SRIHADI SOEDARSONO (Indonesian, B. 1931)
SRIHADI SOEDARSONO (Indonesian, B. 1931)

Kota (The City)

SRIHADI SOEDARSONO (Indonesian, B. 1931)
Kota (The City)
signed 'Srihadi' (upper right); signed, titled and dated (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
73 x 92 cm. (28 6/8 x 36 2/8 in.)
Painted in 1971
Private Collection, Indonesia
Jean Couteau, Srihadi Soedarsono, The Path of the Soul, Lontar Foundation, Jakarta, Indonesia, 2003 (illustrated, pp. 127-128).

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Lot Essay

As one of the most significant living modern Indonesian painters, Srihadi Soedarsono's art is highly acclaimed and is an expression of the spirit of modernism. As his career parallels the history of modern Indonesia, it is important to remember and understand how the culture of his native Java has shaped his outlook and his work. His career is a bridge between tradition and modernity, moving along planes of both figuration and abstraction.

In the early 1970s, with rapid urbanization in Jakarta, Srihadi's paintings took on more social and political themes. This came at a time when the authorities frowned upon art that was deemed as socially oriented. Srihadi used the canvas as a medium and voice for him to criticize the social realities that he saw and worried about in his country. In 1970 the country was reopened to foreign investment, and the key word parlayed freely then was development. However no dissenting voices were allowed, even if that said development led to urban decay and displacement of people. The present lot &IKota (The City) is from the Jakarta the Big Village series in which he expresses his worries about rapid urbanization and development causing urban decay and the destruction of the environment.

As he himself once said, "In the early to mid-seventies, Jakarta was in a deplorable condition. There was total chaos. It was dirty, and terrible poverty prevailed. At the same time one could see luxurious high-rise buildings beginning to appear. The contrast between the two aspects of the city was total. This was highly disturbing for me." (Jean Couteau, Srihadi Soedarsono, The Path of the Soul, Lontar Foundation, Jakarta, Indonesia, 2003"

In this particular series, Srihadi sought to create paintings which signified his restlessness and dissatisfaction with rapid development. He engages a technique termed as 'refined ugliness' where he paints tall modern skyscrapers rising high, set against a backdrop of grey or muted tones which represents shanty towns. Kota (The City) is a satirical take on how rapid urbanization in Jakarta has led to heavy traffic jams in the city, with a lack of direction from inconsistent one-way streets and shanty town villages within the city. The subject of the painting lends itself to a combination of colours awash within the painting, making this a superlative and extraordinary expressive work worthy of Srihadi's masterful oeuvre.


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