Wayang and butterflies: Sasya Tranggono celebrates her love for Indonesia

Sasya Tranggono is showcasing her evolution as an artist of 30 years at her latest exhibition, which further solidifies her reputation as a master in the post-traditional arts.

The exhibition, “A Love for Indonesia”, runs until March 10 at the National Gallery of Indonesia and marks Sasya’s 29th solo exhibition while celebrating her 30-year career.

The displayed works include 21 wayang paintings from her entire career, nine flower-themed paintings, 10 butterfly-themed works and a wayang installation that was made purely for the exhibition.

Through the works, Sasya interprets major traditional art forms, such as wayang and batik, using methods that have made her one of the most productive and influential artists in Indonesia.

Sasya has stuck to her instincts by painting, arranging and creating wayang artwork the way she knows best.

Each puppet in every single one of her works conveys a different, visible emotion that can be seen through sequined, small eyes that practically interact with the viewer with an effective, penetrating gaze.

The artist said her primary influences were the same ones that drove her to start producing works in the first place: her supportive mother, who is a skincare doctor, and the environment around her, as she has been surrounded by loving people that have kept her going from the start.

Elements of god and faith are also very apparent in her paintings, as evident in the names of paintings such as Everything Comes from God, For You My Lordand I Believe in You (though this one could also be dedicated to the people around her).

Sasya explained that many of her works were rooted in her faith in god and the oft-forgotten concept of pure love when talking about god.

From the works, visitors are able to see Sasya’s artistic development and progress, as reflected in the differences in her works from the year 2003 and the ones made in the 2010s.

In most cases, Sasya’s decision to grow as an artist is a conscious one but, at times, her changes are driven by the opinions of those she values.

Sticking to her tried and true methodology may be what Sasya does best but she admitted that, after talking to her daughter, she felt the need to do more to address the disconnect between traditional art and the youth perspective.

“When I showed some of the works to my daughter, she said, ‘Mom, do something new with your work! It feels flat’,” Sasya recalled.

“So I tried to experiment with different things, such as painting my wayang works on canvas, or adding rhinestones to the art to give it a bit more flair. She still said it wasn’t enough though. But in the end, she still believes so much in what I do.”

These changes are perhaps most visible in her works post-2011.

Her more elaborate pieces utilize rhinestones, such as I Believe In You, a 2014 painting of a butterfly covered in sequins.

Sasya is planning a touring exhibition in Europe and the United States this year. The scheduled stops include Leiden Museum Volkenkunde and the Tropen Museum Amsterdam in the Netherlands, the Museum Fundacao Oriente in Lisbon and New York, where her pieces will be part of a fashion show.

According to the exhibition’s curator, artist Jim Supangkat, all of Sasya’s works have their own character and draw visible inspiration from the works of local phenoms in the wayang and batik worlds; as such, her works can be classified as “post-traditional”.

“Her works showcase the traits of post-traditional art outside of the Western gaze, where her works can’t be defined as traditional art. Rather, they show only tinges of traditional influences,” Jim said.

“Her paintings are pure still life. She organizes wayang golek (wooden puppets) like how anyone would rearrange everyday objects and just paints them. The narration in her art shows strong theatrical character as a result.” (ste)

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