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T h e I d e o - g e n e s i s o f I t o ’s Te c h n o - r e a l i s m

In the history of art, the understanding of realism does not Nowadays, photos–instead of tangible reality as it used to
merely pertain to the technique of realistic painting. The be–understandably become the tool to measure such simi-
term is also related to ontological thinking about reality in art. larity. The term “realistic painting”, therefore, can be replaced
A discourse therefore emerges behind the term “realism”, with another term: “photographic painting”. This is the basis
setting the stage for discussions about various conflicting for the emergence of the term of “photo-realism”. Such ten-
thoughts about the representation of reality in an artwork. dency evolves everywhere, including in Indonesia.
Until the middle of the 20th century, the debates about re-
alism–which have made the discourse even more compli- In the development of the Indonesian art world, photo-real-
cated–never reach a conclusion. ism emerged at the end of the 1970s and it is still evolving
even today. The painters betraying such tendency stress on
Today, the ontological thinking about reality in art represen- the distinction between their realistic paintings with the real-
tation, which is considered as betraying traces of logocen- istic paintings of the past. Their realistic works depart from
trism, does not develop further. Such thinking is even mar- photography. The result is strikingly realistic images as the
ginalized during the development of art in the world. The copied photos had been recorded by the camera lenses, with
term “realism”, therefore, can be related to mere realistic a much sharper capacity to record reality compared to the
painting techniques. In painting, the technique creates im- human’s eye lenses. Realistic paintings of the past, which
ages that, according to a general perception, appear similar copied the reality directly through human sight, are not as
(or same) with the reality. Such depiction is known as “real- sharp as the realistic paintings of the photo-realists.
istic portrayal”, or, when the images are strikingly similar to
reality, the term used is “painstakingly realistic painting”. In photo-realism, the technique of painting realistically is
merely a language of expression or an idiom. Behind such
photo-realism, there lie varied ideas and missions. Several vass as a center of attention. Ito, on the other hand, actually
artists present social commentaries through this genre. Sev- wished to create silent paintings with no center of attention.
eral other artists present the urban problems. Yet other art-
ists go deeper and explore the idiom. The results are visual Ito then decided to paint realistically the landscapes of grass,
matters that are not directly related to reality. of prairies, of shrubberies. At a glance, it seemed like an il-
logical decision, as such landscape is complex and almost
Ito Joyoatmojo of this “Techno-realism” exhibition today, impossible to paint realistically. Ito, however, never meant to
presents another development. Ito’s realistic paintings do paint the prairie by painting every single piece of the grass.
not merely use photos. He also employs the technology to
create realistic paintings. Ito especially uses the computer As a graphic designer, he finds in his work environment yet
technology to analyze colors and employs the offset printing another possibility. There he works intensely with comput-
technique to paint. ers, photography, and the print technology. Armed with such
possibilities, Ito executes his decision. Ito, however, does
Ito is a painter of the 1980s generation who moved from not create computer prints. Far from that: he still paints, toil-
Yogyakarta to Jakarta in order to take the art course in the ing with his brush on the canvass.
Jakarta Art Institute. He then went on to study with the re-
nowned painter Nashar and work in Jakarta. In the mid In the beginning, with the help of computers, he separates
1980s, he traveled to Europe and since 1987 he has been the colors of the pictures he made. He separates the colors
living and working in Switzerland. Until today, he is still liv- into the four prime colors of the print technique–magenta,
ing in two countries: Switzerland and his homeland, Indo- cyan, yellow, and black. At the same time, he analyzes the
nesia. When he decided to stay and work in Switzerland, percentage of the colors in the four separate print colors–for
the development of contemporary art, with the inescapable example: magenta 30%; cyan 20%; yellow 60%; and black
postmodernist thoughts behind it, was prevalent in Europe. 50%. He uses the result of such analysis to work on the
The grand current of such development makes Ito change acrylic paints. He gets the color percentage he needs by
his perception on art. measuring the dilution level of the acrylic paints, or the per-
centage of water in the paints (acrylic paints use water as a
When he is staying in Switzerland, he works in a graphic de- catalyst).
sign company as a designer. The job gives him opportunities
to develop his works. Amid his work environment, he learns Just like in the offset print negatives, the color of black cre-
more about the influence of the communication media in to- ates the contours of the picture. This is the first layer that he
day’s life, at the time when the techno-industrial signs hold creates on his canvass. In reality, the contours of the grass
sway over almost all perceptions on life. and shrubberies are a tangle of complicated black lines. It is
only with a persistent will that such contours can be created
Amid such a condition, Ito feels that individuality, which he on the canvass. In the process of creating the contours, Ito
had believed as having an important position in art expres- paints “blindly”. Instead of seeing a clear image, Ito is fac-
sions, turns out to be a fleeting matter that cannot be found ing complicated black contours. Armed with the photograph
in reality. The position of the individual in life is no longer and his eyes–trained as they are in seeing pictures whose
central. colors have been separated–Ito manages to finish the com-
plex contours.
Ito neither cries over the situation nor tries to maintain his
perception about the importance of individuality in art ex- The next process is adding the colors of cyan, magenta, and
pressions. Instead, he changes his perception about art and yellow over the black contours. Such color addition does
art expressions. In his works, he tries to erase individuality. not happen once, like when we are painting walls or printing
He tries to let go of grand dreams signifying the capacity of one-color plates in offset printing. The coloring must be done
the individual to triumph over reality. part by part, in order to create the nuances. In every layer
of color (magenta, cyan, or yellow), Ito must again analyzes
In the beginning of this change, Ito realistically painted the colors, as the color percentage in the first analysis–e.g.
plants that reminded viewers of pictures in books on biology. magenta 30% or cyan 20%–is not valid everywhere equally.
The paintings show the process of growing and the plants’ In some parts there are subtle differences, such as magenta
life cycles. Ito presents the process by exposing numerical 35% or cyan 19%.
signs. This initial change process, however, developed fur-
ther. Ito thought that his plant paintings still betrayed some In the process of painting the parts, Ito adds and reduces
narrations and sometime appeared like posters with some the color percentage, by brushing water in order to decrease
missions. On his canvasses, the plants took a central posi- the percentage, or by adding some more layers of color to
tion as painting objects and existed in the middle of the can- increase the percentage. Such correction is not always done
with the help of computers. In the various correction details, I?” The question does not seek answers. Instead, it is a small
Ito relies on his sensitivity for color nuances. window to a spiritual space functioning as an “emergency
exit” to free the self from the condition of being overwhelmed
With this process, a realistic painting rich in colors suddenly by techno-industrial signs and symbols. It is through such
appear on the canvass, after all layers of colors are added window to the spiritual space that the sensibility is still able
and correction are concluded. This is despite Ito’s usage on to interact with personal experiences. The result: a sublime
the mere five primary colors of the printing technique. Be- expression.
sides magenta, cyan, yellow, and black, Ito uses the white
acrylic paint as well in order to make corrections in the bright Jim Supangkat
parts of the painting. Curator

