The Wanderlust - The Wanderer Vessel:
An Intermediate Space in Infinite Seeking
Words by Lily Elserisa
An Opener: A Little Faith in an Uncertain Journey
The year 2020 saw many surprising things for mankind, ranging from various natural disasters, political turmoil in various countries, large mass movements in response to various world issues, to the death of legendary figures who were influential in the world. Every year, there are always recurring disasters and new political upheavals. All of these events seem normal and normal like the previous years, it's just that 2020 is not covered with the devastating waves of the global COVID-19 pandemic which affect all aspects of human life.
Discussion about the impact and handling of the COVID-19 pandemic is a topic of concern throughout 2020, but apart from that, there are many new and good things to be done by the community during the pandemic. Both in the virtual world and in the real world, kindness continues to be shared and broadcasted. Apart from all the suffering humanity has experienced as a result of the pandemic, it must be admitted that affection, kindness and solidarity also continue to be seen, read, heard and felt.
Some companions initiated a sharing movement with communities affected by the pandemic, for example by distributing free food twice a week. In the Kebonagung area, Yogyakarta, to be precise, in front of the Palbapang Village Hall, there is also an Halte Sedekah, which is a place for residents to donate and collect raw and processed food for free. Many parties have also opened free counseling and health services to serve the physical and mental health of the community. New efforts and movements were born in 2020.
Artists, art workers and creative industry players who were weary at the beginning of the pandemic have finally not remained silent. Every effort to revive the work of art and the creative industry has never stopped. So that the art climate will not tumble, and the empty streets will not extinguish creativity. Starting from the opening of several emergency spaces by a group of artists in Yogyakarta to support each other's work, virtual exhibitions and shows, various free training and webinars for the community, to donation movements through works produced by artists. This year, art through its artists is able to prove its resilience to adapt to various changes in crisis.
This effort to keep moving, writhing, seeking, and making goodness makes me reflect, humans and other living things are indeed created with a nature to survive even in uncertain conditions. Every good thing that humans have done this year makes me understand that what keeps us going through difficult times are just small beliefs within us. At the end of the day, we only have little faith in hand in making our journey in uncertainty.
Speaking of small convictions on an uncertain journey, I have experienced it many times. One period that I can remember well is my meeting with Galih Reza Suseno's (Galih) work for the first time. At that time, I had to do an internship at an office in West Jakarta. I remember, with all the inferiority in me at that time, I had a self-crisis. I feel all things are completely uncertain. It could be that tomorrow I want to go home because I cannot stand the pressure of work or be sent home because my internship is so bad. During that uncertain period, every day I pass through the office hallways and grow with the small beliefs of Galih's paintings at the beginning of his career. It is this small belief that brought me to this writing, for Galih and the works of The Wanderlust he worked on during the global pandemic COVID-19 2020, an uncertain time.
The Journey to Himself
It is impossible to see Galih's works without questioning how his paintings were made. The question of how most people ask Galih aims to find out the methods and techniques that Galih uses in creating his paintings. His paintings are formed from detailed strokes of acrylic paint to form objects that resemble creatures in the universe. The streaks of billions of colors are intertwined and give rise to texture in his paintings. The texture in his paintings creates a tactile and expressionist impression. Directly squeezing paint to canvas is the answer to the 'how' question that people often ask when looking at the texture in their work.
This technique is very well known as the hallmark of the works of the Maestro: Affandi, but the paint strokes in Galih's works are not as free as those of Affandi. The paint strokes in Galih's paintings offer order with detail. The technique, which has been understood as an expressionist, emotional, and naive technique, is contradictory to Galih's work. His paintings are not naive because he always intends to form figures, both real and deformative. These intentions are hidden in the strokes of the technique.
The paint-squeeing technique was inspired by his childhood experience of seeing and helping his mother bake cakes. For him, his mother is a figure who strives to do everything while his family is still striving to live prosperously. Galih as the first child also had to endure many things he wanted for the sake of his family he has since he was a child.
