"Who will show the world : 'Look, this is how we are' . A generation who will dare to say: 'This is how we are', which means this is our condition of life now, and these our desires . The new artist would then no longer paint only the peaceful hut, blue mountains, romantic or picturesque and sweetish subjects, but also sugar factories and the emaciated peasants, the motor cars of the rich and the pants of the poor youth; the sandals, trousers and jacket of the man on the street. This is our reality. And the living artist who does not seek beauty in antiquity or in the mental world of the tourist, will himself live as long as the world exists. Because high art is work based on our daily life transmuted by the artist himself who is immersed in it, and then creates." -S. Sudjojono (Astri Wright, Soul, Spirit, and Mountain: Preoccupations of Contemporary Indonesian Painters, Oxford University Press, Kuala Lumpur, 1994, p. 157-158)
Executed in 1976, The indestructible desert belongs to the mysterious landscape series of Sudjojono. It is not a series which the artist painted consistently and exclusively within a period of time but rather it is a recurrent theme for the artist which he undoubtedly developed to its maturity in the 70s.
Although imaginary, the vast desert of the present canvas has a definite lineage of the surrealist landscape of René Magritte, which is revealed by the white cloud in the blue sky, the austerity of a seemingly barren landscape, the eloquent but nevertheless queer juxtaposition of the various objects, all but constituting a sense of absurdity, surrealism and awe. Clearly, the present canvas did not depict a landscape in reality but one in the consciousness of the artist.
It is a mind's code of the artist to deconstruct the world around us and also a way to express his own reading of reality. It is almost like a mind game for the artist as he was well aware that the work would provoke curious questions. Unlike Magritte's landscape on which the artist developed important surrealist motifs that are readable to his faithful followers, Sudjojono enjoyed weaving in the 'puzzling' element in his works.
With the present canvas, the blasted heath of the desert is articulated with cactus, rocks, a blue sky with clouds and very prominently, a red plastic ball. The red plastic ball is placed somewhat in the background but stands out with the strangeness of its appearance and its innate absurdity of being found in the desert. For Sudjojono, the ball represents the artificial and the plasticity of a modern society and placing it in the naturalist landscape signifies an intrusion of modern technology on the traditional society. An intrusion which one needs to reckon with and most probably live with, but the bustling community of plants and rocks, starkly presented in the foreground of the work signifies the strong and unifying bond of the traditional society.
Perhaps a weighty message from the artist, the work however has a whimsical element to it. The cactus and rocks in the foreground might be a stark imposition on the composition but with their definite outlining, they convey a caricatured sense that is intensified by the light colours used by Sudjojono. Playing with the whole impression of space and wilderness within the composition, Sudjojono managed to make reference of this seemingly desolate scene, devoid of human life to the very heart of human society and condition. Sudjojono is thus playing with our perceptions of the entire space; all the rules in this world of Sudjojono beyond consciousness have been bent, but bent in way that produces a unique and resonant poem.