(Indonesian, B. 1972)
signed and dated 'Irfan 2012' (lower right)
oil on canvas
170 x 250 cm. (67 x 98 1?2 in.)
Painted in 2012

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Eric Chang
Eric Chang

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Lot Essay

Born in West Sumatra, the ethnic Minangkabau homeland, M. Irfan, like other key members of the Jendela Group which he is a part of, pursued art education in Yogyakarta in Central Java, graduating from the Indonesian Institute of Arts (ISI) Yogyakarta in 1993.

Ora Et Labora (Prayer and Labour) (Lot 452) is one of the most iconic works from his ongoing body of paintings that take locomotives and railway tracks as pictorial subjects. For Irfan, the locomotive and its journey hold deep symbolic significance, speaking of arrival and departure and the accompanying dreams of leaving and returning. His locomotives denote expectations, hopes and dreams. Through the Latin title, Irfan makes reference to the Christian monastic practice and belief of the compatibility of working and praying. Irfan sees the same belief reflected amongst the vast working class of developing Indonesia. The sole locomotive powering through the darkness signifies hope, and perhaps identifies a destination, an end-point to which praying and working brings one.

Irfan had undertaken a period of intense visual study of locomotives, railway tracks, stations and rail tunnels before embarking on this present body of works. The assiduous background study he has done allows him to render his locomotives in great detail. Painted on a relatively large scale, they awe the viewer with their precise, real to life details. Many of his works reveal an openness of the landscape, either relatively sparse or cloaked in darkness, focusing viewers' attention to the journey and the symbolic significance of the locomotives and railway tracks themselves.

Tunnel (Lot 453) is a seemingly enigmatic take on the common expression 'light at the end of the tunnel'. In Irfan's painted world, reality often exists without a context. The tunnel in itself is a metaphor and a complete pictorial scheme, without the need for reference beyond itself. In both Tunnel as well as Ora Et Labora (Prayer and Labour), the artist juxtaposes the potential for movement in time and space denoted by the locomotive and the railway track with a stasis achieved by the use of a monochromatic colour scheme.

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