Hearing this story, I remembered one of the Jungian Archetypes, namely the Child Archetype (Carl Gustav Jung). Jung placed the "child" in a series of archetypes that became milestones in the individuation process. Childhood is a period that greatly affects a person's maturity psychologically. This type of archetype is so developed in the following years. One of the developments is popular in psychology with the inner child (John Bardslaw). The inner child is the accumulation of good and bad events experienced in the early days of humans, namely when children and forming their personality into adulthood. Good things will certainly be good growth as well, but things that were held back, regretted, and felt bad will become emotional wounds brought on during adulthood.
Galih once held back his childish desires and this made him grow up as a person who is accustomed to holding back his expressions because of demands to be role models. Through his aesthetic practice technique through paint-squeezing, he invites his restrained children's desire to process with him as an adult. An inner child can indeed be recognized and nurtured by himself as an adult. This manifests itself in his work which is expressive but also very organized. He recognizes his regularity, the things he once endured, but he also recognizes his inner children with more expressive strokes.
Finding paint-squeezing techniques based on his own childhood experiences is a journey to find archetypes authentically. Using paint-squeezing techniques in his aesthetic process keeps him in touch with the 'child' inside him. Inviting his childish soul to participate in looking for things that have been held back and that have been regrettable.
Galih has a distinctive gesture when he finishes his work, namely touching and feeling the textures that appear in his works. The trees that he paints in his work entitled “Menemukan Akal Sehat” (Finding Common Sense) or “Mencari Pendar Niskala” (Finding Niskala Light) reminds him of the strokes of various tree trunks in the gardens near his childhood home in Boyolali, a cool district in Central Java. Even when he felt the earth elements and the tendrils of the leaves that he painted, he also felt the soil again that he had traced barefoot as a child among the leaves that grew around him. Trees, soil, and leaves are Galih's initial experiences in recognizing textures and adapting formal forms from the One creation into his body.
Galih reconnects his childhood self with himself as an adult, remembers how his mother used pastry bags, remembers the aroma that arises when the cake is removed from the toaster, and even remembers the taste of the sweet cakes made by her mother. Together with the objects he creates,
he also returns to feel the joy of playing in the residents' gardens with his childhood friends. Together with the techniques he uses, Galih brings all of his childhood souls to joy by amplifying his joyful childhood memories.
His childish nature did not disappear, he preserved them as weapons. Galih as an adult is fully in his childhood when he holds the piping tools in his hand while facing his canvas. Every now and then in the process of his work, I even see him take a backward gesture, see his work from afar, and move his head to the right and left just as if children are coloring a picture. Sometimes he also does little jumps when he finds the joy that moves him. It is a privilege for me to see the real manifestation of an artist in the process of making peace with things he regrets and held back during his childhood. Galih can speak with the small form within himself through every stroke that he makes on the canvas through the techniques he experiences.
In his paintings, he seems to be increasingly united with the paint-squeezing technique he has used for years. His work is not naive even though it uses well-known techniques to give off an expressive and naive impression, but interestingly this technique actually brings naive experiences of his childhood into a part of the maturity in his work. His own discovery of paint-squeezing techniques led him to become an artist who is able to communicate more deeply with himself. He can rejoice, explore, celebrate, but at one point in time, he could hold back and take some distance to see his work further. This proves that it is true, the key to maturity in art is being able to make peace with oneself.
Travel in Between Space
Before the rise of Work from Home, Galih was already used to work from home, but working in a crisis is certainly something that is frustrating for any artist. If he usually unwinds himself by greeting nature in the southern region of Yogyakarta in the afternoon or watching animated films shown in theaters as a source of inspiration, this period forced him to look more at the screen or listen to anything through the media. Working amid media exposure that preaches the uncertainty of decision-making by upper-class people, collective fragility in society, inequality and injustice, and the death of expertise are not insignificant pebbles. The longing for tranquillity is deconstructed by the hectic biases of understanding that deplete energy. The pressure in Galih's workroom this time made his head inevitably keep busy questioning things that happen every day. His mind is also busy investigating himself and the lives outside himself. Both the heart and the mind intertwine with the conscious and unconscious imagination.
