Beauty is a fragile gift, Roman poet Ovid said more than 2,000 years ago. And while times have certainly changed, the essence of Ovid’s words is still true. Not only is beauty a fragile gift, it is fleeting. And sometimes, beauty is ugly.
The definition of beauty and its perishability is questioned by Indonesian artists in the group exhibition “Beauty Case,” which opened in mid-December at the Jakarta Art District in the Grand Indonesia shopping center. The show is being held in conjunction with the 20th anniversary of Dewi magazine.
Twenty contemporary artists have come together to make their case for beauty, contributing works as diverse as paintings, sculptures and video art to the exhibition.
“[Each artist] examines the values of beauty — not only restricted to the body of a woman, but in a wider sense,” said Rifky Effendy, the curator of the exhibition. “[Some of them] even take a cynical, critical or sarcastic approach, which is a good thing because it helps us reflect on the topic ourselves.”
Yudi Yudoyoko’s “Nueva Carpeta” decries beauty as something artificial and commercial in his portrayal of the graphic distortion of plastic surgery. One of his paintings depicts a cartoon-like figure with a female upper body. Over her bare b reasts, Yudoyoko painted the words “love your fake boob honey.” Another painting shows a naked woman crawling on the floor with a speech bubble saying “I like my beauty hardcore.”
A similar approach is seen from Eko Bintang in his work “Beauty Is the Beast,” where a tall woman with shiny long hair and wearing a white dress is pursued by a group of men. They are clinging to her feet and legs, and trying to knock each other out of the way.
“Being obsessed with beauty can be quite scary,” Eko said. “In the end, we sometimes have to face the bitter reality that beauty is not always a good thing.”
Artist Bunga Jeruk’s painting “Bear With Me” shows a woman sitting in a forest in a meditative position and leaning on a bear. A nearby powder case and crown represent a woman’s quest for eternal beauty.
“Almost everybody would like to have a long life, but nobody really wants to grow old,” Bunga’s artistic statement reads. “Growing is old is very scary, especially for film stars, singers, models or socialites. The majority of them would do anything in order to keep looking young.”
Another artist, Ayu Arista Murti, seems to have based her artwork on the popular saying “beauty lies in the eye of the beholder.”
Her purple-colored sculpture “Strange Beauty” presents a woman who is missing her hands, has a mop of frizzy hair and oversized eyes. But the sculpture doesn’t evoke a creepy or disturbing feeling, but rather, radiates a sense of pride and independence, conveying the message that no matter how far people may be from the common standard of beauty, they still can be considered unique and beautiful in their own way.
But the idea of physical beauty’s fleetingness is perhaps best seen in Endira FJ’s black-and-white painting “Oblivion.”
Here, we see a portrait of a couple in traditional clothes with a woman sitting on a chair, and a man (presumably her husband) standing next to her. Their faces, however, are blurry, hiding their clearest sense of identity, and giving the painting a sense of randomness.
It sends a message that has been said often, but is apparently not heard enough: True beauty lies within.
Until Jan. 16
Jakarta Art District, Grand Indonesia
Jl. MH Thamrin No. 1