Page 1








BALANCE: New Drawings by Angkasapura By Randall Morris

â&#x20AC;&#x153;I am not a religious fanatic. I am a Moslem and I learn. I also learn all kinds of religions that developed in Indonesia, read their books, including some spiritual teachings from Indonesia and other countries, all have valuable teachings. From this I conclude, that I should continue to work (drawing), do something useful for the world, leave something for my children and my descendents, the environment and even the world, something that will be useful for their future.â&#x20AC;? Noviadi Angkasapura 2015 When Noviadi Angkasapura came upon a book of Art Brut in a bookstall in Jakarta a wonderful thing happened. He saw a way his own future images could be given permission to flourish by just allowing them to come through unfettered by anyoneâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s definitions or expectations. Thus liberated, he began to draw daily, creating dozens of drawings that fused East and West in ways no one had ever seen before. The first impression of a Noviadi Angkasapura drawing is that it is amazingly tight and fully realized. They seem to contain the calligraphy of local scrolls. They are like wall paintings in a post-Neolithic temple in a religion that still has roots and manifestations in the fierceness of Nature. There is a narrative in his drawings that instinctively draws upon the Wayang scrolls of Bali as well as the Javanese narrative scrolls from another protean Asian drama, the Ramayana. But he has copied nothing. In fact he has hybridized it, adding in the visionary wildness, the powerful and beautiful animism of the island spiritualities of the Indonesian Archipelago, each island with its own motifs and sacred patterns and celestial beings. He has synthesized and reinvented a Pan-Indonesian aesthetic by liberating it with that permission granted by the Art Brut book he saw. When one comes in contact with a country, any country in which there are already deep and important artistic traditions, it is almost a given that if one looks hard enough and ignores the academic insistence on the mainstream and status quo, one will always be rewarded by finding the work of iconoclasts, of untrained artists who have reinvented the wheel of formalism


for themselves and have infused the traditions of their cultures with the power and strength of their own culture-rooted but idiosyncratic visions. The tradition becomes the language the art speaks but the artist then shapes it and puts the words and nuances of that language together again in a totally personal way. Noviadi Angkasapura was born in Irian Jaya, Papua New Guinea in 1979. His mother came from Central Java and his father from East Java. They met in Irian Jaya, settled there and had two sons. Angkasapura lived there through high school. He remembers it as being culturally polyglot, with immigrants from many of the Indonesian islands like Borneo, Sulawesi, Sumatra, Bali, Madura and others. Irian was a cultural melting pot for these islanders. He remembers the powerful influence of nature there, particularly the impact of the trees and rivers and lush greenery. He remembers being restless and extroverted and mixing with his friends outside every day as well as the indigenous Papuans. When he graduated from high school in 1999 he went to Jogjakarta to attend college. He wanted to major in electronics but dropped out due to lack of funds. He currently works as an administrative consultant in charge of correspondence. It is here where he finds the paper he chooses to draw on. His parents retired in 2000 and moved to East Java, close enough so that he could visit them on holidays, a five- hour drive through the country. He never lost contact with the knowledge that culture and nature had deeply affected him. The powerful, graceful yet always dangerous drawings of Noviadi Angkasapura are indicative of the future of the field of non-mainstream art as its wide parameters come to be recognized globally, ranging from the almost hermetic isolation of the Art Brut classic artists to the more sophisticated and worldly, though still non-mainstream, art work called Art Singulier. It used to be that the majority of the art in this field, both scholastically examined and collected, came from Europe and the United States, giving it a weight and focus in Western traditions. If this art came from anywhere else it was treated as an isolated phenomenon or it was ghettoized, referred to, for example, as Haitian, Jamaican, or Inuit but kept separate, even though its context and intentionality may have coincided with the Western artists. The two ‘big brothers’ overseeing the field were the specious and highly ambiguous terms ‘outsider’ and ‘art brut’, both of which were not fixed in any matrix of art historical bedrock. They still aren’t. The academic concerns of the field are not necessarily those of the makers. As Angkasapura has said: “ I do not even clearly know the meaning of art brut/outsider, or even contemporary art. I have just kept to my drawing task and the money goes to my wife and child. I follow my feelings. Randall, am not even proud of what I have accomplished or listen to what other people say, this is not a surprise in my life, it is my normal everyday. Some people call me Art Brut, another Outsider, and some say I am Contemporary, it hardly matters to me. The important thing is my commitment to draw and deliver the message, to try and make this spiritual message more understandable.” Many of the older scholastic constructs have begun to change for both positive and negative 5 < ANGKASAPURA

