New abstract, organic and original painting from Richard Irwin Meyer

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Full Moon, is an abstract art that tells the full moon phenomenon of a window. (photo: IO/Aldo)

IO, Jakarta – The development of contemporary art in Indonesia in 2017 left interesting notes to be observed, especially about the practice of art with the method of abstraction on the works of dwimatra. The recent abstract paintings presented by Indonesian artists through the composition of lines, fields and colors in display spaces, marks a phenomenon of the presence of language as a subordination to the tendency of visual languages in illustrative dwimatra works. Other abstract paintings in the city of Bandung have even become mainstream since the art practice of Bandung artists is to build a relationship that is indirectly similar to the movement of abstract expressionist in the city of New York in 1950s. A number of artists who now operate in the abstraction area include, Ay Tjoe Christine, Aditya Novali, Hendrian Irfan, Richard Irwin Meyer, Dipo Andy, Syahfadil, Erizal, Handiwirman Saputra, Nyoman Erawan, Srihadi Soedarsono and AD Pirous. On that note, I would like to review the works of Richard Irwin Meyer who is one of the curators of abstract painting and will be doing an exhibition in Jakarta.

This one artist has a unique and special historical background. His youth as a painter was much forged by artists active in the abstract expressionist movement in New York City. He had good fortune at that time as he was still able to interact with artists like Andy Warhol. The most important history for Richard Irwin Meyer was during his youth, he became studio assistant of Willem de Kooning and Elaine de Kooning. Richard Irwin Meyer was born during the era of abstract expressionist movement, when it was increasingly growing, culminating  and influencing the mainstream of the development of fine arts in New York City. A number of artists in the axis of this movement, among others, Paul Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning, Elaine de Kooning, Robert Rauschenberg, Franz Kline, Cy Twombly, Robert Motherwell, Helen Frankenthaler, Barnet Newman, Joan Mitchell, Jasper Johns, Hans Hofmann, Lee Krasner, Arshile Gorky, Frank Stella, Philip Guston, Antoni Tapies, Clyfford Still, Adolph Gottlieb, Ad Reinhardt, John Chamberlain, Aaron Siskind and other abstract expressionist artists.

His aesthetic explorations were also contrived more comprehensively when in the early 1970-1975 he worked in the publication department of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City. But an inconvenient incident caused Richard Irwin Meyer to move out of the art scene of New York City for a while, because he was still considered too young to be an artist with his artistic achievement for a fine art museum at the time. So he spun into acting in Hollywood movies as well as a stage play on Broadway; playing various roles. Until he met an actor, producer, director, Robert Anthony De Niro – son of Robert De Niro, Sr. a painter and sculptor abstract expressionist. Thus, his artistic soul as a painter recurs and he starts productively working again from scratch.

Richard Irwin Meyer’s aesthetic exploration of the 1980s evolved from observations of primitive cultures in Asia Pacific and Africa through his artefacts. It is like discovering a new spirit, the Asian culture as the source of his ideas. He took advantage of this opportunity by exploring geo-culture in Asia Pacific through residency and workshop of traditional artists and settled to observe the situation of the social field and the fine art field there. Richard Irwin Meyer decided to settle and work in southern Bali, as a manifestation of his love of Asian culture, especially Indonesia, which became the basis of artistic ideas, especially abstract painting. The interesting thing about Richard Irwin Meyer’s creative process in Bali is the process of abstracting the natural environment in the southern island of Bali into his paintings through the forms of representation of painting itself, namely tornado painting.

In the arts exhibition entitled The Intimate Colors, Richard Irwin Mayer displays the artwork he has been making and also some of the new artworks he created. Richard Irwin Meyer made the construction of a tornado painting through a more expressive drift-painting technique accompanied by massive, multi-layered strokes of brush, but still left his drawing marks on the surface of the canvas. Yes, the abstract paintings by Richard Irwin Meyer indeed  arouses a lot of curiosity because he himself conducted an artistic investigation with acrylic paint medium or water-based material. The layers of paint then built a dimension of the imaginary space and the depth of repressed feelings, but they do not express nor represent the artistic language.

An important aspect of Richard Irwin Meyer’s paintings is the presentation of non-narrative languages. No story is presented in his works other than the feelings being examined through line structure, laying and color with a layered drawing technique using paint interference color. So it is rather difficult to make the reproduction of images on the surface of the canvas. The theme of the painting does not really focus on the form present in the painting, but the issue of gesture in the context of a relation or a kind of relational aesthetic to the nature and the living things that it observes. For example, the way a painter puts a paint on the painting media is like a jazz musician playing his instrument. The painter no longer applies a theory or understanding of painting from a completed history, but builds a new interpretation that has not been determined or composed by history. This is the aesthetic marker of the artists at the end of the abstract expressionist movement to contemporary art. The results of observing his paintings would be that it does not appear neither does it relate to the naked eye.

“Most Indonesians think that my work is a decorative painting because those who think so have no experience in contemplating abstract paintings. Some paintings of abstract painting can make people cry when they understand the depth of the painting abstraction, “said Richard Irwin Meyer.

Richard Irwin Meyer’s creative process rests on the originality of the work, he refuses to do a ‘revision’ or some sort of ‘visual modification’ of works collected by art museums. To him, the identity of an artist is viewed from an authentic, organic and original artistic language. Since Richard Irwin Meyer’s worked and settled in Yogyakarta in 2015, he is now focusing on paintings from the language developed by abstract expressionist, since what he is currently working on builds contemporary art through the “new abstraction” method. The use of new mediums beyond the painting tradition frozen by history is also part of its artistic exploration. His solo exhibition was completed with a self-portrait presentation at Puri Art Gallery, Jakarta. It returns to the mainstream of its artistic language, the abstraction of the natural colors of Asian land and the humanist values of Asian society as the background of ideas alone. That is the abstract painting of Richard Irwin Meyer. (Aldo)