Exhibition Date
October 27th - November 3rd, 2015

Artist
Agus 'Baqul' Purnomo

Agus 'Baqul' Purnomo: Transit

Agus Baqul Purnomo

Dulu, Kini, dan Kelak

Oleh: Deni Junaedi*

Kini posisi Agus Baqul Purnomo dalam peta seni rupa Asia semakin menguat. Wilayah kaligrafi kontemporer tidak dapat dibahas tanpa kehadirannya. Perupa kelahiran 1975 ini tiada henti mengeksplorasi persoalan tersebut dan intens berpameran di berbagai kota besar Asia, seperti: Kuala Lumpur, Singapura, Dubai, Tokyo, Manila, Seoul, Beijing, Taiwan, Jakarta, Bandung, Bali, Magelang, dan tentu saja Yogyakarta; bahkan mulai melebar ke Liverpool, Athena, dan California.

Penggalan aktivitas panjangnya dapat dicermati dalam pameran Transit yang menampilkan karya pilihan tahun 2005 hingga 2015. Pameran tunggal ini juga dapat digunakan untuk memprediksi bagaimana karya Baqul kelak. Dengan kata lain, gelar lukisan ini mengindikasikan kegairahannya selama berproses: ia telah melakukan perjalanan panjang dan akan menuju perjalanan yang lebih panjang lagi.

Pra-2005: Jalan Seni dan hanya Jalan Seni

Jauh sebelum 2005, sejak SD, Baqul telah menunjukkan kecintaannya pada bidang seni rupa. Pria asal Sukorejo Kendal Jawa Tengah ini tiada henti membuat sketsa maupun drawing. Setelah mengenal cat minyak, semangatnya untuk melukis semakin tampak. Tidak hanya di wilayah praktek, kesadarannya pada wacana terlihat pada kegilaan mengumpulkan kliping seni rupa dari koran maupun majalah. Di SMA ia dipercaya sebagai ilustrator majalah siswa. Bahkan, Baqul kecil juga mampu mengapresiasi karya orang lain, dengan bangga ia memulung pecahan piring dan mangkok yang bermotif unik, "Ini seperti pecahan tembikar kuno asal Tiongkok," katanya serius.

Semangat semacam itu untuk anak yang hidup di kota besar adalah biasa, namun untuk Baqul yang hidup di kampung kecil jauh dari hingar-bingar seni rupa menjadi luar biasa. Di tengah masyarakat yang masih mengidentifikasi seniman sebagai kesuraman masa depan, ia bersama sahabatnya mendirikan sanggar seni seni rupa dan berhasil menyelenggarakan beberapa pameran.

Kesungguhannya pada jalan seni rupa terbukti dan sekaligus teruji, terutama, ketika ia memutuskan untuk kuliah seni lukis di Institut Seni Indonesia (ISI) Yogyakarta. Kendati telah menelisik dan mempelajari materi ujian masuk, anak pemilik warung makan ini terpaksa terpental saat pertama kali mendaftar. Tidak mau menyerah, Baqul belajar lagi dan mendaftar lagi. Sayang, di tahun kedua namanya juga belum muncul di daftar mahasiswa. Ia tidak patah, bahkan semakin kukuh, tidak mau kuliah di kampus lain. Setelah magang beberapa bulan di salah satu seniman senior, akhirnya ia diterima di Minat Utama Seni Lukis ISI Yogyakarta angkatan 1996.

Sebagai mahasiswa seni, Baqul menjelajah beragam langgam visual, dari realistik, naturalistik, kubistik, deformatif, hingga abstrak. Namun demikian, jejaknya menunjukkan kegandrungan pada keindahan huruf. Bahkan sebelum kuliah, kegemaran semacam itu sudah muncul. Misalnya, di pojok bawah lukisan pohon yang dibuat dengan cat air, Baqul membubuhkan tulisan Tiongkok meskipun ia tidak paham maknanya, malah tidak tahu apakah tulisan itu dapat dibaca atau tidak. Cara yang hampir sama mucul lagi di akhir-akhir masa studinya tahun 2004. Baqul membuat karya abstrak yang berbasis huruf China tradisional, salah satunya adalah About Love.

ingkat cerita, di tahun 2005 Baqul diwisuda dengan gelar Sarjana Seni. Perupa muda yang mahir bertutur ini siap terjun di dunia seni rupa profesional, karena sejak mahasiswa ia tidak hanya menjadi "mahasiswa tugas". Berbagai pameran di luar kampus telah diikuti, terutama yang diselenggarakan oleh Gelaran Budaya. Bahkan di tahun 2001 ia telah menggelar pameran tunggal perdana dengan juluk Ruang Tanpa Ruang.

