Tanjong Pagar Distripark, Singapore — 'Landscape's Legacies: Visualizing Alam Minangkabau,' presents the work of 15 artists from West Sumatra, the region that is today synonymous with the Minangkabau ethnic group.
Intended as a contemporary reading of Minangkabau visual art, this exhibition asks how landscape, broadly construed, has influenced the work of artists from West Sumatra. This query departs from the perceived influence of West Sumatra's first fine artist - Wakidi (1890 - 1979) - positioned in Indonesian modern art history as a painter of the 'Beautiful Indies' (i.e. Mooi Indie).
In order to both challenge the negative connotation associated with the term Mooi Indie and complicate the frequent application of landscape as a framework through which to read the work of contemporary Minangkabau artists, this exhibition moves beyond standard definitions of landscape. It views landscape not as a static object to be consumed such as that which was depicted by Mooi Indie artists, but rather as a key part of what is described as Alam Minangkabau or the Minangkabau World; a world, that is constituted by a rich linguistic system centered around the use of proverbs known as pepatah-petitih, which demonstrate a unique relationship to the natural world like the oft-cited pepatah 'Alam takambang jadi guru' or nature acts as our teacher.
The visual representation of such language and its product, Alam Minangkabau, is explored in this exhibition through forms ranging from the idealized landscapes of Wakidi to the abstract language of modern and contemporary artists like Nashar and Oesman Effendi as well as members of the Jendela Art Group and the Sakato Art Community. The result is an exhibition that asserts a new framework through which to understand the legacy of landscape painting in the work of modern and contemporary Minangkabau artists. Rather, than its more simplistic reading as a representation of a pre-independent 'Beautiful Indies,' landscape is just one element central to the construction of the Minangkabau World.
Press release courtesy Gajah Gallery.