Audio (English): Anak Bermain Layangan (Boys with Kites)
Audio (Chinese): Anak Bermain Layangan (Boys with Kites)
SUDJANA KERTON (Indonesia 1922-1994)
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SUDJANA KERTON (Indonesia 1922-1994)

Anak Bermain Layangan (Boys with Kites)

SUDJANA KERTON (Indonesia 1922-1994)
Anak Bermain Layangan (Boys with Kites)
signed 'S.KERTON '92' (lower right); inscribed 'BERMAIN LAYANGAN BOYS WITH KITES 1992, Louise Kerton' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
44 1/8 x 32 1/8 in. (112 x 82 cm.)
Painted in 1992
Jakarta, Gedung Pameran Seni Rupa, Departemen Pendidikan Dan Kebudayaan (Ministry of Education and Culture), Nationalism and Its Transformations: Reflection on Works of Sudjana Kerton, November-December 1996 (illustrated in colour, exh. cat., p. 136)

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Lot Essay

by Tjandra Kerton*

When art lovers talk about my father, Sudjana Kerton, the words that come to mind are usually "painter of the everyday lives of the common people," "revolutionary period artist," and "nationalistic." Yes, he was all of these, but not many people know why he painted these particular scenes, and why these subjects and themes have been almost exclusively Indonesian.

Like his contemporaries, Affandi, Sudjojono and Hendra Gunawan, whose names are more likely to be mentioned when talking about Indonesian modern artists, my father lived during those momentous times in the 1940's, when the old Dutch colonial way of life was torn apart by the ravages of war and revolution. My father saw first-hand the changes taking place in Indonesian society at that time. Although he had had many Dutch friends and did not view them as being the enemy, still he enthusiastically participated in the struggle for independence by being a journalist - artist, and recorded scenes of the battlefield through deft sketching in pen and ink on paper for the underground newspaper "Patriot." These tumultuous times strongly influenced my father's psyche and the way he would later paint.

My father's life changed again radically when he traveled abroad for the first time in his life after receiving scholarships to study in the Netherlands and later to study at the Art Students' League in New York City in the United States of America. While he painted mostly Dutch scenes and scenes of the French countryside (when he visited France briefly), after arriving in New York his subjects became almost entirely scenes of Indonesian daily life and culture - farmers working in the rice fields, hobby horse dancers dancing in a trance, men gathered around for a cockfight and the accompanying bets, among others. Later, my father's subjects became ever more varied, and almost all depicting Indonesian scenes of people at work, at play, and at leisure. The painting featured in this auction, "Boys with Kites," is one such work.

"Boys with Kites" depicts a scene in a green field somewhere in a desa/village area, with the village boys eagerly flying their kites in the afternoon winds.

My father, no doubt, was once one of those boys, at a time when there wasn't a care in the world, and the clouds of war had not yet come to Bandung. No doubt he flew the kites with his little friends, as shown in the painting, where a small boy, wrapped in his sarong, crouches next to his older pal, who holds the string of the kite as the kite darts about in the sky, while another small boy holds the kite that will be the next to be flown. A black dog scampers around them, having followed the boys to the field from the village. In the background, another boy runs through the field with his kite, the string tugging in his hand as he tries to keep from letting go of his kite.

Just outside the field near a road, stands a bakso seller who is waiting for his little customers to tire of their kite flying and flock to him for a bowl of hot noodles and bakso, while a becak driver pedals by slowly. It is late afternoon, the time of day when the farmers start heading for home with their ducks and water buffaloes in tow, and the women start preparing the evening meal as the sun sets.

My father painted this and many other paintings after returning to Indonesia after twenty five years as an Indonesian in foreign lands - never really feeling comfortable in any of them, whether it was the Netherlands, France, or the U.S. Upon arriving back in his beloved Indonesia, and feeling the hot sun of the tropics on his face after an absence of many years, my father was struck by an overwhelming feeling of joyousness, and being back in his land seemed to set something off in him - his memories of childhood and youth, which he had not remembered for several years. The act of actually seeing, hearing and smelling the life of Indonesia and Indonesians once again gave him new inspiration.

This joy at being back home was offset by the reality of Indonesian society and life that was notably different from when he was in Indonesia last --- in 1950. My father used to say that people were not nice anymore, they were not polite like they used to be in the old days. The society had become materialistic in its ways and views, he could see that people were not as gracious as before. Feeling dismayed at the reality of things, my father retreated into himself and his memories. Therefore, the subjects of his paintings, so wonderfully varied and painted in earth colors but with a bright hue, are reflections of his memories as a child growing up in Bandung, West Java. A time that has passed us by, and perhaps a simpler and less complicated time, captured forever on the canvases of the paintings of my father, Sudjana Kerton.

*Tjandra Kerton is the eldest daughter of the late Sudjana Kerton (1922-1994)

Christie's is grateful to Tjandra Kerton, the eldest daughter of the late Sudjana Kerton, for this catalogue entry.

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