My duo exhibition at HOM Ampang Malaysia, 2 -16 July 2011


Utin Rini, who graduated from the printmaking department at ISI Yogyakarta, utilizes almost every single hue that can be produced by acrylic paint pigments in her Sensual Musical paintings. She uses a wide palette, featuring many combinations and intersections of colour, and all her paintings are dominated by fields of colour that come together to form the image of a human face.

In Utin’s Sensual Musical paintings, women are the main focus, and the images of her subjects have been appropriated from various portraits. Utin obtains these images from video stills from the Internet, and selects other digital imagery from the virtual world which she feels contain a certain element of sensuality, even taking some images from scenes in pornographic films. This can be linked to her previous series of paintings called Great Asian and Sensuality, which featured images of Japanese film stars orgasming, although Utin doesn’t pretend to reveal or remark on pornography itself in her works. Instead, her paintings are an attempt to reveal a woman’s sensuality while displaying an impression for various atmospheres of passion, which in turn become a vehicle for the collection of colours that define her works.

Utin’s colourful images of women’s faces were made possible with computer software, a tool that has now become a strong part of society. Computers can manipulate images in accordance with the interests of each single creator, and – like in Utin’s case - it can be used to transform a realistic image into rudimentary areas of flat colour. This change turns plastic images into a set of colour planes, which are then defined by their contras, colour tones, and saturation levels.

Utin’s paintings work in this manner, as they reveal themselves to be a collection of colour planes that overlap. Her works are the result of portrait engineering, and they also feature irregular splashes of colour. In some areas, Utin uses the same regular pattern of colour planes, such as the large collection of dots that are placed in a transparent manner over colour fields, and what then appears is an overlapping layer that shows the complexity and excitement that colour can afford. And, as if not colourful or complex enough, Utin pushes the boundaries of colour even further in her paintings by featuring lines of colour patterns, which ultimately remind us that these are paintings rather than mere pornographic images or pictures of female faces. Utin also paints her canvases in all their entirety – right, left, top, and bottom – driving the theatricality in her works even further, as if to engulf spectactors in the gallery space and art lovers everywhere.

Treatments like this have become the norm for Utin, who isn’t too concerned with her work being a painting in a pictorial sense. During her studies, Utin tended to create images utilizing just lines and she often focused on people as her subject. She admitted that in her present works, the cost of painting a narrative was somewhat neglected, but focus was instead on the painting as an object, a space, and a physical field that allowed her to play with colour. Colour, says the artist, is how she communicates with her audience; colours allow her to pique their interest or to unsettle them, and colour can also be used to remind viewers of particular situations or atmospheres.

In her production process, Utin treats her paintings similarly to how she produces her graphic works with printmaking; Utin’s task of painting has been a collective job involving two assistants - Wawan, another young painter, and Penceng, an all-rounder – and before she applies paint to any of her canvases, Utin tests a variety of options on her computer. Even so, this process does not necessarily eliminate the technical complexity of her works. Whilst computers do produce precise designs, the application of paint on the canvas is still a difficult task, and all of Utin’s canvases are perfect likenesses of her computer-aided designs; each dab of paint is applied paintstakingly, and even the smallest detail is seen to.

And finally, Utin has gathered all her works under the main theme Sensual Musical. This titles does illustrate how rhythm in music can be visually described by structured patterns, but Sensual Musical also refers to the artist’s favorite music; the songs of the legendary British band, Led Zeppelin, almost always accompanied Utin during the process of designing the works of these series, and her designs are visual interpretations of the sensuality of Led Zeppelin’s songs (for Utin, the band’s songs are always sensual). Utin doesn’t attempt to display literal evocations of Led Zeppelin’s songs – like guitar images, portraits of the band members, or musical patterns through polka dots or a hubbub of colours – but links the band’s music to the sensuality of women. Thus, her paintings in this series are a colourful blend of the songs that have inspired her and the artist’s unique interpretation of the sensuality of women, a sensual musical so to speak.

Rain Rosidi

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