In such painting process, Ito seems to be working not as


an artist as according to the general perception. Rather, he
appears to be working like a technician or even a machine.
Ito, however, states that he is precisely happy because he
is free from the feelings of making an individual expression.
“I’m glad to have the feeling of working like a technician, a
machine, or an artisan,” Ito says. “And I’m also happy be-
cause I explore the flatness with no emphases, no narra-
tions, no displaying of the grand matters.”

Ito’s works show a sublime expression reflecting the effort


of “the self” in adapting to the marginalized condition of the
individual in life. The flatness in Ito’s works, which are kept
away from emphases and narrations, shows the ex-centric
position of the individual, or the position of the individual that
has no fixed center.

Ito tries to avoid absolute meanings in his works. He says


that the expressions in his works are not autonomous.
“When I work, my mind is never focused on a single mat-
ter,” Ito says. “The thoughts and meanings that come to my
mind are fleeting and changing. When my work is finished,
my relation with the expression in my work is perpetually in
re-configurations.”

Ito’s attitude and works are a reflection of today’s life, where


there is no single meaning as meanings are always influ-
enced by other fields of meanings. Today, communication
methods have undergone revolutionary changes, and hu-
man’s perceptions and sensibilities are eternally influenced
by the dominant representation emerging from the techno-
industrial signs and symbols.

One media work of Ito’s in this exhibition betrays his attitude


and views. In this work, Ito presents a video recording own-
ing only one angle: looking downward. The video recording,
which he made when he traveled around Europe recently,
presents a long-ignored landscape. The video recording is
added with textual comments and presents the traveling
experience with an extraordinary point of view: the point of
view of feet.

The media work explains the background of Ito’s works in


this exhibition. Albeit only faintly, Ito still questions, “who am