Painting : Siblings (Basuki Abdullah - 1971)

Title : "Siblings"

Artist : Basuki Abdullah

Year : 1971

Oil on canvas.

Dimension : 65 x 79 cm.

Basuki Abdullah’s painting entitled “Kakak dan Adik” (1978) is one that epitomises his mastery of the realist technique. Lighting from the side, the siblings, with the little one in the craddle, seem to reify the rhythm of life. Mastering the proportions and anatomy, the painter depicts their movements that hum a silent journey. The mood is like the clear expression of their faces with eyes in an empty gaze. While from the modest and drab clothes, these sibling seem to be haloed by beatitude. Basuki Abdulah, evidently, wants to express his empathy for love, affection and humanity.

That said, the spirit of elation for humanity in this painting is still framed in Romanticism. Thus, the siblings appear more as an idealisation of the world that is whole, or even sweet, rather than an acute sense of the painful reality of humanity. This aesthetic concept choice is evident across all other works of Basuki Abdullah’s. From the mythologies, nudes, animals, portraits of prominent people, or landscapes, although dramatised, all appear as idealised, beautiful, colourful and bright.

For his choice of aesthetic concept, Basuki Abdullah was sharply criticised by his contemporary, S. Sudjojono. Basuki Abdullah’s paintings were said to be full of Mooi Indie spirit, concerned only with beauty and glamour, seemingly ignorant that the nation was then still oppressed under colonisation and the reality of life was bitter. The two maestros did have differing worldviews and ways of expression. Nevertheless, Basuki Abdullah’s aesthetics supported with high technical and academic mastery, still puts him as one of the greats. This is evidenced by the numerous awards bestowed upon him, and the wide support he enjoyed, from the grassroots of society to the elites in the palace, as well as the staying power of his works that transcended periods.