Questions regarding the problems surrounding COVID-19 are not left unchecked. He searches a lot for news ranging from social, political, science, to cosmology. So far, critical spirituality as the basis for his creation has been deepened during the pandemic. Galih read a lot of news, views, and even journals about the coronavirus in humans. Directed by his curiosity, he even looked for viruses through the existing media. Then the search extends to living things other than humans who are affected by their ecosystem. His body that used to walk anywhere now can only walk in front of search engines. A pandemic that imprisons his body, cannot imprison his mind.
In the work entitled "Mencari Pendar Niskala” (Searching for Niskala Pendar) for me, he thought about many things at the same time incorporating various emotions into it. He seemed to question where this complicated world crisis came from, to the impact of pathogenic cells that came out of their hosts in the wilderness. He also imagines the life that lies far away in marine life, questions and at the same time presupposes the tiny cells in the bodies of a feasting living being, he understands that the tiny cells in him have the same matter as the matter in the silent interstellar space, opens a space to rethink human civilization under the universe. His works seem to want to say that we are nature itself in an intertwined matter outside of us or in our bodies.
His search did not stop, Galih felt and questioned the existence of a good and balanced life between the land, the humans who walked it, and the sky. The answer to this question has long been admitted by Galih to appear in his sleep even before the pandemic. It is not uncommon for him to dream about a dragon that resembles his pet dog, such as in his work entitled "Welfare of All Creatures" to a tree that can produce water and fish. That dream slipped into archetypes that were manifested in his work.
His desire for an ideal, romantic, and balanced life image according to his mind is manifested in the work entitled "Mengintai Tanah Perjanjian” (Stalking the Promised Land). The painting is inspired by an Old Testament narrative in the Bible, about Moses ordering 12 scouts to scout out the Land of Canaan as the land promised by God. In the story, the scouts were terrified because the people who were occupying the land were a nation that was shaped like a giant. In this work, Galih seems to position himself as a lookout, he craves the phrase 'on earth as in heaven', looks at heaven and asks, if the earth is the land promised by God for the occurrence of good and balanced wills, why do various threats frighten His creature?
Both the question and the longing grew in his reflection. He remembered dreams about sea creatures which he later learned resembled the Leviathan described in the Bible (Old Testament and Hebrew). Leviathan was a sea creature which in the Israelite tradition was a large monster deep in the sea. Leviatan resembles a snake that can bend his body. However, according to modern Hebrew, Leviathan means whale, as in the whale in the novel Moby-Dick. Leviathan has tough skin and is able to destroy any weapon and has glowing eyes. This work invites me to imagine that if Leviathan is true, it would be ideal if Leviathan came out of his hiding place at the bottom of the sea and warded off all attacks by humans who hurt the universe. Galih describes the union of land and sea with the release of Leviathan in his work entitled "Disclosure of The Leviathan".
The disclosure of Leviathan develops in craving in a more soothing form in the work entitled "Equilibrium". In eco phenomenology, the balance of the entire created world is indeed a great dream. All beings should coexist without superiority. A chapel, a symbol of world civilization, in the painting is depicted drowning in a dark blue sea. There is also a hexagon-shaped frame that drowns in it confining a forest. Around it, there are sea creatures and various tiny cells that surround them with bright colors as a manifestation of pleasure. Galih imagines the balance of creation is when all creatures rejoice even though civilization after civilization has been drowned by time.
Apart from exploring new forms, Galih is also exploring new materials, namely clay and resin. Many clay works talk about the universe including the ageng universe (macro cosmos) and the alit universe (microcosmos) seen from near and far. Through his clay works, Galih appreciates the social activities of humans and living creatures around him which seem natural and normal, but all creatures have a mystery that will be seen when seen from far or close. For me, the shapes and colors in these works are different but seem to dance in rhythm. Works with this new material divide meanings but also unite meanings, create and eliminate forms. The perception seems to be created, but at the same time, it destroys perception. Through this work, we can understand that the universe works in ways that we don't always understand in a simple life. A good understanding of cosmology is also able to interfere with my mind personally to practice loving the universe and not become a superior creation to carry on other creations.
