Rasasastra Union Art Festival celebrates mashing different disciplines – Art & Culture

Tunggul Wirajuda  (The Jakarta Post)

Jakarta   ●  
Sat, November 5, 2022

Art & Culture

The Rasasastra artistic collective is seeking to take the creative process to new heights by engaging budding avant-garde artists and the public alike through the Union Art Festival, its collaboration with the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival.

A tiger skin hangs upside down on the wall, its vivid stripes and orange fur capturing the feline’s power and charisma. The pelt does not come from a real tiger, as Indonesian artist Yosep Arizal created the acrylic paint and ink on a canvas impression. Titled Bossbrand, the work by the Rasasastra art collective member captures the animal’s hold on the imaginations of hunters and the public at large.

Bossbrand also reflects Yosep’s tendency to “experiment with new visual mediums [such as painting or sculpting], instead of just one art form,” observed Rasasastra founder and director, Elghandiva Astrilia Tholkah, of the work. 

Making an impression: Josep Arizal’s Bossbrand, which is created with acrylic paint and ink on a canvas impression, looms behind visitors at the Semesta Gallery in Jakarta. (JP/Tunggul Wirajuda) (JP/Tunggul Wirajuda)

Integrating literature and other arts

Bossbrand is among the works featured in the Rasasastra: Union Art Festival. Elghandiva asserted that the event was a satellite festival of the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival, which took place in the eponymous resort town in Bali from Oct. 27 to 30.

Held at Semesta Gallery in Lebak Bulus, South Jakarta, the Union Art Festival “not only celebrates literature but also provides a space for artists to share their artistic process,” noted the Binus University lecturer in Rasasastra’s press release of the event. This element is also in line with the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival’s theme of memayu hayuning bawana, which is Javanese for uniting humanity. “[The Union Art Festival is aimed at] supporting the creative ecosystem within the Greater Jakarta area as well as creating an inclusive platform for […] writers, poets, visual artists, musicians, filmmakers, designers and culture enthusiasts.”

They include polyglot William Tan and his exploration of paradoxes with his Untitled Marks Series.

“[The Untitled Marks Series] is an exploration of chaos and order; how seemingly random movements in the minute scale can be more than just meets the eye,” said the mathematician, photographer and generative or non-fungible token (NFT) artist in his description of the five oil and gesso paintings. 

The transition between states can be seen from the strong lines of Untitled #2 before fading in Untitled #1 and becoming less tangible in Untitled #3. The canvases reflect the 27-year-old’s premise that “simple guiding rules transfigure irregular movements into minimal beauty.”

Photographer Sharon “Joeta” Joetama is just as deft in her observations of the human condition. The ArtCenter College of Design alum’s photographs on fabrics give works like Trapped in Silence, Tangled and Quite a Progress an ethereal quality derived from seeing them billowing in a breeze. The long shadows from the dining chairs and tables in the former seemed weighed down by tensions as if by words left unsaid. 

“[Trapped in Silence and Tangled] show how one can live with another person all their life, sit or dine with them daily, yet one does not know them entirely. The emptiness of the dining and living rooms, as well as the lengthening shadows of the furniture, might describe how the persistence of this state can draw people apart,” she noted.

The ramshackle roofs of a Jakarta neighborhood juxtaposes the skyscrapers in the distance. Titled Quite a Progress, the tangled wiring from the electric poles seemed to keep the images together. Overall, the effect seems to reflect Joeta’s systematic search for a place to belong.

“[Quite a Progress] is my interpretation of home as a place of security, memory, habit and being uprooted from all three. It was inspired by the homesickness of Jakarta when I was studying overseas,” she said. 

“Yet the real displacement occurs when people are not in touch with themselves, one another or the environment, as symbolized by the empty spaces.”

Drawing tangible lines: William Tan’s Untitled #2 is among the sets of paintings that examine paradoxes in various facets of life. (JP/Tunggul Wirajuda) (JP/Tunggul Wirajuda)

Sharing skills 

The participants of the alternate photography workshop pored over their kits of wallpaper sheets and brushes, plastic gloves in hand. Working with brushes and gloves in hand under the eye of screen printmaking artist Sebastian “Pepeng” Advent of the Burnlab art collective, they worked to bring the various pink shapes of butterflies, leaves and other items. They would then print them under the sun under a photography technique dating back to the 19th century.  

“The gum bichromate method for printmaking photography has long been popular for its capability to render painterly images from photographic negatives. This printing process uses a light-sensitive emulsion – among them potassium dichromate – to produce a color from the mixture of potassium dichromate, gum arabic [sap and other pigments] to keep the image together,” said the artist.

“The process requires extreme care, making it essential for the participants to use rubber gloves. Its 19th-century pioneers like Mathew Brady did the same with gum bichromate, dichromate and daguerreotypes,” he said. 

“Gum bichromate can be dipped multiple times in water, though the length of the drying process depends on the amount of sunlight during the day.” 

While Pepeng added that the process might seem tedious, the tradeoff makes it worthwhile. “Alternate photography focuses on photography as a craft, requiring one to put their sense of aesthetics and feeling at the forefront. The printing process is all too often overlooked by digital and advent photography.”

Pepeng practiced what he preached with the Soksial Problem, which touches on social issues like social media addiction, the dissent of youth and the dangers of majority rule.

“Printmaking is [my] medium of choice because it can be duplicated and multiplied into multiple editions, making it more feasible to be owned and shared by more people. Printmaking is also experimental, so the chances of making variations are virtually infinite, as well as its element of surprise,” Pepeng said.

Elghandiva added that the workshops included the viewpoints technique for performing arts, where participants can “focus on performing arts and graphic design. The participants can also practice together spontaneously and intuitively to produce an act and theater-based work, along with the stage’s topography, use of space and breaking the fourth wall.”

The Union Art Festival also features live music performances, poetry readings and a creative market celebrating local arts.  

Rasasastra Union Art Festival 

Semesta’s Art Gallery and Lounge

Jl. Taman Sari I No. 77, Lebak Bulus, Cilandak, Jakarta 12440

Open daily 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Until 14 November 2022

Instagram: @semestashomegallery, @rasasastra.id

Facebook: Semesta’s Gallery & Lounge

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