The Sincere One Who Knows Himself

Over the last five years, since entering the Indonesian art scene as an artist in 2016, Goenawan Mohamad has produced approximately 500 paper works, 100 paintings on canvas, and 200 collaborative works that have been held in 10 solo exhibitions (in Jakarta, Yogyakarta, and Semarang), 3 group exhibitions (in Jakarta, Semarang, and Magelang), and 2 duo performances (with the artist Hanafi in 57 x 76 at the National Gallery of Indonesia, Jakarta, and Komaneka Art Gallery, Bali).

Of the approximately 600 works: 99% depicted portraits of humans, animals, puppets, and creatures from nowhere. There are evee figures—including Djoko Pekik, Frida Kahlo, Slamet Gundono, and Rendra—which he painted over and over on different paper and canvases, or repainted on the same canvas with poses, compositions, and new values.

What calls the author of the legendary “Finger Notes” to draw and paint portraits with photographs or images? Why does the author of the essay “Portrait of a Young Poet as Si Malin Kundang” which has become a classic, always draws and paints portraits by memory?

“I enjoy painting portraits,” says Goenawan Mohamad, “because it requires a certain skill—and I feel challenged.”

In addition, said the artist born in Batang, Central Java on April 29, 1941: “There is a deep ethical appeal in the art of portraiture, an attraction to pay homage to the face.”

For all of this information, Goenawan Mohamad’s tenth solo exhibition set the title “Potret—The Sincere Who Knows Himself”. Especially if we remember his wisdom from 2004: “A painting is a yearning that has no intention of reciprocating: a painter calls out to the other who he knows will not call back.”