Looking at Art - February

Jumaadi

<strong>Jumaadi</strong><br/> (b.1973, Sidoarjo, East Java, Indonesia)<br/><br/><i>Untitled [musim hujan sayang … musim hujan: it’s rainy season my dear, it’s rainy season]</i> 2007,<br/> Wax pencil on Mulberry paper; 50 x 76cm <br/>Charles Darwin University Art Collection - CDU2308<br/>Acquired by purchase through the CDU Foundation, 2012 <br/>Image © the artist & courtesy Watters Gallery, Sydney.

Emigrating from his birthplace Sidoarjo, a regency of East Java, Indonesia, flanked by the Madura Strait, Jumaadi settled in Sydney in the late 1990s, where he began his professional life and personal journey as an artist.

He undertook undergraduate and post-graduate studies in Fine Arts at the National Art School, Sydney and was awarded a BFA (2000) and an MFA (2008).

He was recipient of the Friends of the National Art School – Inaugural Scholarship in 2003.

With a strong background in community-based, educational and environmental projects in East Java, Jumaadi's art practice has been informed and inspired by field trips and residencies in Asia, Europe and Australia during the last decade and a half. He has worked with artists and community groups of diverse backgrounds, including Australian Aboriginal artists, delivering cross-cultural workshops and participating in joint collaborative projects.

He has forged links with Northern Australia, initially through travel to Alice Springs as an art student, then through engagement with Ngaanyatjarra-Pitjantjatjara-Yankunytjatjara artists (Tjanpi Weavers – grass sculpture weaving workshops) and Yolngu artists ("The Eyes of the Marege" – a collaborative project between Maccassan and Yolngu performers). He was artist-in-residence at Flinders University (Adelaide), Hill End (Bathurst, NSW), Port Macquarie (NSW) and Toowoomba (Qld).

International residencies and programs abroad have included practice-based and exhibition-focused creative projects in Indonesia, Malaysia, China and The Netherlands.

Significantly, it was following a visit to Alice Springs and Broken Hill at the end of his second year at Art School that Jumaadi "found his own visual language". His response, unfettered by a desire to classify or describe the new and unknown in a purely topographical idiom, was paradoxical: both emotional and detached. In his words: "It is how I feel rather than what I see in that landscape. I can't get as close to it as Arthur Boyd's rocks or trees, for example. It is always that idea of the window from which we view it, slightly removed. I am an observer of this place".

Since then, his autobiographical and travel-based practice has allowed him to collect "visual diaries that meld over time", forming linked episodes and large-scale tableaux unified by memory, and manifested in recurring visual motifs from the natural world – mountains, leaves, trees, the horizon, clouds and rain.

Landscapes as cultural, as well as natural, artefacts are also the subject of study and contemplation in Jumaadi's oeuvre. In figurative compositions, his aim is to do more however, than narrate or "tell stories" that spring from his Indonesian identity and his Australian experiences.

Extracts from poems, love letters or texts from songs sung as a child may accompany his images, yet it is their "phonetic rhythm" and "harmony with the landscape" that carry greater weight, beyond literal translation or meaning. He observes: "I like the sound of text. Whether written in bahasa or English, it's not important anymore".

The flattened, frieze composition of Untitled [musim hujan sayang … musim hujan: it's rainy season my dear, it's rainy season] 2007 echoes the Javanese shadow puppet tradition of Wayang Kulit. Its subject matter is also linked to events that took place in East Java in May 2006, when the world's biggest and fastest growing mud volcano, Lusi, erupted following an oil-drilling accident in Sidoarjo, submerging villages and townships.

Jumaadi recalls that when he created this drawing, heavy rains had begun to fall in his home town at the same time as the initial mud flow: "people worried that the retaining wall might break and their village [would] be the next village to be disappear under the mud". Sidoarjo was engulfed in 2007. Since then, more than 15,000 people have been displaced, homes destroyed and at least thirteen lives lost. The incident also stirred family memories of Jumaadi's father, who died during an earlier rainy season in Sidoarjo.

Jumaadi's art references his Indonesian heritage and family history but does so at a distance: his perspective is that of an artist and an observer based in Australia, addressing universal issues of pain, suffering, love, loss and human experience – beyond language barriers, denominational beliefs and national borders.

As Gina Fairley recently observed, "rain washes his new paintings in torrents, a symbol that speaks of nourishment for the earth but also for sorrow, cleansing, renewal and forgiveness… It points to broader environmental concerns… and Jumaadi's presentation of his drawings floating on the wall temporal and fragile."

Jumaadi has exhibited regularly in group and solo exhibitions in Australia and abroad since 1998. His work is held in private and institutional collections. This work, along with three other drawings on Mulberry paper from the same series, are his first to be acquired for the CDU Art Collection.

[Sources: Correspondence with the artist, 21 Feb 2012; Gina Fairley, "Whispered Landscapes of Jumaadi", Art Monthly Australia, #244, October 2011, pp.55-57.]

Anita Angel, Curator CDU Art Collection & Art Gallery
1 February 2013

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