(1922 - 1994)
Sudjana Kerton was active/lived in Indonesia. Sudjana Kerton is known for painting.
Biography from Sotheby's Hong Kong
"Every artist should feel the spirit of responsibility for his
country, be a nationalist with homeland's hi-value tradition, and have
the willingness of new creativity for the brand new community. Every
artist should be given the chance to create and develop his art on his
own, [with] the respect from the community as a very important strength".(From the conversation between Sudjana Kerton and Endang K. Sobirin, Merdeka daily, May 1st 1984)1
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have the ability to redefine the ordinary, and transcend what is
seemingly mundane to become fresh narratives as seen through a new
perspective. When coupled with nationalistic ideologies, however, the
artworks take on a transformative aspect, and establish themselves as
part of a greater whole. Such is the story of Sudjana Kerton's oeuvre,
for the Indonesian artist's paintings act as a visual documentation of
the country's independence from the Dutch, and is further punctuated by
his twenty-five year self-exile overseas. Though he desired to return
throughout the years, political and personal events prevented him from
doing so. His painting Kaki Lima (Street Vendors) is an
important part of Kerton's oeuvre, for it was created one year after
his return to Indonesia, and is a celebration of the artist's happiness
of coming home. The individuals within the painting are a colorful cast
of characters, their energy radiating forth from the canvas. Throughout Kerton's body of works, he continuously strived to "…review the past, [and] read it again to be able to see and understand a vision [for a better] future"2.
It was his nationalistic ideals that fueled the paintings, providing
the canvases with endless stories and memories to share. The Indonesia
that he remembered, and the one that found itself reimagined within the
paintings was filled with human stories—the lives of the everyman
fleshed out within two-dimensional landscapes, forever a part of the
country's history and lore."Even when I lived in the United
States, my subjects were still mostly Indonesian. I did make a few
sketches of skyscrapers in New York, and it is a good to do that a few
times, but I don't have the inner conviction to paint such things. I
find there is little in the West that I can hold or grasp on to", Kerton said. "Living
in the United States only strengthened my conviction to paint
Indonesian subjects. My aim is to make people think critically about
life in Indonesia, but I like to mix this with humour and the beauty of
Kerton's interest in figurative works began with his early profession as an artist-journalist for the Indonesian newspaper Patriot.
He voluntarily went into the battles amidst gunfire and death, and
reported on the country's revolution as it unfolded before his eyes. "I
feel that each subject I paint has become a part of my inner feelings
since first encounter; I become a part of it as it becomes a part of me", he said4.
During his lifetime the artist experienced Dutch rule in Indonesia, the
Japanese occupation during World War II, and the country's
independence. An art scholarship to study in Holland provided him with
the opportunity to travel abroad in the early fifties. Once in Europe he
continued onwards to Paris, before traveling to America where he
relocated in New York. Kerton's oeuvre is a culmination of the personal
histories of those he met, and the landscapes that he passed through.
Kaki Lima (Street Vendors)
is a portrayal of village night life in Bandung, West Java, where the
artist spent his adolescence, and then later years when he returned to
Indonesia. The scene is a lively depiction of food vendors and their
customers, with the added flair of street entertainers singing songs for
a handful of rupiahs. The people are portrayed as per their emotions,
rather than through individual likeness or form. This choice style of
painting was deliberate, and allowed the artist to examine himself as an
Indonesian and as an immigrant living abroad. Thus Kaki Lima (Street Vendors) like many works from his oeuvre is an emotional narrative, rather than a contextual one. It was the artist's "…decision
to visually distort, [for] the precision of shapes was no longer the
defining element… [and by] stretching, twisting, enlarging and deforming
things and people"5, he was able to capture the innate
qualities of his subjects. Critics may have referred to Kerton's
creative philosophy as the "theme of the ordinary"6,
but for the artist life itself was extraordinary, for it was the small
moments that defined an individual, and community that established
familial bonds. In the end it was all these aspects of human existence
that made up the sum of a much larger picture.
1.Zaelani, R.A., Kerton, L., Wright, A., Rizki Akhmad Zaelani, Nationalism and Its Transformations: Reflection on Works of Sudjana Kerton, Pendidikan Dan Kebudayaan (Ministry of Education and Culture), Jakarta, Indonesia, 1996, p. 137.
2. Refer to 1, p. 161.
Tony Donaldson's transcribed interviews with Kerton from July 1988 in
the article "Memories of My Homeland": Sudjana Kerton Talks About His
Art - published in Orientations June 2007
4. Refer to 1.5. Herry Dim, "Sudjana Kerton: The 'Free Paintinger of Independence'", A Separate History: Sudjana Kerton in Indonesian Modern Art, Sanggar Luhur, Indonesia, 2003.6. Refer to 1, p. 157.
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