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Alam Menggugat

"Alam Menggugat"(The Nature Accuses) modified from the title of a work by one of the founding fathers of the Republic of Indonesia, Soekarno(Indonesia Menggugat, Indonesia Accuses) the artist wishes to reveale emphatically nature’s message about himself and what the nature says about our lives. This is the space in which Aidi deliberately takes the effort to listen to the complaints, the cries, the wisdom, and the protests that the nature is trying to tell us. It is a step to making the nature as the great teacher of life, just as the Sufis try to discover God by aligning to the nature.


Wayan Kun Adnyana Curator

The nature has independently and perfectly arranges its complex system of life. Even without human interference, the ecosystem will still thrive. It is not without reasons that the transcendentalist in New England, Henry David Thoreau, once stated that the natural world—of animals, birds, trees, and even grass—has the right to exist for its own sake, not to benefit humans. The Earth on which we live is neither a static nor an inanimate mass; it is a body with its own soul, organic and is affected by its own spirit (Shabecoff, 2000: 35). In the nature, humans should indeed contribute more to keep it alive, instead of becoming its worst destroyer.

There has been a lot of evidence that shows how humans have spoiled the nature, and some parts of the nature have even been systematically wiped out. The air is polluted, the sea is tainted, the green forest is no more, and the bowel of the Earth has been unduly exploited. Disasters takes place more often due to human’s greed; floods happen during the dry season, fishes in the sea are affected by mercury, the air is no longer healthy to breath, and the Earth has become a significantly warmer place. It turns out that humans are helpless in the face of such disasters.

We should listen to the nature, and learn from it. In any case, if humans hold on to our selfishness, the doomsday tragedy might be nigh—all lives on Earth would be gone, as many have predicted.

A Tree, a Pile of Books on Life

The artist M. Aidi Yupri (born on December 24, 1981) wishes to trace the voices of the nature; to provide a space for the nature to hum happily, thus saying about the ethical attitude to maintain the harmony in life on Earth. At this point, the ethics of our ancestors become a book of life that we must take into account—of living in harmony with the plants and the animals, as well as of living with an abundance of clean water and fresh, unpolluted air.

Aidi has inherited such wisdom when he was living in his village in Pancuran Mas, Magelang, Central Java. His great grandfather and his own father have since early on taught him to sow, plant, and take care of the teaks in the grove. His day-to-day life seemed to constitute a portrait of living alongside many kinds of trees. To Aidi, to know a tree is akin to reading from a book. “The tree teaches us a lot about the essence of life. The world of trees and plants is an illuminating reality, providing the whole Earth with the necessary force of life,” explained the artist who graduated from the Department of Fine Art, Indonesian Institute of Arts, Yogyakarta, on one occasion when he was chatting with me.

In the Javanese and Balinese traditions of the past, the world of the trees and plant was believed as providing the models on how we should live. There were two all-important books that taught us how our ancestors read the nature and viewed it as a living being that was connected to humans. The first book is called the Taru Pramana (containing information about plants as medicine) and the second one is Aji Janantaka (governing the use of plants and trees for materials to build houses and places of worship). The two books teach us how humans actually very much depend on the world of plants, from the production of medicines to the building of houses.

Armed with the belief and habits of living as one with the nature since childhood, Aidi uses the nature as his subject. The tree in all its resplendent details, and the philosophy behind it, invariably trigger some creative force within him. Through the beauty of each of the leaves, Aidi discovers an abundance of stories of life, triggering the creative force within him to create new metaphors. Unavoidably, the tree’s image becomes the sign in the effort to convey messages about the love for the Earth. One example is Aidi’s work titled Deformasi Hijau (Green Deformation), with a cut teak leaf as the subject. The work might talk about the artist’s concern about the disappearing green spaces. Let’s not talk about the vast expanse of tropical rainforest; even a piece of leaf has been devoured by the greedy hands of capitalism. The work constitutes a subtle criticism.

Just before he proceeded with his final work to graduate from university, Aidi has intensely explored the world of plants and trees. The profound richness of nature has kept his artistic beliefs and desires aflame. It is the works with the theme of the nature that has brought Aidi into the spotlight and caught the attention of the Indonesian art public.