2005-2015: Dinding-Dinding yang Kokoh

Baqul memilih lukisan abstrak untuk pameran Tugas Akhir pada 2005. Karya abstrak adalah pertarungan murni nilai artistik. Karena tidak menyampaikan pesan-pesan tertentu, lukisan jenis ini bertumpu sepenuhnya pada unsur visual seperti warna, garis, dan bentuk. Baqul dapat mengelolanya dengan dinamikan komposisi maupun teknik. Garis spontan terkombinasi dengan bidang geometris terukur; teknis transparan terpadu dengan teraan opaque; warna terang bersisihan dengan tonalitas gelap secara gradual maupun tegas.

Bermukim di ranah abstrak mengasah kepekaan estetis Baqul. Modal seperti ini sangat penting dan akan terbawa ketika ia mengangkat angka dan huruf. Dengan demikian, pemindahan dari karya abstrak ke kaligrafi bukanlah suatu perubahan yang terputus namun perkembangan artistik yang berkesinambungan.

Terlepas dari itu, ia merasa karya abstrak kurang memberi ruang untuk menyampaikan tema-tema tertentu, padahal seniman ini tergolong gemar membaca dan mengikuti ceramah. Ia memiliki beragam kegelisahan konseptual yang perlu disampaikan lewat karya-karyanya.

Selain itu, ada pemantik yang memunculkan angka di lukisannya, yaitu peristiwa unik yang dialami setelah berbelanja di Carrefour. Sesampai di rumah, Baqul menyadari bahwa kasir supermall itu salah hitung. Setiap item yang dibeli tercetak dua kali sehingga harga yang mesti dibayar berlipat dua. Alih-alih komplain, ia masuk ke ruang kerja untuk meluapkan kemarahan: menggelar kanvas, menjajar cat akrilik, dan bertarung dengan kuas. "Saat itu," kata Baqul mengenang, "aku menggores berbagai warna di kanvas secara acak dan menulis angka secara tumpang-tindih." Kasus yang terjadi pada 2007 ini melahirkan karya Akhir Bulan yang Bodoh.

Lalu Baqul dengan cermat dan cerdas membaca dunia angka yang bersemayam di tengah masyarakat, "Saat ini kita menggunakan angka untuk membeli angka, misalnya, menggunakan uang untuk membayar pulsa atau memasukkan pin untuk medapatkan kode booking." Akan tetapi, ia tidak lagi mempermasalahkan hal itu. Pada perkembangan lebih lanjut, ketimbang memakna-maknai, kini angka – selain huruf – lebih sebagai identifikasi diri.

Setelah kenyang mengeksplorasi angka, termasuk pameran tunggalnya yang bertajuk Numbers in the Sky, 11 April - 2 Mei 2012, yang dikurasi oleh Eva McGovern, Baqul memasuki tema baru. Valentine Willie, pemilik Valentine Willie Fine Art (VWFA), menantangnya untuk membuat kaligrafi Arab atau Jawa. Seniman Jawa yang masa kecilnya rutin mengaji ini memilih kaligrafi Arab, apalagi ketika kuliah dia juga pernah membuatnya, yaitu lukisan Ka’bah berangka tahun 1999.

Baqul merenung, ia mesti memunculkan kaligrafi yang artistik, sekaligus ia sadar bahwa dirinya hampir tidak pernah bersentuhan dengan khot pakem kaligrafi Arab. Untuk itu, ia tetap mempertahankan langgam angka yang ditulis berulang-ulang, bertumpuk-tumpuk, dan menggunakan garis spontan; maka lahirlah lukisan al-Fatihah yang berangka tahun 2008.

Kepuasan artistik atas karya itu dilanjutkan dengan pengembangan ekplorasi visual. Ritme maupun dinamika warna digunakan untuk mengangkat doa-doa harian maupun ayat-ayat al-Quran tentang alam semesta yang mengingatkan pada kebesaran Sang Pencipta. Hasil yang dipaparkan dalam pameran tunggal Recite!/Iqra’! maupun Universe(s) mampu menyegarkan dunia kaligrafi Arab yang selama ini cenderung didekati dengan pertimbangan geometris.