reasons, usually mixing together. As the mainstream art world globalizes, non-western mainstream art has demanded inclusion on its own terms culturally, even as it becomes part of the global mainstream’s context and language, particularly in the art for art’s sake discourse. Work by contemporary Asian artists pushed these parameters first, followed by artists from India and Africa. The non-Western non-mainstream is a messy place. Things do not fall into place so neatly or easily. There is no small army of intellectuals to connect the dots for academia or the general public. Historically it has been mostly dealers who have made the discoveries and called the shots, which means that all too often quality was dictated by the vagaries of the marketplace rather than by merit or discourse. Now we are recognizing the work finally from all quarters of our shrinking world. There are doors being opened now that we haven’t even peeked through. We claim the work is non-mainstream. We define the mainstream. We define the non-mainstream using the language and the perspective of the mainstream, thus completely shortchanging a huge field and body of art. We do not anywhere define it on its own terms. In short we are looking to name a field by using the language of something else. Let us look a bit closer. The mainstream art world is in ongoing discussion with itself about art. It refers retroactively. Even those who consciously take a deliberate stands against the mainstream must see that they have the entitled privilege of choosing that path. Let’s put aside the mainstream for now. Angkasapura is not mainstream. We have a major question to confront then. If the work is not created for a mainstream agenda, why then is it created? I am not sure this question has ever really been tackled. It must be asked. We call it Art Brut and so that is what it becomes. Even Andre Breton has a problem with this designation, especially with the idea that spiritualist art was no longer called what it was, but was automatically Art Brut if Dubuffet so decreed. We call it outsider but we rarely if ever ask it any more questions. Or even one: Why? I may know at least one reason why. Right now there is a major trend in this field to push the work as Contemporary art. Not as its own form of contemporary art on its own terms, but as a form of already existing contemporary art. Unfortunately, because it does not lend itself naturally to this format it is inevitably chopped, blocked and curtailed in order to fit the form. The mainstream wants it to be mainstream therefore no energy is really put into its own power and intentionality, that dirty word to modernists. Seems so simple no? Why do these artists do what they do? When one brings this question up in debate or workshop the answer usually is “no one can guess an artist’s intentionality”. But that is the fallacy right there. The concept of what an artist is can no longer be defined by the mainstream. Intentionality isn’t only an intellectual conceit. When you are dealing with artists who are part and parcel of their own intense and deep cultures intentionality becomes an entirely different animal. In fact non-mainstream art is ALL about intentionality. Not a single monolithic intentionality like that of the art world, but rather a varied and diverse intentionality, ANGKASAPURA > 6

one that is almost always utilitarian on some level. It doesn’t make sense that we use the exclusionary language of the mainstream to define the non-mainstream. The entire art making process is different. The mainstream focuses on a product for which the process of making that artwork is secondary. The art world is based on the idea of finished pieces that can be distributed somewhere in the art world whether home, gallery, or museum. The non-mainstream world focuses on the very act of making the art as having primary importance. This is true of artists working serially in institutions, it is true of the art of the African diaspora, it is true of the work of Angkasapura. They work to stay alive, to survive, as a form of calling, as a way of thinking the world, or as amulet, cultural resistance, history keeping, spiritual contact and on and on. These are all intentions and can indeed be observed and researched. This is the very crux of the difference between mainstream and non-mainstream. This process of art making continues as long as it needs to. Angkasapura tries to make a drawing a day. It isn’t about the finished drawing, it is about fulfilling the mandate of his vision, received in 2001 from a dreamlike otherworldly presence. He draws to live. So the work, or the process really, is never completed, it moves on, whether it is the obsessive repetition of the artist in an institution or the spirit yard of a culture bearer in the American South. It is up to us as the infrastructure of our field to find those intentionalities, understand them, and then give the work its real and proper contextualization. Noviadi Angkasapura is not a trained artist. Nor is he what some might call pure art brut. He is certainly not an outsider. His mission is guided and spiritual. He comes from a hybrid world. Even his name is self-created. He was born in 1979 in Irian Jaya to a moderate Moslem family. He does not dwell on any negative influence or experiences from his childhood. He knew he was driven. He knew his life had to be special. For Angkasapura the act of making marks on whatever materials he finds are a form of repetitive prayer. The spirit who visited him gave him a phrase that has within its meaning “peace” and “patience”. The knowledge that he is drawing to satisfy the calling of a spirit he encountered is more important to him than the finished drawing itself. It is the act of selfmanifestation that fulfills his mandate of artmaking. He began to seriously draw in 2001. While he had always drawn, it was at this time that he had a visitation from a spirit-like being who gave him a phrase/name which one can often find written into the Drawings: KI RADEN SASTRO INGGIL. To Angkasapura this visitation was a moral wake-up call. The spirit gave him a blueprint of ethical living and balance, including the virtues of honesty and patience, “up to 45 points”, the artist has told me. The presence of this spirit is always with him when he draws and again points to his body of work as a process of achieving a moral balance in a difficult world. The act of drawing is a meditation and fulfillment of the spirits words. He knows he is dealing with both fears and joy in the drawings. He senses the dramas played out in the drawings but he does not know much more about them. He does not 7 < ANGKASAPURA

