Articles on Enrico

Articles Concerning Enrico Soekarno

Angst Ridden Art

Enrico Soekarno's effervescence is in sharp contrast to the dark, somber sketches that comprises his artwork.

"I have fallen in love with drawing instead of regarding it as a burden" - Vincent Van Gogh.

The opening words of Enrico Soekarno's catalogue for his Hitam Putih exhibition, are not randomly chosen; the artist and graphic designer says his artistic career was push-started by a book on the brilliant but tortured painter. Enrico came upon Van Gogh's passion-filled work and then wanted nothing else but to follow the path of the journeyman artist.

Enrico seems to draw from instinct, an outpourring of inner angst without worrying too much about layers or meanings. He might interpret The Swirl, a drawing of two spirals surrounded by fabric designs as: "In life you have two options and they are both whirlpools going down." But, he adds with a grin, this is a spur of the moment explanation given when repeatedly asked about the 'meaning' behind his work.

Interpretation, he adds a shade provocatively, is the function of the critic. This is typical of the artist who often seems to speak as he thinks. According to him these non-censored vocalizations constantly get him into trouble--and out of work. Currently he has his own company, Visual Concepts, producing graphic art work for a variety of commercial purposes.

"I have to bend to the will of the customer," he replies, distinguishing the graphic from the fine art work he does; but in other ways the two are similar and very much a reflection of his personality.

Surrounded by media looking by media looking for the dirt on the much publicized break-up with his famous girlfriend, Paramitha Rusady (star of the celluloid and television screens), it is hard to get in a question about art. Later, speaking to an audience of one, he is still hyped. Enrico is full of dramatic and nervous energy; it seems quite in character when he declares, "When I work, it is continuously, with no sleep, no food till I'm almost hallucinating. I finish the work and then fall asleep." He does occasionally retouch work but prefers not to: "It's like tampering with the truth. And artists cannot lie. The role of an artist is to give people a lesson in truthfullness."

Enrico says the dates ascribed to his paintings may not be entirely accurate but there is a definite journey visible. Earlier works like Maningrida Vase and Arafura Still Life are descriptive rather than emotive. While these detailed drawings show good dratmanship, they lack a deeper sense.

Kupang Grave or Tutuala Grave might date from just a year later but the mood is somber. These are images of death and decay--buffalo skulls, graves, grave markers--yet the optimist could argue there is a swirling sun signifying hope. The sky in Kupang Grave, as in many others, is drawn using the short choppy strokes Van Gogh made his own in a work like Starry Night. Obviously, the influence of the Dutch master lives on.

Subsequent pictures get progressively darker in feel, subject matter and actual amounts of black used. With a fine black felt tip, the artist combines hatching and crosshatching, working into the blacks over and over, creating very intense contrasts of black and light.

Two paintings, one each on his parents, are not for sale. The Alchemist is a play on the words chemist, his fathers's profession. His father is depicted surrounded by enigmatic symbols suggestive of I Ching, tantra, runes, hieroglyphics as well as calligraphy, a verse to the effect that the pursuit of knowledge is bitter to taste at first but sweet and delightful in the end.

Pudjadi Soekarno, Enrico's father, says his son exhibited talent from a young age and was sent to a famous art teacher for children, Pak Ooq. Enrico also had lessons in painting (Accademia di Belle Arti, Roma), pottery, etching and engraving, stained glass, photography and cinematography. Adds the older Soekarno, "Enrico is very intense and translates himself into his art."

His first exhibition was in oils and showed the strong influence of Van Gogh. "Even today, no trip to Europe is ever complete for the artist without a visit to Amsterdam".

The use of enigmatic signs and symbols may seem suggestive of the workings of some dubious cult or crazed rock group. Or more tritely evoke the fantasy art of adult comic book illustration. While this is a real danger, a work like Secret Compact, almost completely abstract with cabalistic designs, comes through as a powerful painting of intense, dark symmetries. This darkness is most apparent in his deeply felt paintings on the East Timor massacre of 1991: The State of Things, Los Palos or Tata Mai Lau.

There are also many portraits including an obvious self-portrait, The Gutter, the title derived from the words of Oscar Wilde: "We are all in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars."

Merwan Yusuf, curator of the contemporary art division of the Bayt al-Qur'an & Museum Istiqlal, emphasizes the black-and-white medium allows no compromise. Speaking of Enrico's art, he says the work uses morbid symbols to convey the message all creatures are 'uneternal'.

These symbols and tribal forms derived from past and present are a direct expression of the artist's intent. The Swirl, for instance, speaks to Yusuf about continuity without limit, the essential point around which the cosmos swirls.

Perhaps the simple tools required for the sketches--just pen and paper--have also influenced the current body of work presented by Enrico. It has given the artist mobility, the ability to go to the subject. Thus beginning the dialogue between the subject and artist that eventually transforms the subject matter onto paper. And into art.

Parvathi Nayar Narayan

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