national flags used to mark different national territories (Fig. 2). Whereas Boetti's works try to erase the hand of the artist by returning to existing design, reflecting and honouring the natural order of the world, Mantofani locates his sphere of concern as universal, but always from a deeply subjective, individual and cultural worldview.

The artist thwarts the inherent symbolic meaning of the ready-made by slicing off half of an otherwise ordinary spherical world globe. Its core is a shiny, perfectly finished stainless steel reflective surface which acts almost like the surface of the sundial when the shadow of the circular axis keeping the globe in place falls on the surface. Can humanity ever agree on a global basis? Mantofani seems to respond to the unilateralism that exists in today's global political scene where one half of the world dictates the economies and lifestyles of another half. The polarities of world order all come to mind - the East and West; the first world and the third world; the developed world and the developing world, Islam and the rest of the world; the North and the South; Asian versus western values et cetera. Mantofani's Cahaya Bumi (Light Earth) alludes to these global 21st Century realities that may have deep-seated origins in the earlier centuries. Not a light issue, but too weighty to be considered by one, Mantofani distills the essence of his thoughts into a single compelling visual object.

In his art practice, Mantofani ponders deeply over the philosophy of everyday life - advocating virtues such as patience, moderation and the circumscription of excesses. He looks far and searches deep, trawling for visual metaphors and devising original pictorial schemas to present distilled lessons in life's conduct and thoughts. In the process, simple truths emerge from wondrous visions.

Logic, not emotion, guides Mantofani's practice. Intently and meticulously, he deliberates over elements of his artworks - the painted object, composition and title - always with the objective to achieve a basic level of logical intelligibility such that his works are accessible and read-able by audiences. An object placed before Mantofani's vision is transformed from the commonplace to the wondrous. Its essential character is processed and distilled in the artist's mind. What emerges is a simplicity of truth that speaks eloquently not only of the object but more importantly of its relation to the philosophy of everyday life (Fig. 3).

In bringing forth new visions of the ordinary in his two and three-dimensional works, Rudi Mantofani bears a heightened sensitivity to the external world. Like the poet who recasts words fixed in meaning and context and presses them in the service of new strands of reality, Mantofani's visual elements retain their elemental form and are only finely tweaked to render and reveal new vistas of meaning in his pictorial world.

Like a skilled and patient word-smith, Mantofani never presses aggressively to yield insight; instead, with unflagging contemplation, he persuades the inherent meaning of the object to unravel itself. This process becomes more markedly in the recent few years when works such as Cahaya Bumi (Light Earth) turns from poetic musings on nature's elements to engage with global issues.

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