(Suriname, b. 1945 - D. 2020)
Soeki Irodikromo was born to Javanese parents in Suriname, a former Dutch colony that did not gain independence until 1975. Like many artists from the Dutch-speaking nation, Irodikromo journeyed to the Netherlands in the 1960s to undertake formal art training in Rotterdam, where his intense study of the CoBrA movement left a lasting impression on his body of work. In the late 1970s, he received a scholarship to travel to Indonesia, where he learned batik, a traditional Indonesian technique of wax-resist dyeing. Upon his return to Suriname, Irodikromo helped reintroduce this art form to the country. Irodikromo considers Suriname to be a genuine melting pot of cultures, and this hybridity and cultural diversity can be seen in his work. His paintings, batik, ceramics, and drawings reveal a host of influences, from Indonesian mythology and indigenous motifs to the rich colors of the Surinamese jungle and the avant-garde techniques of the CoBrA movement—which combined strong colors with a rebelliousness and spontaneity inspired by the artistic process of small children, who approach their work without a preconceived plan.
In his work, Irodikromo marshals elements of Eastern and Western culture that richly evoke the cultural divides and fusions of his native Suriname, where indigenous populations coexist and mix with the descendants of both the former Dutch colonists and the contract workers imported by the Dutch from India, China, and Indonesia. Untitled (1978-1986), an oil painting on canvas, rich in color and texture, is inspired by the figure of Ravana, the multi-headed demon from the Hindu epic Ramayana. (The painting was first associated with Barong, a character from Balinese mythology until sources close to the artist identified it as Ravana.) In this painting, Irodikromo presents only a head, which he describes as “a moment of explosion, horror, and exuberance.” In Javanese culture, different versions of Ravana can be seen in wood-carved decorations, which usually take the form of high-relief carvings of the head of a dragon crowned by a lion’s mane and decorated with flowers and arabesque motifs. Here, Irodikromo has transferred the image of the dragon to the fabric by means of thick brushstrokes, to recreate the texture and patterns of a wood carving. Using saturated, vibrant colors, he projects the richness and fullness of the image of Ravana; in so doing, he creates his own version of the dragon, as well as a highly decorative piece typical of Indonesian art. This work was given to the AMA by the Surinamese government in 1987.
We would like to commemorate the life of Soeki Irodikromo, who passed away during the making of this project and whose legacy is a key part of this exhibition.