During the month of August this year, the National Gallery (Galnas) of Indonesia in the Republic of Indonesia Presidential Palace, hold an exhibition with the theme “17/71: Goresan Juang Kemerdekaan” (17 | 71: The Brushstroke of Freedom) to commemorate the Indonesia independent’s day, August 17 and the 71 years of Freedom.

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The exhibit show case the collection for the 1st time from the Presidential Palace with the corporation of the Secretary of State, the Ministry of Education and Culture, Berkraf (Badan Ekonomi Kreatif, Creative Economy Agency) and Mandiri Art, curated by Mikke Susanto and Rizki A. Zaelani. There are 28 paintings from 21 painters (including I.R Soekarno), various books, photos and art collected by the first President of Republic of Indonesia, I.R Soekarno.

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The painters at the time are illustrating the culture with the freedom (of opinion) to paint with real expression in rich colours. Expressing the harsh grittiness and struggle for freedom, but also hope and strength, or the irony of society and the celebration of culture.

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The Potrait of Pangeran Diponegoro by Sudjono Abdullah.

The realistic painting is featuring one of Indonesia National heroes wearing a muslim Javanese clothing and carrying his weapon, a Kris with a name “Kanjeng Kyai Ageng Bondoyudo“. It’s interesting how real his expression is, a little thinner because the Prince was sick with Malaria during his fight in the jungle. The painting was featured for special occasions in Yogyakarta Presidential Palace.

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Penangkapan Pangeran Diponegoro” (The Capture of Prince Diponegoro) by Raden Saleh. 

This is an interesting piece by the painter. Raden Saleh respond to a Dutch painter, Nicholaas Pienemaan’s painting at the time, titled “Submission of Prince Diponegoro to General De Kock” on 28 March 1830. In Raden Saleh’s version however, there’s a dignity of Javanese people and nationalism in the Prince’s stand and Raden Saleh as a witness in the painting.

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Biography II at Malioboro by Harijadi Sumadidjaja

Another interesting painting by Mr. Sumadidjaja, it depicted the life of in Javanese culture in the 40-50’s, between the rich and the poor.Every face, ever muscle and every expression tells a story. I admire the richness of the colours, layers and layers upon the skin, bright and cheerful colours of the rich, and more dark, red and brown of the poor in the street of Malioboro.

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Archery by Henk Ngantung

The painting was use on the background during the ceremony and proclamation of Indonesia independent’s day. The first president, I.R Sukarno saw this painting in Keimin Bunka Sidhoso Jakarta. At the time, the painting was not finished yet since the arm portion of the painting was not perfected and there was no available model. I.R Sukarno then volunteered to be the model and the painting was finished by Henk Ngantung. The original is the second picture, and the first picture is a replica by Haris Purnomo.

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Laskar Rakyat Mengatur Siasat (The People’s Army Planning) by Affandi

Affandi is a little unorthodox. He didn’t want to define his painting (at the time, expressionism and realism) instead just paint what he wants. At the time, several painters and Affandi went to the war sights and directly paint there. He even created several posters for Kerawang and Bekasi areas. This painting is one of the poster, but to I.R Sukarno, this is a painting about the common people army and their fight for freedom. You can say, this is some kind of the first propaganda poster/advertising for independence I have the pleasure of seeing. The tag line “(Sekali Merdeka) Tetap Merdeka” (Once Free, Always Free) is like an anthem to encourage the fight for freedom.

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For me, the chance to see these paintings give me a portrait of the society at the time and celebrate the heroes that bring us into independence. The story even though uncompleted and make me curious, impart a deep feelings and appreciation for the painters.

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