Yogyakarta’s modern art community in the mid-fifties was composed of a wide range of personalities, including Affandi, one of the most significant artists in the canon of 20th century modern art in Indonesia. Despite the lack of discipline or technical accomplishments, paintings produced from Yogyakarta artists had a freshness born of enthusiasm. Their artistry was “national”, indigenous, genuine and devoted to Indonesian life. An autodidact painter by nature, according to Claire Holt, Affandi consistently challenged himself to pursue his art with complete concentration on the expressiveness of his work, without regard for any social ideology that could affect his choice of subject or style. In contrast to the Mooi Indie artists which often used soft lines and choice of colours to create paintings with formal composition, Affandi’s long-life passion was to portray the everyday life of Indonesian people and its beauty Mooi Indie was a term coined by fellow artist S.Sudjojono in the 1930s that criticised Dutch and local naturalist artists who were commissioned by the Dutch colony to depict the tranquil landscape of Indies and its beautiful exotic women as a means to attract more tourists coming into the Indies.
Of an aristocratic family background, Affandi was fortunate to receive formal education during the Dutch colonial period. This opportunity allowed Affandi to learn and acquaint himself with the current movements in Western art. As a result, his early works were strongly inspired by the western naturalist movement. During his early years of painting, Affandi rendered his subjects with realist techniques. His lines were straight, and figures were clearly portrayed to minute detail in colours that were in accordance to reality. However, his loose brushwork was already evident in some of his more informal pieces. In tracing the first 20 years of Affandi’s artistic journey, we can see the development of his finesse – from realism to the expressionism that he is well known for today. Affandi’s direct style of painting from the tube was found to be the most powerful means of expression for him to channel his immense energy and emotion to the canvas, producing energetic line works that were inspired by wayang kulit. Through the years, Affandi’s art is always consistent; retaining the same character of strong linear movement and expressive tension.
BECOMING ONE WITH HIS SUBJECT
Affandi’s art has always been a product of his direct observation of his surroundings. Affandi regarded himself as naturalist, and in his own way sought to depict the realities of the world around him. Painting for Affandi was a process of fixing the storm of energy from his emotion which has arisen through concentration on something which had initially inspired him. During the painting process, Affandi would take time to examine the subject of his painting, probing into its being until he felt that he had become one with it. From the early 1960s onwards, Affandi used his paintings as a fundamental exercise for becoming one with the subject of choice at that moment. A man with high degree of sensitivity, Affandi’s bold lines convey his inner vision onto the canvas. Without hesitation, Affandi vigorously smeared paint directly from the tube, and spontaneously worked it into expressive swirls with the back of his palms, fingers and wrists. With this unique painting method, Affandi had the freedom to manipulate and control the paint strokes.
In Borobudur, Affandi captures the entire compound of the enormous temple from afar. His view of Borobudur was dominated by lush leaves from the crowns of coconut trees surrounding the complex. The landscape of lush plants gives the overall composition a sense of depth and distance from the main subject of the painting. Affandi used dark green paint to create the base for the dense tree tops, followed by his signature use of curved lines thick with impasto, offering tactile detail to the painting while at the same time showcasing the dynamic movement of the swaying leaves – it was perhaps a windy afternoon in Yogyakarta. The structure of Borobudur itself is made up of stark lines. Impasto builds the details of the temple and its stupas. At the same time, Affandi conveys the sense of volume to the temple complex by creating a gradation of colour to the body of the temple complex; from dark to light and eventually nearing the sun.
“I like the sun, so I paint the sun. It is a symbol of my life. It is like the painting. If I only painted one sun, it is not enough, so I paint another; two suns, three suns or four. It depends on the sense of heat that I want to convey” – Affandi.
The sun has always been incorporated by Affandi in many of his paintings, including his self-portraits. To Affandi, the sun is a depiction of the natural forces that he believe in – it represents the essence of natural source of energy and life. With painting the sun, Affandi also reveals the sense of heat that he wishes to convey in his painting; be it one sun, two, or more. Different colours applied convey different intensities of heat, with red embodying a scorching hot sun. While in Ploughing Sawah under the Sun Affandi painted the landscape accompanied with bright yellow sun, the sun rendered in the present lot is predominantly orange in colour combined with yellow streaks, emphasizing Affandi’s rendition of the immense heat and energy of the sun at the moment he produced the painting. The bright yellow lines flowing out from the center of the sun appear to transmit an intense force to its surroundings. The sun forms the centre of the composition, as if the colour of the sky is a product of the sun’s intensity.
Amongst the many subjects that Affandi enjoyed exploring, Borobudur is considered a rare subject in Affandi’s ouvre. There are only a handful of Borobudur landscape paintings produced by Affandi during his entire artistic journey. Christie’s is proud to present one of the most exquisite examples of the subject. Painted 7 years before his passing, Borobudur is a testament of Affandi’s astounding devotion to true expressionism and his subject.