feel he controls the outcome. He feels that those who understand the spirit’s intentions will understand the drawings. Angkasapura himself is merely a conduit for the messages; he is the mediator between us and the spirit, he does not have to explain them. That sense of unusual balance translates to the drawings. There is a sense of music and cohesiveness in them that is not achieved through symmetry; quite often the focal point changes as if he were turning the paper round as he draws. The figures in his drawings are encounters with internal and external forces. His beings are fanged and clawed. They are spawned by but not orthodox to local imagery. They move singly or in tandem with others, their internal organs often worn on the outside, again the play of internal and external forces exposed. Their bodies appear aggressive and dangerous but never really threatening which gives them the qualities of amulets. Fierce images drive away much fiercer forces. “Although the characters seem different or repeated there is one thing that can never be lost, there are always flowing lines and fibers and spines (lines and filamentous forms always form in my head like tangles). At higher levels when I start drawing I have only one story. It will be split into many stories at the beginning as I draw so there are then a lot of stories here, the images will be irregular, there are a lot of symbols, yes there are a lot of stories here, in the world. Everyone will see it. That’s why I do not have titles every time I finish a picture. (I have a secret. I never project anything when drawing, except a little splash of flavor. This is the spirit’s meaning of “honest” and “patience”. . . they are the source and the destination end of my journey, which becomes the message in each drawing.)” Another evidence of the self-therapeutic aspect of the drawings is the calligraphy present everywhere. What he captures ranges from street sounds, mumbled phrases, thinking out loud in relationship to the protective words of his primal vision; Inga Sastri. The writing also affirms the process as the ultimate satisfaction of artmaking for him. He is thinking right onto the paper. It gives each drawing a sense of immediacy. Despite making as many drawings as he does each is very different from the other. If there is anything immediately noticeable as serial in them it would be the materials used to make the drawings which sometimes carry over from drawing to drawing, where color itself becomes a motif. Although he is a Muslim living in Indonesia the drawings are not specifically about his formal religion as much as the imagery touches on local animism in its vivid language. He has said to me that he is spiritual rather than religious; interested in the spiritual lives of all the peoples where he grew up. This is what makes contemporary world art like his so interesting. We can universally relate to these drawings in the West because they are NOT traditional Asian images.1993 They are idiosyncratic even if some of the imagery (rows of dancers, demons, spirits, Untitled, women, animals, long fingernails and toenails) is seemingly local. They are elaborated upon Mineral pigment on paper obsessively. looking 21.25 x 23 in/ When 54 x 58.5 cm at an Angkasapura drawing the eye moves constantly. Again, it is musical, there is a beat, a 21st Century beat in the timeless forms. Nel ANGKASAPURA > 8


Untitled, 2014 Ink on found paper 8.25 x 7 inches / 21 x 17.8 cm NoA 97 ANGKASAPURA > 10

Untitled, 2014 Ink on found paper 8.25 x 6 inches / 21 x 15.2 cm NoA 96 11 < ANGKASAPURA

Untitled, 2014 Ink on found paper 8.5 x 7 inches / 21.6 x 17.8 cm NoA 98 ANGKASAPURA > 12

Untitled, 2014 Ink on found paper 10 x 7.75 inches / 25.4 x 19.7 cm NoA 99 13 < ANGKASAPURA

Untitled, 2014 Ink on found paper 9.5 x 8.5 inches / 24.1 x 21.6 cm NoA 100 ANGKASAPURA > 14

Untitled, 2014 Ink on found paper 6 x 10.75 inches / 15.2 x 27.3 cm NoA 101 15 < ANGKASAPURA

Untitled, 2014 Ink on found paper 11.5 x 8.25 inches / 29.2 x 21 cm NoA 102 ANGKASAPURA > 16

Untitled, 2014 Ink on found paper 8.25 x 11 inches / 21 x 27.9 cm NoA 103 17 < ANGKASAPURA

Untitled, 2014 Ink on found paper 8.25 x 11.75 inches / 21 x 29.8 cm NoA 104 ANGKASAPURA > 18

Untitled, 2014 Ink on found paper 8.25 x 11.75 inches / 21 x 29.8 cm NoA 105 19 < ANGKASAPURA

Untitled, 2014 Ink on found paper 11.75 x 8.25 inches / 29.8 x 21 cm NoA 106 ANGKASAPURA > 20

Untitled, 2014 Ink on found paper 11.25 x 8.25 inches / 28.6 x 21 cm NoA 107 21 < ANGKASAPURA

Untitled, 2014 Ink on found paper 11.75 x 8.25 inches / 29.8 x 21 cm NoA 109 ANGKASAPURA > 22

