Ahadiat Joedawinata goes beyond the norm when he creates his ceramic objects. What philosophy lies behind his artwork?
It was early in the morning and a chilly air hung over Wonotoro village, on the slopes of Mount Bromo, East Java, where dozens of people stood waiting at the entrance of the Java Banana Fine Arts Gallery.
Ahadiat Joedawinata, 69, a senior ceramics artist, looked fresh in a high-collared brown sweater and black jacket. Ahadiat and gallery owner Sigit Pramono welcomed the guests to the much-awaited exhibition, SigNature, featuring more than a dozen works produced by the artist over the last six years.
Among the eye-catching pieces was Konsistensi dan Tulus (Consistency and Sincerity), a ceramic statue of adult height shaped like a backbone structure. In the middle is a row of red dots from the bottom up. Its right and left sides are full of holes and torn parts. This work depicts how life begins from the bottom, like a little child growing in phases, says Ahadiat. He described consistency as persistence in living a tough existence, painful and agonizing, as represented by the riddled and torn left and right sides. However, the red dots eventually lead the course to a peak point, when everything ceases.
Another work, Kehidupan Urban (Urban Life), takes the form of a bowl the size of an office desk. Inside the bowl is a structure of blocks of varying heights. It is how Ahadiat perceives a city: an economic center with the power to lure throngs of people into it, a place where its growth lags behind the rapidly increasing number of people coming in. As a consequence, human life will be physically and socially marginalized.
Curator Rizki A. Zaelani explained that SigNature refers to a variety of objects. It can also be interpreted as an artistic crafting process, leaving behind traces of its shaper.
"The degree of sensibility and skill of work typical of Ahadiat are implicit in it," said Rizki, a fine arts and design graduate of the Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB).
Ahadiat, he added, handled all his ceramic works manually and directly. "In this way, he leaves his traces of expression," he said.
SigNature, according to Rizki, is also a combination of sign and nature. Ahadiat has been considerably inspired by various natural phenomena. The work entitled Tunas II (Shoot II), for example, bears the character of a statuette rather than a container. The object is in the form of a curving ceramic with its tapering lower part planted in a glass box. This piece reminds us of some kind of vegetation. "It's not the shape of a flower or a certain plant, but the work has the quality of an organic, living object, natural-looking," said Rizki.
Ahadiat was born in Cirebon, West Java, in 1943. At ITB, he is better known as an interior designer, who obtained his doctorate in the science of design. In 2000, he began delving into the art of ceramics. He taught himself the art of ceramics, which he says is like a three-dimensional space in interior design.
Ahadiat has never had one standard concept in creating his ceramic works. "There has been a series of concepts, as concepts are never really one," he explained. When working with ceramic material from the earth, he adapts to its earthly properties. The same is true when working with plastics or metals.
"I want to make ceramics a new experience," he said. New work for him, means a new experience to his audience. Yet, ceramic material has its advantages and drawbacks. The shortcoming of the ceramic medium is the long burning process of the material. There are two ways of burning: the one reaching 900 degrees Celsius and the other 1,250 degrees Celsius.
"Without both methods, ceramic material cannot be strong," said Ahadiat. But this material has diverse coloring possibilities and can be shaped to become any form. "With other chemicals it's likely to produce certain degrees of thin ceramics," he said.
His ceramic creations are part of his experimenting, as his creative process shifts. In the beginning his works were based on traditional ceramics resembling containers, but later he made them into more abstract forms. "I used to work with traditional containers, which developed in many ways, from one period to another," he recalled.
Changes in themes have also taken place, such as the shifts from Konsistensi dan Tulus, Tunas I and II, to Kehidupan Urban. Konsistensi dan Tulus, for instance, portrays the limited life of humans, but there is always growth, as symbolized in Tunas I and II, until the emergence of Energi II (Energy II), an arena of battles. "War in the world is triggered by energy," said Ahadiat.
His exhibition opened alongside the Jazz Gunung (Mountain Jazz) concert, initiated by well-known musicians, Sigit Pramono, Butet Kartaredjasa and Djaduk Ferianto. Tourists ordinarily visit Bromo for its crater and its breathtaking views. "But when they realize that Bromo also offers Jazz Gunung and an art gallery, they might stay longer," Sigit said.
By David Priyasidharta, Kurniawan
No. 48/12, July 24, 2012
Ahadiat Joedawinata and Konsistensi dan Tulus.