Galih not only explores clay material, but he also adapts to a material he is completely new to, namely resin. It plays with the framework in the organic form as a medium for the resin forms. This work is Galih's first installation work during the creative process. Clay works on canvas and his installation works are created from the collaboration of deformative forms of microorganisms, pathogenic cells like the coronavirus that we see in the media, coral reefs, and various microscopic things.
Through his new works with this new material, Galih adapts, enters, and blends with the material he has just recognized. The results of this good adaptation process can play with our imaginations through biotic and abiotic forms on earth. These forms are not necessarily a real figure but form a new meaning for the viewer. The concept of the host is the embodiment of viruses and other living things that have lost their safe and comfortable homes as well as the embodiment of the hope of the return of comfortable earth to live in.
Yuval Noah Harari in his article entitled "The World After Coronavirus" stated that the global COVID-19 pandemic has caused consequences in various aspects ranging from economic, social, political, to arts and culture. Staying at home during a pandemic is one of the simplest forms of global solidarity to combat this crisis, yet at the same time, it can be deadly to humanity with minimal face-to-face interaction. The pressure of work is increasing. All those who were initially busy doing activities in the house had to rely on technological systems and various robots that did not need to be isolated. All existing systems change, and all humans must face an intermediate space, namely a transition to life in new ways that have never been thought of before.
Galih also did many things to continue his new artistic ways. In the space between where everyone had to stop, he continued on his way. He opened his lecture notebook again, recalled dreams that were usually only a few moments ago, watched many films, attended art and philosophy classes, read many books, and experimented with new materials. The thoughts, dream knowledge, archetypes from various experiences, and Galih's emotions that he has collected are expressed like a montage arranged in such a way as to form a narrative sequel, manipulate emotions, and create metaphors.
Accommodating and reflecting on what is sought and what is felt in the results of pursuit into a work of art is an artist's main task. In the midst of the still wide dichotomous gap between art and science in various discussions, in this space between Galih dissolves the dichotomy in his work. As an artist, for me he has shown his ability to cultivate interdisciplinary art, that is, art itself is a science. Not because he simply deconstructs and derfomates tiny cells into his works, the scientific side of Galih's work appears to me through his clarity in his method of creation: starting from the search for discourses, the willingness to explore material and media, so that the work created with arguments that convince the audience of his work. Therefore, reading some of the works that he creates in this in-between is an experience that opens us up that perhaps, a conversation about art is a conversation about science that is further away. The global pandemic COVID-19 is a space between that has become a time for him and it should be for all of us to distance himself, get to know ourselves, develop new abilities, adapt, fall, then get up again and get back on.
Journey in Search of the Infinity
Heidegger argues that humans treat technology as a means to achieve an end result or a means to an end. This is what makes us superficially understand technology only as a mere human activity. This opinion was developed by Heidegger to understand the philosophy of technology for humans. Heidegger proposed 'Aletheia' or a way of disclosure. The way humans treat gadgets or technology in their hands is related to a larger logic, which is related to their various imaginations and all their artistic abilities. Through the understanding of the disclosure, human realities both horizontally and vertically will be more clearly displayed. Technology is not superficial because technology can be very cosmological and talk about connectedness after connection.
I feel the need to write about Heidegger's Aletheia because for me some of Galih's works are closely related to technology and how humans position themselves. In his work entitled "Menyibak Deus Absconditus” (Uncovering Deus Absconditus), "Sintesa Semalam" (Overnight Synthesis), and "Mengejar Biophilia" (Pursuing Biophilia), it describes the atmosphere in a room and the atmosphere outside the room in other parts. The atmosphere in the room is described by the existence of an interior such as tables and chairs which are technology made by humans. In addition, some elements indicate a civilization that was more advanced than tables and chairs, such as gramophones, telescopes, pinisi ships, and lifeboats. These elements are surrounded by ornamental flowers that are on the rise during this pandemic because they are so popular with the masses. There are also depictions of philosophers and religious figures, namely the Blessed Virgin Mary without a face in two of her works. He also put ufo and spaceship which is a symbol of a country's progress on the floor like a child's toy.
