Press Release : Srihadi and the Story of Papua Golden River to the Jakarta Flood


Jakarta, 11 March 2020 – A solo exhibition and book launching of “SRIHADI SOEDARSONO–– Man x Universe” will be held on 11 March – 9 April 2020 at Galeri Nasional Indonesia. The exhibition opening will be officiated by the Minister of State Owned Enterprises Erick Thohir on Wednesday, 11 March 2020 at Galeri Nasional Indonesia. This exhibition features 44 landscape paintings by a painting maestro Prof. Kanjeng Pangeran Srihadi Soerdarsono Adhikoesoemo, M.A. created at the period of 2016 – 2020.

Curator of the exhibition Dr. A. Rikrik Kusmara, M. Sn., divides the artworks into 4 groups, they are the Social Critics (Papua Series, Bandung Series, and Field of Salt), Dynamic (Jatiluwih Series and Energy of Waves), Human & Nature (Mountain Series, Tanah Lot Series, Gunung Kawi Series), and Contemplation (Horizon Series dan Borobudur Series).

Some artworks on display are Horizon – The Golden Harvest (2018), Borobudur Drawing (1948), Borobudur – The Energy of Nature (2017), Mt. Bromo – The Mystical Earth (2017), Papua – The Energy of Golden River (2017), The Mystical Borobudur (2019), and Jakarta Megapolitan – Patung Pembebasan Banjir (2020).

Landscape series paintings are a famous signature of Srihadi. Landscape paintings in this exhibition are paintings that have the structure of landscape, land (earth), sky, and the elements in between.

“Srihadi Soedarsono- Man x Universe” interpreted the beauty of the Indonesian landscape as a spiritual passion for freedom and pride as a nation. Landscape, on Srihadi’s perspective, is a deeper theme than a mere scenery painting that hypnotizes people to come and visit.

A. Rikrik Kusmara said that “Srihadi Soedarsono— Man x Universe exhibition is a new approach from Srihadi in expressing landscape because it presents metaphors and symbols which are quite complex. The artistic process can be separated from the Indonesian socio-political condition which has been in a high tension during 2016-2019, the years where Srihadi created the artworks of this exhibition.

Srihadi paints landscape as if he takes notes on every event and record change until today. As can be seen on Horizon – The Golden Harvest (2018, 200 x 400 cm) which features the paddy harvesting scene in the 1970s. The villagers worked together, took turn to harvest paddy. The vast paddy field was bordered by a sloped hill on the horizon.

On the other hand, Horizon – The Golden Harvest (2018) reminds us how the expression “paddy field as far as the eyes can see” is an almost impossible scenery. No more “as far as the eyes can see”, because when the eyes only see as far as 20 meters, our eyesight is blocked by house walls, high fences of a luxurious villa or even the paddy field itself already becomes a property that belongs to a restaurant selling the paddy field view.

“When I was a child, my grandfather took me around the neighborhood to see the view, to see the very vast paddy field. Now, the paddy field at the back of my house is becoming houses. This phenomenon becomes paradox for a rice barn and salt pond country where we have to import those rice and salt instead,” said Srihadi.

The paintings of Papua also become important series in this exhibition, represented with two paintings entitled Papua – The Golden River Belong to Its People (2017) and Papua – The Energy of Golden River (2017). Those two paintings were Srihadi’s memory of Papua in 1975. That year was completely different from Papua’s condition today when the mine is extending, the asphalt road is connecting more roads ahead, and the forest’s area is shrinking.

Let us imagine Papua in 1975 when the virgin forest dominated the area. When we see it from the air at dusk, the view was fully black. Then suddenly we captured a beautiful meandering river, sparkling from side to side. The golden river that passed through the darkness of the Papuan river.

That view was experienced by Srihadi when he was assigned to paint drilling well near Sorong, Papua, in 1975. He arrived at the drilling site in the middle of a forest in the afternoon by helicopter. Landline access was almost impossible because the asphalt road was only 1 km long.

