Monday, July 16, 2012

The Christian Art Scene in Yogyakarta, Indonesia

Karel Steenbrink over at Relindonesia posted a story about a farewell lecture by Professor Volker Küster of The Theological College of Kampen in Denmark.  The lecture (and accompanying booklet), The Christian Art Scene in Yogyakarta, focuses on five Javanese Christian artists: Bagong Kussudiardjo, Hendarto, Hari Santosa, Dopo Yeihan and Wisnu Sasongko.  I hadn't heard of all of them, though I'd seen examples of some their work.

One whose work I'd never seen was Hendarto, and the examples that I've found so far, I really like.  He was born in 1951 and was a Muslim convert to Catholicism.  I really like his expressive lines and colors.  His work reminds me of a combination of Nyoman Darsane and Sawai Chinnawong.  

Adam and Eve

The first of the three is Adam and Eve.  In this example, Satan is depicted as a grey demon with pointed ears, kneeling and holding the Serpent in his hand as he tempts Adam and Eve to his right.  Adam and Eve also kneel arm in arm, Eve seemingly reaching out to touch the serpent, while Adam behind her looks into the fruited branches of the tree.  The ground seemingly rushes up to the three figures in earth-toned flames, while the trunk of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil curves downward towards the head of the snake, framing it as well as a plump red fruit hanging from a branch above.  I've never seen an image of this scene where Satan is represented by a figure holding a snake.


The second painting is Pentecost, showing four of the disciples as the flame of the Spirit begins to descend from heaven.  They sit on a mat underneath a thatched-roof structure, and react in surprise to the presence of the divine flame.  In the center of the flame itself is a dove shape, representing the Holy Spirit, which descended onto Christ in the Jordan River.  At least one of the disciples is a woman, perhaps Mary the mother of Jesus, or Mary Magdalene.  All of them wear colorful Javanese clothing.


The third painting is Magnificat, my favorite of the three.  In Luke 1:39-55, Mary visits her cousin Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist.  After Elizabeth greets her as the mother of the Lord, Mary responds with a song of praise to God.  This is depicted in the painting, although Elizabeth is not depicted.  Instead, Mary is at the top alone, kneeling in prayer.  Behind her is some type of green nimbus or halo, with waves of clouds emanating from her.  Supporting her from below on either side are two hovering winged angels wearing sarongs.  They float above an erupting volcano, in front of which are three figures that seem to cower in fear.  One holds a gold object in his hand, the other wears a sword or pack on his back.  I don't know how the angels and volcano tie into the story, but the whole image is really cool and has a very iconic look to it.

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