Painting : The Market (Suromo - 1957)

Title : "The Market"

Artist : Suromo

Year : 1957

Printing ink on paper.

Dimension : 33 x 38 cms.

In this graphic work entitled “Pasar” (1957), Suromo truly showcases his mastery of wood ethcing technique, that is really closer to engraving. Even further, the perspective, lighting, and details have reached such supremacy that this realistic graphic art work feels alive. In this work, one observes the hustle and bustle of a traditional market in 1950’s, where vendors still put their goods on display on mats unfurled on the ground or on a simple table, where women were still draped in kebaya and the coachmen were still wearing traditional Javanese jerseys. In such a setting, a woman in a skirt and shoes, with her children also in skirts and shoes, become contrast and signifiers of the changing times.

Suromo was among those painters born and growing through a ‘concoction’ of Persagi ideas to reveal the reality of social life by means of impression. In this work, traces of how this idea manifested can still be felt, as evident in his way of capturing the reality of people’s lives in the market and expressing it with a play of light or turbulent white colours. The themes around daily lives and the independence struggle have often made it into his graphic works. Among the notable ones are “Pasar”, “Penghadangan Gerilya” (Guerilla Ambush), and “Pertempuran Gerilya” (Guerilla Battle).

Around the time of the revolutionary struggle for independence, aside from his passion in painting, Suromo also expressed his thoughts about his painting credo in the magazine Mimbar Indonesia (1949). When painting, he said, ‘it is important that all of the painters heart’s content comes out. How it gets out or with whose style is not important. The trade of art is not about technical prowess, neither is it about painting cleverness, but the words of the heart dense from keeping it in so much’. However, with time this expressionist credo too had shifted by time and the power of ideas of big thinkers. In 1953, Sudjojono began pitching the idea of returning to realism, so that art can be more easily understood by the people. Interestingly, Suromo, who also had the realist technical abilities, was not immediately taken in by this idea. Along the way, although not bound by the credos that he had written, deep down he still followed his heart. Suromo’s works then continued towards impressionist and the decorative style.