“The nature of Papua was very beautiful to see from the sky. The forest was dark. There was only a golden river, sparkling due to the sunlight in the dusk. This was the impression that I got,” said Srihadi Soedarsono.

45 years later, Srihadi presents discourses about Papua through the two paintings Papua – The Golden River Belong to Its People (2017) and Papua – The Energy of Golden River (2017).

The situation in Papua today is always an interesting topic for the world and will always be a political commodity. One reason is that Papua has very rich natural resources yet becomes a left-behind region.

“The interesting part is that Srihadi does not explicitly describes the reality of the social-political-cultural context, yet he describes it through the metaphor of the golden river,” explained Rikrik Kusmara.

Other important series is the Borobudur, they are Borobudur – The Energy of Nature (2017), Borobudur – Moment of Contemplation (2017), Borobudur – Moment of Meditation (2017), and The Mystical Borobudur (2019).

Borobudur series elaborates on the journey of Borobudur Temple on Srihadi’s hand from 1948 until now. The journey was not about its visual and physical changes, but how Srihadi presents the philosophical and aesthetical concept of the sacred site. The sketch of Borobudur he made when he was 17 years old was the embryo of Srihadi’s decision to paint landscape later on.

As seen on Borobudur – The Energy of Nature (2017). This 160 x 150 cm painting created in 2017 visualizes Borobudur Temple with an orange sky as its background with the full moon vertical to the main stupa. This enigmatic work becomes the ultimate symbol of the process of contemplation and spirituality about the awareness of self-existence in the earth cycle, and even more broadly, the universe cycle.

Philosophically, according to Rikrik Kusmara, Srihadi wants to emphasize on the aspects of human, culture, and universe/nature. About how humans build Borobudur, how humans exist in the universe. Also, human existence as part of the micro cosmos and macro cosmos.

“It really is a unique thing to explore Borobudur, just like Srihadi’s pray for this life. That is why its presence aesthetically is always different,” said Rikrik Kusmara.

Moreover, there is one painting that puts Borobudur in a different context, the Mt. Merapi – The Powerful Nature (2018) with a size of 200 x 150 cm. The temple is “only” a foreground with undefined form, still in its signature silhouette that takes our eyes to the magnificent and mystical view of Mount Merapi. Borobudur becomes small in front of the universe.

‘Zikr’ of Srihadi is seen again on Mt. Bromo – The Mystical Earth (2017, 145 x 158 cm). Bromo which actively sends thick smoke stands side by side with the Batok of a dead mountain. The form and color composition details give the impression of a rumble as well as contemplative just like the way Srihadi works in the contemplation room.

The latest work created is Jakarta Megapolitan – Patung Pembebasan Banjir (2020, 128 x 205 cm), highlighting the great Jakarta flooding that happened on 1 January 2020 to Jakarta and its surroundings.

The water drowning Jakarta is visualized with red color, turbulent, and covers the lower leg of the West Irian Liberation Monument. Its background was full of light skyscrapers, while in the sky there is a ring-of-fire solar eclipse that happened a week before the flood.

The West Irian Liberation Monument that becomes the Flood Liberation Monument is not only a sarcasm. There is a big concern about it. If the flood volume becomes greater, it may raise up to the statue’s leg, and Java Island may disappear.

According to Dra. Siti Farida Srihadi, M.Hum., an art academician and book writer of SRIHADI SOEDARSONO–– Man x Universe, “The Javanese value system forms the symbolical approach of Srihadi, from its shape to color. How Srihadi’s power towards the nuance and the detail is brought forward also enriched by intuition and roso guidance, to achieve the condition of Manunggaling Kawulo Gusti.”

Cultural practitioner Dr. Jean Couteau added, “Srihadi has the ability to ‘feel’ which is not only outstanding but also it is developed and sharpened by the Javanese tradition where he originally comes from. By considering the history of painting in Indonesia as well as the world, Srihadi Soedarsono is not only an Indonesian symbolic/color-ist maestro but also the world-class symbolic/color-ist maestro.

