Updated: Nov 17, 2021
“I will pursue art until the end of my life, because it is a gift from God that was given since I was born. Art is a part of my life.”
- Taufik Prawoto
In the midst of the pandemic that hit Indonesia, Taufik Prawoto, an artist based in Jakarta, enthusiastically holds his solo exhibition in Ancol, Jakarta. However, even though he hoped that this exhibition would bring many new collectors from his area, the activity must be postponed due to the government's emergency restriction in preventing the spread of the Covid-19.
This open studio activity is a collaboration between the artist born in Pati, Central Java, and L Project in a series of events called Indonesia Art Expo 2021. Not only does Taufik who has to stop his activities temporarily, some other participants who live in Java-Bali areas also have to return in selling online rather than sold their artworks physically at their own respective studios.
Luckily, we managed to get a chance to have a chat with Taufik Prawoto, even though this visit was conducted online. Taufik started his career as an artist with self-taught knowledge gained from exchanging ideas with several artist-friends from Bandung. His love for the art world led the man born in 1965 to take a job in the advertising field, precisely as a poster designer for films. This was a stepping stone for his dream career as a painter by actively participating in various art exhibitions, which began in 1984.
Taufik's passion for fine arts grew through his interest in reading biographies of various national maestros such as Affandi, S. Sudjojono, and Indra Gunawan. Taufik also paid special attention in the early days of his work in the impressionism era, which influenced his painting style more or less.
"I am also interested in artists in the impressionism era such as Monet, Degas, Van Gogh, Renoir, and you know. But my interest does not have to be a necessary to be like them, but only interested as a barometer of my artistic journey."
In his dedication to the world of fine arts, Taufik Prawoto explained the development of his art which can be divided into three periods starting from the impressionism era, which was explained above that many great artists were used as a barometer of Taufik's art. Following up, there is the realism period which eventually became into a “terhimpit” or squeezed period starting from 2012-2013 due to the influence of the artist’s life during his residency in Jakarta. This period tells the story of Taufik's paradigm of seeing the phenomenon of life in Jakarta, which is usually described with objects that focus on human interest, a term in where the subject of the painting can evoke a sense of empathy for the audience.
The development of Taufik Prawoto's artwork style can be seen from his latest works available in L Project, where these works were made in the period between 2017-2021. Taufik chooses themes that discuss social issues and phenomena that commonly occur in society. The human-interest side that the artist, who is also active in the Ancol Art Market Community, wants to highlight has been felt in the process of creating his works for the last five (5) years.
For example, it can be seen from the "The Thinker," which describes the contemplation process of the artist who spends his self-quarantine period contemplating on various things. During the pandemic, everyone is often looking for new activities that can be done at home. Some have learned to cook, some have a hobby of caring for plants, and some were submerged in their own thoughts.
In a pose similar to the sculpture of the French artist Auguste Rodin, Taufik reflects on various problems that constantly emerge in his mind that frequently arise during this time.
"I'm interested in anatomy and shape (from Auguste Rodin's sculpture), and I'm trying to draw a red thread about this pandemic situation. There I thought, I was thinking hard, like how to earn a living for my wife and children, thinking about developing my art in the future. While thinking, I also dealing with difficulties, that is where The Thinker came in."
Not just "The Thinker," the pandemic theme is also seen in the painting entitled "Covid Heroes," which visualizes the frontline fighters in handling this pandemic in the form of superheroes who have inspired many people. He also inserted some elements related to the pandemic, such as plants and betta fishes, which symbolize common hobbies for people who undergo the health quarantine.
The pandemic has also forced the artist, who owns a studio in Ancol, North Jakarta, to return to his hometown in Pati, Central Java. During his contemplation in his hometown, two paintings were successfully released in 2021, entitled “The Lost Civilization” and “Creating Civilization.”
The theme of village is the main point in these two works, wherein the title “The Lost Civilization,” the artist tries to visualize the stories of the local people with a historical approach.
It is said that the area (Pati, Central Java) was once an open sea million years ago. This fact is proven by the discovery of various marine fossils found in high places far from the sea. Meanwhile, in the painting “Creating Civilization,” the artist tries to conduct social criticism on the issue of environmental destruction carried out by both corporations and locals against the nearby villages in his hometown.
"There I observed my area, studied my area, observed the mountain, where the mountain was demolished by the local community, where I can say that it is an environmental destruction."
Taufik added, "It used to be (the object in the picture) t a village, but because there was development by the company, it damaged the environment. That's why I drew trees and animals in sketch form to depicted that this was an old story. Now it is all gone."
In the process of finding inspirations for his work, Taufik does not only bring up national issues. For example, one of his paintings, which can be seen on the L Project website, talks about racial issues in Asian descent in white countries. Because of the sympathetic feels of a fellow Asian descendant, the work "Fight Me Instead" was born as a form of Taufik's solidarity in defending those who experience racial discrimination.
Owning to his statement, the periods of Taufik's works that he has lived will continue to change as long as he is still able to work. In addition, he also never limits himself in only creating works that raise social issues or phenomenal critique. "Inspiration comes from anywhere, where the idea comes, that's where I will create my work of art." that is what he said when emphasizing the question, "Should there be any special reason or theme in creating a work of art?".
He is open to the growth of art, and every period of his work is a form of his experimental expressions. Taufik said that he would not be limited to a particular object, theme, or genre of art because it is a form of imprisoning ideas and creativity. In his artistic journey, he avoids being an artist that is limited by specific ideas or themes, which can be proven by the variety of his art styles that continue to change from time to time dynamically.
Keywords: Taufik Prawoto, Indonesia Art Expo 2021, IAE 2021, L Project, Profile, artist