“It is only logical that when your frame is upright, paint will drip downward. A smooth painting technique is important for such fine silk material.”
– John Martono
It’s a well known fact that contemporary art is always pushing the boundaries of what one might consider authentic artistic expression. These days, more than ever, artists are challenging the norms of art while, at the same time, taking people on a journey through their psyche. Indonesian- born textile artist, John Martono, is no exception .
Given his extensive background in textile , he has managed to incorporate it into his work in the most extraordinary way. His paintings are all on silk, which enriches the way in which the viewer experiences the painting.
The texture of the material impacts his whole collection, from the colour used to the way Martono’s brush strokes are applied.
There are reasons why painting on silk is rarely practiced: silk itself is quite an expensive material and because of its texture, it requires a special type of paint. Martono himself has admitted that the medium used is not particularly easy to work with, but he assures that it is the best illustration of his spiritual experience.
In spite of the fact that Martono’s work has been applauded at art fairs in Asia and Australia since 1995 at the Asian Fiber Art Exhibition in South Korea, he has only recently been introduced to the European and MENA market.
Lahd Gallery has displayed his works for the first time during the highly-attended “Le Salon de Lahd”, in celebration of the gallery’s 10 years anniversary.
The Inner Light
Two of the closest pieces to my heart by this experimental and innovative painter are The Inner Light and Light My Fire.
Both of these use a wide variety of colours to attract the viewer’s eyes and captivate them.
The Inner Light is masterfully crafted, a combination of abstract painting and weaving on silk. The juxtaposition of textures gives “The Inner Light” a tridimensional feel, adding to its larger-than-life appearance. The choice of colour pallet is reminiscent of “Z.T. houtsnede” by Dutch abstract artist, Jef Diederen.
Analyzing the two paintings side by side, it is interesting to notice the way in which abstract art has transcended time and geographical space. Whereas Diederen’s brush strokes are harsh and powerful, looking as if the black and red are in a continuous power struggle over which one shall dominate the page and the viewer’s memory, Martono’s abstract combination is a lot more fluid.
Balance is established by the smooth, almost liquid penetration of the dark and the light colours, the shades of black, pink, red and yellow, merging into one another like a drop of ink into a glass of water.
As a contrast, Light My Fire is a more melancholic piece, a more contemplative one. With the same combination of silk and hand embroidery, this work is more suggestive of the artist’s influence of the musical Blues. By looking at it, you can almost hear the smooth sounds of bass and saxophone with its wallowing accompaniment in the background. This piece seems to be heavily influenced by the COBRA generation of abstract painters while retaining enhanced feelings and power.
Light My Fire
These are two fine examples of how Martono is making a name for himself in the art world. Both of the pieces showcase not only the artist’s vision and creativity, but also his ingenuity for forging ahead with a technique that isn’t common practice .
Silk painting first became popular in France over 100 years ago and it is quite encouraging to see contemporary artists such as Martono keeping this art alive.
To see more of his works please click here.