The Head of Galeri Nasional Indonesia, Pustanto said, “Through his works, Srihadi proves that he is a perfect artist. With ethic, emphatic, and aesthetic, Srihadi enlivens his works. On the other hand, his works also awaken his life, so he keeps healthy and active to create more artworks in his old age. This is why Srihadi becomes the source of inspiration for many generations.

At the exhibition opening, a book entitled “Srihadi Soedarsono— Man x Universe” will be launched. The book reviews a spiritual relationship of a human, also his life cycle, with the universe. The writers are Dra. Siti Farida Srihadi, M.Hum. and a cultural practitioner Jean Couteau.

“This exhibition is a manifestation of Srihadi Soedarsono’s consistency as a painting maestro who continues working until now. His discipline and creativity reflected on his artworks are an inspiration for people especially for young generations,” said Slamet Susanto, representative of the committee.

The solo exhibition of Srihadi Soedarsono this year is a collaboration between Srihadi Studio and Sugar Group Companies for the third times for the last decade, they are “Retrospective 80th Anniversary Exhibition” in 2012, “Srihadi Soedarsono – 70 Years Journey of Roso” in 2016, and Srihadi Soedarsono— Man x Universe” in 2020. The last two exhibitions also cooperated with Galeri Nasional Indonesia, Ministry of Education and Culture. The cooperation is a form of commitment from Sugar Group Companies for the development of visual art in Indonesia.


Born in Solo on 4 December 1931, Srihadi Soedarsono has been painting since childhood. When he was a student, he joined the Ikatan Pelajar Indonesia (IPI) in the Defence section in 1945 having the tasks to make posters, graffiti, as well as writing slogans provoking the fighting spirits on city walls and railway carriages.

He then became a staff of Information at Badan Keamanan Rakyat (BKR), Tentara Keamanan Rakyat (TKR), and Division IV of Army in Solo. His duties in making military brochures and sketching important events for documentation were very significant because there were no cameras available at that time.

In 1946, he joined Seniman Indonesia Muda (SIM) in Solo and studied painting from Indonesian pioneer painters such as Sudjojono and Affandi. While joining the Ministry of Youth, the Republic of Indonesia which was located at Taman Siswa School, Yogyakarta, Srihadi was there with Sudjojono to fight for Indonesia through art.

The Dutch colonial was withdrawn from Indonesia in December 1949. Instead of continuing his job in the military, Srihadi continued his school and got a scholarship. He studied at Margoyudan 1 Highschool, graduated in 1952.

After high school, he studied at Balai Pendidikan Universiter Guru Seni Rupa Fakultas Teknik UI which was temporarily located at Fakultet Teknik Bandung (later became ITB). In 1959, Srihadi Soedarsono designed a logo for ITB and the logo is still used until now.

He chose to not study in ASRI Yogyakarta because he already knew the lecturers when he was a teenager who was active in several sanggar in Yogya and Solo. In SIM, Srihadi experienced Mahzab Yogya from the first hands, Sudjojono and Affandi. Another reason was that he wanted to learn something new in Bandung. Srihadi’s interest in landscape approach was defined clearly around 1954-1959 when he visited Bali several times.

The most important visit was in 1954. He lived in Sindhu beach, Sanur, Bali which was still quiet at that time, and there were only boats, ceremonies, and Balinese women on the beach.

From these contemplation moments in Bali, Srihadi comprehended the direction of his artworks. Also while observing the beach, Srihadi found a natural phenomenon that between the sky and the sea there is always a connecting line that is straight, clean, and beautiful. A horizontal line. A kind of ground zero that is ready to develop.

Srihadi Soedarsono retired as a government employee in 1997 and continues to create artworks until now. Some of his achievements were Tanda-Jasa “Bintang Gerilya RI” (1958), Satyalantjana Peristiwa Perang Kemerdekaan I dan II (1958), Charter and Medal of “Satyalancana Kebudayaan RI” (2004), Charter and Medal of “Anugerah Sewaka Winayaroha”, Award of Higher Education Devotion, Directorate General of Higher Education Department of the National Education (2008), also an international award of The American Biographical Institute 2005 Commemorative Medal “Man of The Year” (2005).