In terms of his creative framework, the artist, who has been awarded for best painting and sketch of the Fine Art Department at the Indonesian Arts Institute ISI Yogyakarta in 2002/2003, focuses more on the daily living of the plants and the trees. It is true that the environmental aesthetics is actually the aesthetics of day-to-day life (Light and Smith, in Carlson, 2005: 552). Aidi writes about his concept: “To seek the meaning of the nature, especially of the plants and the trees. With a statement in mind (modified from John F. Kennedy’s famous saying about citizens and their country): we should not ask how much the nature has provided for us, but rather ask how far humans can go to preserve the natural ecosystems.” It is a statement that brings us to the important question about the principles we hold that are no longer in harmony with the nature and the universe. It seems that we should return to environmental aesthetics as guidance for us to appreciate the reality of beauty and to be critical to our daily realities.

Let the Nature Speak

In the solo exhibition titled “Alam Menggugat” (The Nature Accuses)—modified from the title of a work by one of the founding fathers of the Republic of Indonesia, Soekarno (Indonesia Menggugat, Indonesia Accuses)—the artist wishes to reveal emphatically nature’s message about himself and what the nature says about our lives. This is the space in which Aidi deliberately takes the effort to listen to the complaints, the cries, the wisdom, and the protests that the nature is trying to tell us. It is a step to making the nature as the great teacher of life, just as the Sufis try to discover God by aligning with the nature.

Aidi has successfully explored the rich details of natural life: the tree bark, the leaves, the blooming lotus, the dancing koi fish, and the tree shadow under the sun. He sympathetically presents them all in his works. There are images of objects that refer to dialogical messages, the philosophy of the nature, and the material world of humans. A light bulb appears in the narrative about natural harmony—the works Di Balik Cahaya (Behind the Light) and Kokoh Berpijar (Bright and Strong) betray such spirit.

In relation to how the nature is seen as the ultimate Book of Life, Aidi uses books as visual signifiers. Books, denotatively or connotatively, invariably refer to the unlimited world of knowledge. This is aptly conveyed in the work titled Proyeksi Kata-Kata (Projection of Words, 2010), depicting a book with falling alphabets that create the image of a tree. Then there is a work titled Pustaka Alam (The Book of Nature), which depicts how the shadow of a tree is reflective of the meanings presented in the pages of a book; or, vice-versa, how each page of a book is about preserving life—plants and trees included.

The tree-dimensional work (in the form of an open book) titled Cukup Satu Kata: Pohon (One Word is Enough: Tree) affirms the theme of the tree that is seen as representing pages of books. The book certainly refers to philosophical understanding, the matter of wisdom. This is in line with the images of leaves that are depicted resembling piles of alphabets.

Apart from the thematic discourse, one can also say that the three-dimensional work also presents a new concept in contemporary painting, in which painting does not merely exist as painting, but also represent the idea of painting (Schwabsky, in Breuvart, 2002: 8). That perspective expands the understanding of painting—from only presenting ideas through paintings, to taking into account new ideas about the creation (the concept) of painting. The three dimensional painting Cukup Satu Kata: Pohon is as thick as a big book. This perspective also reminds us of Aidi’s works of installation, which serve as the continuation of the principles of painting.

In the work of installation Pesan Hijau (Green Message), Aidi arranges resin logs alongside wood tendrils that he has painted on the wall. The line of logs—logging leftovers—reminds us of the reality of the expanse of green gold that has now become a barren, empty field. The stumps convey messages about the brutality of forest clearing. They are representative of the nature’s message that confronts our conscience.

The taking from the realities of nature, elaborated with profound empathy, makes Aidi’s artistic exploration different from the tendency of landscape painting in the style of the mooi Indië painters of the colonial era. As befit a contemporary artwork, Aidi’s artwork is imbued with the artist’s shrewd understanding about contemporary living. The artist presents the subject of nature armed with the new tools of social symbols that can move us to think critically.

Enjoy the Show,
Wayan Kun Adnyana