Complexity and Contradiction in Firman’s Art

flyer-di-kl.jpgChange, happens every second, starting from a dot, a line. Every time it is processed into a natural law to form a pattern, an idea, and imagination. The pattern, idea, and imagination also changes in impermanence in which they will form new imaginations… This is how the changes continues, it never stops. Evolution happens continuously. Forms emerge with their own image, their own existence. This is how patterns, ideas and imagination is naturally born from within the soul. (Firman)

The Buddhist concept of anicca maintains that every moment in life exists in an impermanent and endless cycle of lives. The notion of karma implicates a cause-and-effect chain reaction to the endless cycle. In Buddhism, human life is trapped in this endless chain of cycle of lives, samsara. Hence, the striving of spiritual perfection as achieved in Nirvana is an effort to escape or release oneself from this karmic chain of cycle of lives. This can be accomplished when one has been able to achieve anatta, no-self or selflessness. When one has achieved anatta, he releases himself from samsara

Indonesian artist Firman is in many ways influenced by the Buddhist concepts of anicca, and his works reflect an attempt to attain the state of anatta. At first glance, his Simbol Ritual (“Ritual Symbols”) and Karmaloka series of paintings seem to depict icons on bright colored background.

In fact, the artist starts by applying various colors through a myriad of short strokes of the brush onto the entire canvas. Then he paints another layer of colors on top of the first layer, but leaving parts of the first layer uncovered. The uncovered parts of the first layer emerge as ‘unintentional’ icons. Therefore, the icons are not formed as positive images set on negative backgrounds. Rather, the application of the negative element results in the emergence of the positive image. However, it is true that sometimes he adds smaller icons applied as positive images on the layers of colors.

Firman’s process of layering in his paintings are undeniably influenced by his graphic art works, particularly intaglio. Firman studied graphic arts at the Fine Art department of the Jakarta Institute for the Arts with a focus on intaglio. Even today, he is best known for his etchings. Aku dan Angka-angka (“Me and Numbers”) and Tukang Sihir Cari Popularitas (“Witch Searching for Popularity”) are but two examples of his graphic art works.

Intaglio is created using various techniques often layered on top of another. Work is initially applied on a metal plate that acts as a negative. Through a complex chemical process involving the use of tar and acid, on this plate the artist applies his desired textures, forms, shapes and lines. Once the negative is deemed sufficient, ink is then applied on this negative and printed on paper to create the final image in positive. There is a also certain element of uncertainty in the art works due to the nature of the creative process. We can draw a lot of similarities between Firman’s graphic works and his paintings.

The artist’s paintings reflect a complexity and even a contradiction in the artist’s intention to release himself from his own self -his ego, if you will- and the need for him to come up with tangible images. There is tremendous tension in the intention not to create form and the need for an artist to create form. At the very least, however, he seems to manage to escape from a mode of creativity based on logic to one based on feelings and emotions. In other words, Firman lets his inner soul guide him to come up with images. Yet, the artist also admits that inevitably, at a certain point, he has to make decisions based on his aesthetic udgement about how the image should appear. It is this contradiction that makes his paintings rich and exciting.

Firman does not search for form, but rather he finds or discovers it in a wandering journey into his inner soul. This process of painting is in many ways meditative. Likewise, the images that he creates form a kind of mandala, diagrams used for Buddhist meditation in search of Nirvana. Certainly, they are not the onventional mandala that is based on traditional Buddhist canons, but Firman’s very own personal mandala. (Amir Sidharta)


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