Untitled, 2014 Ink on found paper 8.25 x 11.75 inches / 21 x 29.8 cm NoA 108 23 < ANGKASAPURA

Untitled, 2014 Ink on found paper 8.25 x 11.5 inches / 21 x 29.2 cm NoA 111 ANGKASAPURA > 24

Untitled, 2014 Ink on found paper 8.25 x 11.75 inches / 21 x 29.8 cm NoA 110 25 < ANGKASAPURA

Untitled, 2014 Ink on found paper 11.5 x 8.5 inches / 29.2 x 21.6 cm NoA 113 ANGKASAPURA > 26

Untitled, 2014 Ink on found paper 11.75 x 8.25 inches / 29.8 x 21 cm NoA 112 27 < ANGKASAPURA

Untitled, 2014 Ink on found paper 11.75 x 8.25 inches / 29.8 x 21 cm NoA 114 ANGKASAPURA > 28

Untitled, 2014 Ink on found paper 12.25 x 8.5 inches / 31.1 x 21.6 cm NoA 115 29 < ANGKASAPURA

Untitled, 2014 Ink on found paper 12.25 x 8.5 inches / 31.1 x 21.6 cm NoA 116 ANGKASAPURA > 30

Untitled, 2014 Ink on found paper 8.25 x 6 inches / 21 x 15.2 cm NoA 117 31 < ANGKASAPURA

Untitled, 2014 Ink on found paper 6.25 x 10.5 inches / 15.9 x 26.7 cm NoA 118 ANGKASAPURA > 32

Untitled, 2014 Ink on found paper 8.25 x 10.25 inches / 21 x 26 cm NoA 119 33 < ANGKASAPURA

Untitled, 2014 Ink on found paper 8.25 x 11.75 inches / 21 x 29.8 cm NoA 120 ANGKASAPURA > 34

Untitled, 2014 Ink on found paper 8.5 x 11.5 inches / 21.6 x 29.2 cm NoA 121 35 < ANGKASAPURA

Untitled, 2014 Ink on found paper 11.75 x 8.5 inches / 29.8 x 21.6 cm NoA 122 ANGKASAPURA > 36

Untitled, 2014 Ink on found paper 8.33 x 11.66 inches / 21.2 x 29.6 cm NoA 123 37 < ANGKASAPURA

Untitled, 2014 Ink on found paper 8.3 x 11.6 inches / 21.1 x 29.5 cm NoA 124 ANGKASAPURA > 38

Untitled, 2014 Ink on found paper 11.75 x 8.5 inches / 29.8 x 21.6 cm NoA 125 39 < ANGKASAPURA

Untitled, 2014 Ink on found paper 8.3 x 11.7 inches / 21.1 x 29.7 cm NoA 126 ANGKASAPURA > 40

Untitled, 2014 Ink on found paper 11.7 x 8.3 inches / 29.7 x 21.1 cm NoA 127 41 < ANGKASAPURA

Untitled, 2014 Ink on found paper 11.6 x 8.25 inches / 29.5 x 21 cm NoA 128 ANGKASAPURA > 42

Untitled, 2014 Ink on found paper 8.3 x 11.7 inches / 21.1 x 29.7 cm NoA 129 43 < ANGKASAPURA

Untitled, 2014 Ink on found paper 11.7 x 8.3 inches / 29.7 x 21.1 cm NoA 130 ANGKASAPURA > 44

Untitled, 2014 Ink on found paper 11.6 x 8.3 inches / 29.5 x 21.1 cm NoA 131 45 < ANGKASAPURA

Untitled, 2014 Ink on found paper 8.5 x 13 inches / 21.6 x 33 cm NoA 132 ANGKASAPURA > 46

Untitled, 2014 Ink on found paper 12.25 x 11 inches / 31.1 x 27.9 cm NoA 133 47 < ANGKASAPURA

Untitled, 2014 Ink on found paper 11.25 x 16.5 inches / 28.6 x 41.9 cm NoA 134 ANGKASAPURA > 48

Untitled, 2014 Ink and watercolor on cardboard 11.5 x 13.5 inches / 29.2 x 34.3 cm NoA 135 49 < ANGKASAPURA

Untitled, 2014 Ink on cardboard 20.75 x 26 inches / 52.7 x 66 cm NoA 136 ANGKASAPURA > 50

Untitled, 2014 Ink on found paper 26 x 20.5 inches / 66 x 52.1 cm NoA 137 51 < ANGKASAPURA


Copyright Š 2015 Cavin-Morris Gallery Cavin-Morris Gallery 210 Eleventh Ave, Ste. 201 New York, NY 10001 t. 212 226 3768 Catalogue design: Sam Richardson & Marissa Levien Photography: Jurate Veceraite