These works reveal how technology affects human life and how humans position themselves in the face of technology. Heidegger's opinion is indeed proven, amid a global crisis, it is increasingly clear that humanity is indeed fragile. There is an infinite number of things that are constantly being searched for, then humans create technologies. Unfortunately, most of us don't seek the infinite with the truth, in the end, technology just becomes superficial. At the other extreme, even humans often divine new technology and knowledge such as the latest flower arrangement techniques, the technique of growing plants in the house, being the greenest house by taking plants in nature at will, boasting that their country is the most developed because they have the latest technology, or are trapped in being an inferior nation because they still haven't talked about going to the moon. Humans have viewed technology as a cult, not considered as Aletheia or disclosure of reality and a search for the infinite.
Heidegger has a lot to say about the disclosure and exposure of reality. For me, Galih's work tries to reveal many realities of the universe. His work is also always as a search with the little streets that he describes. It should be that travel and search will always be full of exposure after exposure. Exposure for the sake of disclosure will lead a person to the ability to recognize truth which is constant or infinite. Galih's efforts to reveal the truth he is looking for are manifested through decorative, aesthetic, repetitive, and complex forms as if he were hiding either bitterness, pain, crisis, understanding of values, doubts, and various question marks behind the beauty manifested in his work. Galih tries to show that truth is greater than every possibility and question.
A Conclusion: A Passionate Journey
Galih's works with its pleasing colors remind me of a Latin word "Eudaimonia", which means happiness, prosperity and well-being. This word is different from pleasure when we get a prize from a lottery or giveaway. When we get a prize, we will be happy, but when the prize itself runs out or is damaged, then we will return to feeling empty. Pleasure is temporary, but happiness is more eternal. Galih seems to be on a long journey to seek eternal happiness, but the search for eternity is always associated with the search for truth that is never simple. Because the truth now feels ambivalent. His work is both clear and obscure. It takes the ability to keep questioning in order to keep going and searching. The choice to continue to question the truth is the lonely path he has always wanted to take.
Reading each of his works makes me feel that there is a great desire to always find a path to walk on. The path is perhaps the collection of the biggest questions that are brought up in his daily life: Who am I before the Universe?
We may have also gone on a long journey by hearing many people say that God is the provider and the healer, but now is it not the time for us to ask, why are there not many narratives that say that He is the Creator? Is it possible that the lack of narrative makes humans continue to be selfish and manipulative? If the earth continues to heal itself, that means there is always a place to accommodate new humans, but what is the earth's capacity to accommodate human selfishness? Through these questions, our journey in finding the truth is certainly still a long way off.
Passing through 2020 while following his work process, made me join in on his tough journey. In the process of his work, he is continually disclosive or utopian, that is he describes everything that is beautiful and ideal in his taste and carcass. I then remember and share the same wandering desire as the writer of the Psalms, who wrote a lot of praise poetry in his quest for truth. The writer of the Psalms wrote lamentations, fears, hiding from enemies, things that are banal and painful but expressed in beautiful and enchanting poetry. Likewise, with Galih's way of expressing many banal things whose banality is almost completely invisible because it is manifested in a beautiful approach.
This exhibition which entitled The Wanderlust is translated as a desire to continue to wander, describes Galih's works holistically. In his work, Galih seems to want to be a traveler with a passion for the truth. He was like a wanderer who already had a schedule of wanderings before he even set foot on the porch. Galih in his work is as if a wanderer is contesting his own existence and questioning surrounding phenomenon that is never simple, then engaging himself in the search for truth through banality wrapped in aesthetic and magical works of art. The Wanderlust as a whole is the essence of search, self-discovery, artistic exploration, development of aesthetic processes, productive efforts at work, contemplation, questions, and small beliefs in an uncertain time. I always hope that as difficult as the road of work is, the development of aesthetic works spent in his technical exploration, as well as any subsequent crisis will not stop his proficiency in seeking the truth and becoming a human being in his artistic activity.
Congratulations to The Wanderlust and the more mature works within it.
Happy travelling, wandering, striving, falling, and growing
always with full of passion, Galih Reza Suseno!