Text by Bambang Asrini WidjanarkoFendi Siregar, a senior photographer, entitles his show “With One Eye” because when he looks through the viewfinder at the objects he’s going to shoot, he uses only one eye.
In 2006 “The Centhini: The Javanese Journey” was launched in London, and the Javanese cultural heritage became better known in Europe.
Photographer Fendi Siregar enhanced the book by contributing its visual interpretation. The original Javanese text, “Serat Centhini”, runs to 3,500 pages. It was condensed to several hundred pages and adapted into English by Soewito Santoso. Kestity Pringgoharjono then provided additional text, and the results were stunning.
This seminal text explores the Javanese conception of the cosmos on both macro and micro scales, with an examination of traditional Javanese values both broad and deep: inner (spiritual) pursuits, art, music, dance, prognostication, prestidigitation, eroticism, the human life cycle, and much more.
Fendi selected over 2000 of his works after traveling around Java for four years to produce the book. The conclusion: he deserves to be considered one of the maestros of Indonesian photography.
From mid November to early December, Fendi Siregar (60), assisted by the Kama Budaya arts institute, held two exhibits simultaneously: at Srisanti Arthouse in Kemang and at Galeri Salihara in Pasar Minggu, both in South Jakarta.
Unlike everything related to “Centhini”, in these shows his works are more diverse, yet Fendi’s “Javanese” sensibilities are still strongly felt – even though he actually comes from Medan, North Sumatra.
The shows, which Fendi calls “a photographic journey that tells about experiences with light”, are truly unusual. Fendi has superb and highly refined technical abilities as a photographer, and is also a permanent instructor in photography at the Jakarta Arts Institute (IKJ).
Ruko (Shophouse). So when he talks about “speaking with light”, what he refers to is his technical skills, which are always on display in his works. Just look at his photos – superior technique is maintained in each one.
In the shows, which are divided into categories such as Space and Architecture, Fendi creates beautiful images with thorough consideration to light, space, angle, and color composition. A work entitled “Pasar Pagi” (“Morning Market”) feels very harmonious with its blending of spatial arrangement, light and forms such as people walking.
In “Air dan Kubah” (“Water and Dome”), the character of water seems to be right before our eyes, flowing, falling, cooling. And in “Ruko” (“Shophouse”), the gradations of colors and composition of objects are the important focus.
In works of a more “classical” nature, such as photos of clustered panoramas or simple bare horizons, Fendi still employs his characteristic style: capturing things in the same way, with brilliant technical perfection.
Yet we see a very different side, in terms of his narrative ability, when Fendi approaches subjects of people and culture. We experience deep explorations of human expression: clowning and humorous, sad, mystical and peaceful all at the same time.
In his hands, culture is transformed into the richness of daily life; becak drivers dozing, ludruk performers in the atmosphere of a traditional theater in Surabaya, fishermen in Belitung, or sulfur gatherers and bearers at the crater of Gunung Bromo. Excitement emerges from scenes that are tragic or, conversely, amusing.
The encounter of diverse senses, modern and ancient, is celebrated in visual dialogues. Fendi’s greatest strength is, in fact, not his superb technique, but his ability to portray humankind in all its complexity.
By calling his show “With One Eye,” Fendi seems to be belittling his work, but this is just his way of saying, quite cleverly: “I’ve traveled far, as close as my own pulse, and explored Indonesia and its history with one eye as a photographer.”
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