SOUTHEAST ASIAN ART: Indonesia

Kay It Retrospective, continued...
by Amir Sidharta

Modern art
At the end of the same year, he exhibited at the Prasta Pandawa gallery in Jakarta, on the invitation of Hendra Hadiprana, who had met Kay It and seen his works. This show was reviewed favorably and half of the paintings were sold. Among the purchasers was Affandi, a pioneer of modern Indonesian art. Kay It held successful exhibitions in Jakarta in 1966, 1967 and 1969.

During this early period, Kay It's works were clearly influenced by his interest in modern Western art. His Flowers in A Vase (1964), for example, shows inspiration from van Gogh, in subject matter, and from Matisse, in style. One of Modigliani's reclining nude paintings appears in the background of Kay It's Faded Flowers (1965) . The techniques of George Rouault have evidently been applied in his Grandmother (1965).

According to Australian anthropologist David Stuart-Fox, who wrote a book on Kay It, the artist's knowledge of Western art was limited to secondhand information obtained mainly from books. It seems Kay It's encounter with Affandi also made an impression on him. The strokes of Affandi, as well as the maestro's palette, consists primarily of brownish yellows, reds and greens, inspired the young artist when he painted Njoman Singen 1966).


Young Girl in Red, 1968, pastel on paper

Although heavily influenced by other artists, Kay It started his own presence in his art. While certain elements in Village Swimming Hole seem to have been influenced by Matisse's Dance, the reflects what one reviewer in that year called the painter's "somber view of Balinese life". Despite his interest in western art, the artist was already starting to develop his own esthetics and style. This is evident in Festival Decoration (1965), Temple Ritual (1966) and Night Creatures (1966).

In about 1967, Kay It began to work with terracotta craftspeople from Pejaten, a village southeast of Tabanan, leading to the creation of the figures mentioned at the beginning of the article. Kay It met Kerry Hill -the architect of the Bali Hyatt - at the home of Australian artist Donald Friend in Batujimbar, Sanur, in the early 1970s. The meeting resulted in a commission for decorative terracotta tiles for the entrance to the Sanur Beach Hotel. The painter's interest in batik, which dates back to about 1971, led him to go to Yogyakarta to study the traditional dyeing technique, which was gaining increasing popularity as a medium for painting among the local artists there. Kay It employed both brush and the traditional canting (small bamboo scoop for batik) in his works. It seems clear that Kay It's mature style was influenced by batik techniques which he learned in Java and Donald Friend's method of layering.

From batik, he learned the use of resistant materials. On the basis of the resistance principle, Kay It developed a method for his paper-based paintings which was quite different from batik. He did, however, continue to use wax as a resistant material. Not patient enough to work with slow-drying oils, he used acrylics which he applied with rollers of various sizes on paper and board. The layers of paint gave the works rich colors and textures. Then the artist delineated the forms and images in his drawings with pencils and completed them with final touches of paint.


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