Painting : The Composition (Oesman Effendi - 1975)

Title : "The Composition"

Artist : Oesman Effendi

Year : 1975

Oil on canvas.

Dimension : 61 x 91 cms.

In the painting titled “Composition” (1975), Oesman Effendi presents forms as  pure visual symptoms. Even though our collective subconscious is able to associate these forms with those found in nature, Effendi does not intend to represent any form whatsoever. The biomorphic plane consisting of yellow and ochre niches gives the impression of a floating movement. The impression of the movements within is more rhythmic, because within the those niches there is an accent of meandering rhythmic lines with strong colors. Despite this, the rhythm and the bright colors do not necessarily elicit a sense of festivity. Quite the contrary, the mood is actually that of a suspended calm. In this painting, Oesman Effendi’s expression is also based on tasawuf spirituality that relays calmness through a visual paradox. In the rhythm of movements there can be silence, in brightness too there can be calm. At this level, perhaps he wants to present these forms as a symbol of a certain spiritual achievement, however, in a subtle language.

After 1960, Oesman Effendi became more intensely involved with the abstract realm, to a point that nature and objects remain only an essence expressed through a visual rhythm. In that rhythm, he expresses the meditative, poetic, dramatic, and magical characters with lines and colors. This achievement priginated in a process of struggle to find an artistic outlook that is solitary within its sociocultural milieu.

Despite living in Yogyakarta, Oesman Effendi already began assuming abstract tendencies as the forms in his paintings underwent simplification and subtraction. He conducted experiments with colours and lines, particularly with watercolours and pastels. The painter’s clarity reflects his personal freedom, refusing to be dragged into the populist aesthetic paradigm and political allegiances that tended to sway left, the dominant persuasion in Yogyakarta at the time. To continue to seek this personal freedom he ultimately quit the SIM Studio in Yogyakarta that was becoming too tight about its populist ideology. He then moved to Jakarta and continued exploring the abstract forms with painters Zaini, Nashar, Rusli, and Wakidjan. In 1957, when Oesman Effendi exhibited his work, Basuki Resobowo criticised him of merely captivating the audience with a construction of formal visual elements in an arrangement of objects, lines and geometric shapes. However, it was this criticism that actually solidifed Oesman Effendi as one who steadfastly struggled for abstract art.