Setelah berbagai perhelatan seni diikuti, baik residensi maupun pameran, gelar perupa kaligrafi kontemporer tersematkan padanya. Maka tidak aneh ketika Art Dubai 2012 seluruh karyanya berpindah ke tangan kolektor.

Pasca-2015: Amunisi Baru

Baqul tahu bahwa pameran ini bukanlah pameran retrospeksi sebagaimana yang biasa dilakukan seniman pinisepuh setelah berkesenian lebih dari setengah abad. Oleh karena itu, pameran ini lebih sebagai transit untuk menuju perjalanan yang lebih panjang. Untuk mengira-ngira karya Baqul ke depan, perlu memahami pemahaman dan konteks kehidupannya.

Pertama, terkait dengan pemahaman, Baqul mempercayai bahwa dalam Islam informasi mesti disampaikan secara tepat. Maka, meskipun teks dalam kaligrafinya bertumpuk-tumpuk, ia membuatnya secara tepat, tidak boleh ada tanda baca yang terlewat. Ia juga meyakini bahwa teks al-Quran berasal dari al-Kholiq. Ini dibuktikan dengan ayat yang menantang orang-orang yang ragu bahwa al-Quran berasal dari Sang Pencipta. Tantangan semacam itu, antara lain, terdapat dalam surat al-Baqarah ayat 23, "Dan jika kamu dalam keraguan tentang al-Quran yang Kami wahyukan kepada hamba Kami (Muhammad), buatlah satu surat yang semisal dengannya, dan ajaklah para penolongmu selain Allah, jika kamu orang-orang yang benar." Tantangan ini tidak bakal terjawab karena ayat selanjutnya mempertegas, "Maka jika kamu tidak dapat membuat, dan pasti kamu tidak akan dapat membuat, peliharalah dirimu dari neraka yang bahan bakarnya berupa manusia dan batu, yang disediakan bagi orang-orang kafir."

Kedua, terkait dengan konteks kehidupan, sejak kecil hingga kini Baqul bersentuhan dan aktif dalam organisasi Islam. Saat kanak-kanak ia belajar membaca al-Quran di guru ngaji Nahdhotul Ulama. Lalu, ia bersekolah di Madrasah Ibtidaiyah yang dibimbing tokoh al-Islam. Kemudian, ketika remaja ia sibuk mengikuti kegiatan Muhammadiyah. Menginjak dewasa Baqul terlibat dalam Pelajar Islam Indonesia, organisasi yang kala itu dimusuhi dan dipantau mata-mata Orde Baru. Kini, setiap minggu ia mengikuti halaqoh Hizbut Tahrir, organisasi Islam militan yang tersebar di Asia, Timur Tengah, Afrika, Australia, Amerika, dan Eropa.

Dengan demikian, untuk persoalan tema, kemungkinan besar Baqul masih akan mengeksplorasi kaligrafi Islam. Akan tetapi, karena dia juga mengamati pergolakan dunia Internasional khususnya yang terjadi di negeri Muslim, teks yang diangkat mungkin akan bergeser pada persoalan politik dan hukum Islam, seperti hadis tentang sistem ekonomi Islam atau bahkan ayat tentang jihad.

Adapun perihal material, teknik, atau kebentukan, Baqul termasuk perupa yang terus melakukan eksplorasi. Sebenarnya kini, meskipun belum dipamerkan, Baqul telah membuat karya dengan bahan non-konvensional, seperti huruf Latin yang ditulis di keset. Ia juga membubuhkan teks pada centong nasi, ini mengingatkan pada karya yang dibuat saat dia masih kecil, centong ukir. Jika jalur ini dipilih dan kaligrafi Arab tetap dipertahankan, karyanya akan penuh dinamika dan menawarkan ribuan terobosan baru sekaligus tidak terlepas dari rantai perjalanan. Benarkah, kita tunggu saja apa yang bakal dilahirkan perupa penuh senyum ini. []

*Deni Junaedi adalah dosen estetika di ISI Yogyakarta dan penulis seni rupa di majalah Galeri Media Komunikasi Galeri Nasional Indonesia. Sejak kecil ia bersahabat dengan Agus Baqul Purnomo. Di lereng Gunung Perahu, rumah keduanya hanya berjarak tiga menit perjalanan kaki.

