Never ending Lesson
Jumaldi Alfi (Indonesia, 1973) is one of the most influential artists in the Indonesian contemporary art scenario. Painter and sculptor, Alfi came to international attention in the 1990s as one of the founding members of the Jendela Art Group, the most important movement in Indonesia that includes artist such Handiwirnam Saputra, Rudi Mantofani, Yunizar and Yusra Martunus.
The art group focused on aesthetic and material researches within a more formalist and personal territory, introducing a fresh new dynamic style into the world of Indonesian contemporary art.
Jumaldi Alfi is mostly known for the compelling iconography of visual signs reflecting existential and spiritual experience on both an individual and collective level. Creating his own code of images, the artist draws on a wide scope of cultural references, from objects of the natural world, to Renaissance paintings, to the childhood memories of family life. The visual effect is at once mysterious and intimate.
Through his artworks, Alfi is reminiscent of his home country modern and contemporary art historic roots. In Melting Memories series, the artist relies on the “Mooi Indie” colourful style, better known as “Indonesia Molek”, wide expressed during the Dutch colonisation and characterized by a pastoral poetry, featuring those landscapes which were pretty typical of Dutch India at that time.
On the other hand, artworks from Blackboard Series reflect the influence wielded by artists such as Anselm Kiefer, Gerard Richter, Douglas Huebler, Joseph Beuys and Ed Ruscha. These blackboards – in which frames and sticky tapes are even painted – declare their paradox and mean to challenge the viewers’ consciousness.
“Experience is the best teacher” the artist’s maxim: he specifically chooses a few items from the educating system sphere, like (painted) blackboards and chalk traces, as his artistic mean to develop his surveys and stories. Through his canvases, Alfi ironically teaches lessons, relying on written words. These are the words borrowed from the Western artistars mentioned above, striving for a new dictionary. Alfi skilfully uses the literaly rhetoric of quotes, building linguistic connections recalling subjective experiences. Transformations and fractures in the original meanings of chosen signs are carried out also deleting some words and leaving chalky white rings on the blackboard surfaces.
Simple at first sight, Alfi’s paintings result from multiple layers of varnish and from a deep technical skill, able to convey, through universally recognizable signs, meanings that are sometimes cryptic, sometimes explicit, never banal, always in equilibrium, like a tightrope walker, on the thin timeline between the memory of the past and the seizure of the present.