Yogyakarta based artist Suanjaya Kencut reflects on the spiritual lessons of the pandemic, and contemplates on it with hope and optimism in his new exhibition, FROM ME, TO YOU, opening on December 17th.
Artist I Putu Adi Suanjaya (also known as Kencut) takes inspiration from a vivid childhood memory of collecting flowers with his mother to make Balinese offerings or sesajen in his latest exhibition, FROM ME, TO YOU. Reviving the daily ritual of making sesajen in this collection of paintings expresses the feeling of gratitude for release from the COVID-19 pandemic confinement and celebrates the reconnection with friends and family.
Kencut, who spent lockdown in Yogyakarta with the distressed uncertainty of not knowing when he might reunite with his family who lived 700km away in his native Bali, along with the news of rising Coronavirus infections, compelled him to seek refuge through the act of painting. He saw the practice as a form of meditation that allowed him to contemplate the mortality of others at a distance and eventually, his own as an imminent possibility. This is evident in the way that Kencut immerses himself in the tactile details of his paintings whether through painted strands of hair or folds of cloth.
In contrast, the paintings Seeing Future, Love Each Other, Level Up and Family Time memorialise the relief that came with the lifting of strict confinement restrictions and the subsequent reunion with friends and family. The warm consolation that Kencut experienced in the aftermath led him to reevaluate the importance of connection, reiterating to him that humans are in fact social creatures who thrive from the cultivation and dependence on different systems of support as family, friends, colleagues and other communities.
Relief aside, Kencut’s artistic creations in FROM ME, TO YOU are also sesajen or offerings of gratitude for his blessings – good health after the reemergence from isolation, the rekindling embrace of family and friends and the birth of his first daughter. Born with Love, in which a liliputian button-eyed figure rests inside a flower, commemorates Kencut’s firstborn as a symbol of joy from reconnection, and a rebirth from fear and doubt.
The Coronavirus pandemic brought the world to an unprecedented halt in which Kencut was reminded that life on earth be it human, viral or otherwise, share not only a common DNA but also a common fate. Yet, in spite of our interconnectedness, he realised conversely, our inability to co-exist in harmony and take accountability for the ecological devastation we wreak.
Traditionally, the Balinese have always been mindful of this symbiosis in their perennial ritual of sesajen as small but meaningful gestures, which recognise all life forms as a sacred, part of our day-to-day and the larger living ecosystem. In A Thousand Stars, a series of portraits of button- eyed figures, Kencut pays similar tribute. He explores spray techniques for the first time and loses himself in dots, adopting a pointillist style where the figures appear devoid of edges, in a state of flux. It is a visual experience that he likens to gazing into a sea of stars, each dot symbolising an element of a vast cosmos.
If social isolation prompted Kencut to reconnect with the human and other-than-human worlds, then this profound sense of oneness with all has paved the way to a deeper sense of spirituality. His paintings embody the mindfulness of meditating, praying, and giving thanks which provide much-needed clarity and guidance on how we might approach life with awareness, consideration for others, and hope. FROM ME, TO YOU is an invitation to share positive energy, trust in the innate wisdom of nature, and emanate joy through art, faith and love.