Agus Baqul Purnomo

Then, Now, and Future

By: Deni Junaedi*

Nowadays Agus Baqul Purnomo's stance on the map of Asia's visual arts is getting stronger. The contemporary calligraphy scene cannot be discussed without his presence. The artist, born in 1975, has been incessantly exploring the calligraphy and has been intensely participate in exhibition throughout big cities in Asia, such as: Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Dubai, Tokyo, Manila, Seoul, Beijing, Taiwan, Jakarta, Bandung, Bali, Magelang, and of course Yogyakarta; he is even starting to expand to Liverpool, Athens, and California.

Snippets of his long resume could be observed through the Transit exhibition which displays selected works from 2005 to 2015. Besides that, this solo exhibition that implies Baqul's excitement in creating artworks is able to predict his future works. In other words, he had a long journey and will be heading to an even longer one.

Pre-2005: The Art Path and Only Art Path

Long before 2005, since elementary school, Baqul has shown his passion for visual arts. The artist origined from Sukorejo, Kendal, Central Java, never stopped making sketches and drawings. After his encounters with oil colors, his spirit to paint became more obvious. Not only on the practical area, his awareness towards the context and discourse appeared through his obsession in collecting visual arts clippings from papers and magazines. In high school he was trusted as the illustrator for the student magazine. The young Baqul, even, appreciated other people's works, proudly he scavenged and collected pieces of plates and bowls with unique patterns, "It looked like an antique piece of earthenware from China," said him seriously.

Such a spirit for a boy in a big city is ordinary, but for Baqul, who lived in a small village far from the hectic of visual arts, it is quite extraordinary. In the middle of a society which correlated artist and a dimmed-future, Baqul with his friend built a visual art community that had successfully carried out several exhibitions.

His seriousness on the path of visual arts has been proven and examined especially when he decided to study at the Indonesian Institutes of Arts (ISI) Yogyakarta, on painting major. Although he had prepared and studied the materials for the admission test, this son of a food stall owner failed on his first admission test. Refrain from giving up, Baqul studied and took the next test. Even on the second year, his name did not appear on the list of the admitted students. It did not break his spirit; he just got stronger, refused to apply to other campuses. After he did a few months of internship at a senior artist's studio, finally he was accepted at the Fine Art Department of ISI Yogyakarta in the year of 1996.

As an art student, Baqul explored various visual styles, from realism, naturalism, cubism, deformation, to abstract. However, his tracks showed a fondness toward the beauty of letters. Even before college, such fondness was already shown. For instance, on the corner of a tree painting he made using watercolor, he inserted a Chinese character even though he did not understand the meaning, and was even unsure whether it readable or not. Similar style reappeared towards the end of his study, in 2004. Baqul made abstract works based on traditional Chinese characters, one of them was About Love.

Baqul graduated with art degree in 2005. Then the young artist was ready to jump into the world of professional visual arts, because since he was still a student, he was not just a "student of assignments". This raconteur artist had participated in various exhibitions outside of his campus, especially the ones organized by Gelaran Budaya. Even in 2001 he had a premiere solo exhibition titled Ruang Tanpa Ruang (Room Without Room).

2005-2015: The Sturdy Walls

Baqul chose to make abstract paintings for his final assignment exhibition in 2005. An abstract work is a pure battle of artistic values. As it does not literally conveying certain messages, this type of painting focuses fully on the visual elements, such as colors, lines, and shapes. Baqul could present it with the dynamics of composition and technique. Spontaneous lines are combined with measured geometric area; transparent technique fused with opaque impression; bright colors side by side with dark tonality, gradually and firmly.

Dwelling in the abstract domain has sharpened Baqul's aesthetic sense. It is a very important asset that contributes significantly at his exploration on numbers and alphabets. Hence, the transition from abstract to calligraphy was not a shifting change but rather a sustainable artistic development.

Aside from that, he felt that abstract works did not provide enough means to deliver certain themes. As this artist is a passionate reader and avid attendee for talks, he has various conceptual worries need venting out through his works.

Moreover, there was a trigger which brought out the numbers in his painting, a unique incident he encountered after shopping at Carrefour. As he arrived home, Baqul realized that the supermall cashier had miscounted. All the items he purchased were counted twice so it made him paid twice as much. Instead of complaining, he entered his studio to channel his anger: He put out a canvas, compiled his acrylic paints, and fought with brushes. "At that time", he recalled, "I stroked various colors in canvas randomly and wrote overlapping numbers." This incident in 2007 had given birth to a work titled Akhir Bulan yang Bodoh (Stupid End of the Month).

