Friday, May 11, 2012

What led to enlightenment

I do not speak or understand English, and here in Yogyakarta we hardly have any material worth noting and so I do not read about international art discourses or art politics from the Western world. I am thus not influenced by any outside discussions (others later told me there were people discussing feminism at the same time) but when I chose my subjects, I did so entirely from my own choice based on my experiences and intuition.

Despite the traumatic expereiences I face, after an intensely stressful childhood and my marriage, I have endured thus far and have no intention of ever giving up. I am not sure when exactly, but I came to the conclusion one day that women should represent ourselves as autonomous subjects. We have potential which is different but no less capable than that of our male counterparts, and we should coexist harmoniously and fairly together in this SHARED WORLD.

 So I decided to paint a masterpiece, one I would be really proud of, to tell the world of my new belief.

 Srikandi (1993)

In “Srikandi”, I question the necessity of the traditional societal norms and expectations a woman is expected to live up to. Indonesian society dictates that a woman is required to fulfil the role of an obedient subject to male order and admonition, victims of sexism in their own homes. However, in “Srikandi”, I present this theme with a twist, whereby the females are spirited, bold and assertive- integrating aspects of myself in an empowered state.

I was greatly influenced by my social environment, and thus selected the character of Srikandi to represent herself. Srikandi is a beloved legendary character from the Mahabharata Hindu epic, well known throughout Indonesia for her loyalty and courage in the Bratayuda battle for the sake of the prince she loved. I painted myself as the authoritative, strong and challenging “Warrior Woman” who stridently repels the critical and doubting eyes of society, which had formerly rendered many of its women prisoners of tradition. Fists clenched on muscular arms, her head up, with wide open staring eyes, Srikandi presents a challenge to the spying eyes before her.

Critics have told me that my pride, “Srikandi”, is characteristic of the artworks by Indonesian female artists, which often depict themselves exploring and asserting the self. I have located myself in a fictional aesthetic world, indicating my desire to define my self and identity in visual and aesthetic ways rather than verbally or overly politically. As I was oppressed in her youth, the act of taking charge has vital importance to me. “Srikandi” differs greatly from my previous works such as “Spying Eyes”, which depicts women in prisons of Indonesian society. It was painted later, in 1993, when I had come to the conclusion that women should represent themselves as autonomous subjects having potential which is different but no less capable than that of their male counterparts. Thus, through “Srikandi”, I chose to express my personal liberation and struggle for self empowerment and freedom from the norms and judgement of the world through questioning dominant social paradigms.

Thus, I was greatly influenced by my social environment in my homeland, as well as my own personal background and experiences in the creation of artworks such as “Srikandi” which depict myself as a modern global woman fighting for her place to define her own place in the world, and being a woman in Indonesia is the core of my existence.

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