Then carefully and cleverly, Baqul read the world of numbers which resides in the middle of the society, "Today, we use numbers to buy numbers, for instance, using money to buy phone service credits or insert pin to get a booking code." However, he did not question that anymore. On further development, rather than interpreting the meaning, now numbers – aside from letters – is more as a mean of self-identification.

After a full exploration on numbers period, which includes his solo exhibition titled Numbers in the Sky, 11 April – 2 May 2012, curated by Eva McGovern, Baqul entered a new theme. Valentine Willie, the owner of Valentine Willie Fine Art (VWFA), challenged him to explore Arabic or Javanese calligraphy. The Javanese artist whose childhood life was filled with reading the Koran, chose the Arabic calligraphy. Also, when he was a student in 1999, he once tried to make Arabic calligraphy, Ka'bah.

Baqul pondered that he had to bring out an artistic calligraphy, but also realized that he had never had a proper training on the traditional Arabic calligraphy (khot). He decided to keep the repetitive and overlapping numbers style with tad use of spontaneous lines; which produced the work title Al-Fatihah in 2008.

The artistic satisfaction of the work is continued with visual exploration development. The rhythm and color dynamics are used to bring daily prayers and the verses of the Koran about the universe which reminds us of the greatness of The Creator. The works exhibited on solo shows titled Recite!/Iqra'! and Universe(s) are able to bring fresh element in the Arabic calligraphy scene which so far tends to use geometric approaches.

After various art events that he participated – residencies or exhibitions – the title of contemporary calligraphy artist is earned. Therefore, in Art Dubai 2012 all of his artworks moved to the hands of collectors.

Post-2015: The New Ammunition

Baqul knows that this exhibition is not a retrospective exhibition like what the elderly artists usually do after making arts for more than half a century. This exhibition is more of a transit to face a longer journey. To predict Baqul's works in the future, there are needs to understand the train of his thoughts and context of life.

First, related to his understanding, Baqul believes that in Islam information needs to be delivered precisely. So, even though the texts in his calligraphy are overlapping, he made them precisely, no missing attributes. He also believes that the texts of the Koran are from the Al-Kholiq (The Creator). This is proven through the verse which is against those who doubts that the Koran is from The Creator. One of such exclamations is on surah Al-Baqarah verse 23, "And if ye are in doubt as to what We have revealed from time to time to Our servant (Muhammad), then produce a Sura like thereunto; and call your witnesses or helpers (If there are any) besides Allah, if your (doubts) are true." This exclamation is unanswerable because the next verse is reinforcing, "But if ye cannot – and of a surety ye cannot – then fear the Fire whose fuel is men and stones which is prepared for those who reject Faith."

Second, related to the contexts of life, since he was a boy until now, Baqul is closely and actively involved with Islamic organizations. As a boy, he learnt to read the Koran from a Nahdhotul Ulama cleric. Then he went to Madrasah Ibtidaiyah which was mentored by the al-Islam figure. Then as a teenager, he was busy with Muhammadiyah organization activities. As he reached adulthood, Baqul was active in Pelajar Islam Indonesia (Indonesian Islamic Students), an organization which was un-favoured and monitored by the government agents of Orde Baru (New Order). Now, every week he joins to halaqoh (study) of Hizb ut-Tahrir, a militant Islamic organization which spreads throughout Asia, Middle East, Africa, Australia, America and Europe.

Regarding the themes of his works, most likely Baqul will still be exploring the Islamic calligraphy. However, because he is also observing the international world, especially about what happens in Muslim countries, the discourse he will bring probably shift to political problems and Islamic laws, such as hadits about the Islamic economic system or even verses about jihad.

About media, techniques, or shapes, Baqul is an artist who keeps exploring. Actually now, even though not being exhibited yet, Baqul has made artworks with non-conventional materials, such as roman alphabets inscribed on doormats. He also puts texts on rice ladle, which reminds him to the works he made when he was a boy, the carved ladle. If this path is chosen and the Arabic calligraphy is maintained, his works will be full of dynamics and offer thousands of new innovations which are inseparable from his chains of journey. Will it happen; let us wait upon what this smiley-faced artist is up to.

*Deni Junaedi is an aesthetics lecturer at ISI Yogyakarta and a visual arts writer on Galeri magazine, communication media of Galeri Nasional Indonesia (Indonesian National Gallery). He is a friend since childhood to Agus Baqul Purnomo. In the slope of mount Perahu, their houses were just three minutes walking away.

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