RIP Jeihan Sukmantoro; ‘Black eyes painter’ passes away

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(Photo: Prive. Doc)

IO – Indonesia’s art world has lost one of its own. Painter Jeihan Sukmantoro passed away on Friday, November 29 in his studio in Padasuka, Bandung. Jeihan died at the age of 81. 

Jeihan was brought to Boromeus Hospital but his condition continued to worsen, resulting in his family bringing him to his studio, as the painter known for his paintings with people with black or empty eyes requested. 

The painter was diagnosed with lymph node cancer and also suffered from kidney failure. 

Early on, Jeihan was known as a painter in the Cubism movement but later reverted to a move conventional style, to concentrate on portrait paintings of women. 

“If there is a painter who is faithful to painting women in his artworks, Jeihan Sukmantoro is one of them. The female paintings ala Jeihan Sukmantoro are certainly different compared to paintings from other artists. The location of this difference is in the eyes of the paintings object which are left empty, made deep black with a narrow body like wayang kulit, and strong curved lines,” wrote writer Soni Farid Maulana as quoted by Pikiran Rakyat. 

“The women I paint are women who further themselves from lust or sexual and sensual imagery. The beauty of my paintings is not in the sexual power of the women’s bodies but the power of musing and psychological side which I show through simple strokes and colors,” said Jeihan some time ago. 

Jeihan was born in Surakarta, Central Java on September 26, 1938 and began painting early on in life. He learned to paint formally in the Surakarta Cultural Association (HBS). In order to broaden his knowledge, Jeihan went to Bandung, West Java in 1960. He then studied in the Faculty of Art and Design in Institut Teknologi Bandung (ITB). However, he never finished his studies which he blames on his rebelliousness. 

This was thanks to a near-death experience he once had. Jeihan did not receive formal education until he reached the age of 15. His near-death experience caused him to be unable to participate in formal educate from a young age. 

The accident that almost took his life gave him a brain injury. At the time, Jeihan was thought to be dead but awoke before he was able to be buried. This formed how he thought and later his artworks. 

He painted figures with black eyes and simple flat colors. His paintings are best known and identified by the object’s black or sunken eyes. According to various art critics, Jeihan combined the eastern mysticism with western analytics. His works had a meditative aura and many interpreted the black eyes as symbolizing the darkness of mystery in life’s journey. 

Jeihan founded the Bandung Fine Arts studio in 1978. Other than painting, Jeihan also wrote poems. Now he is gone but leaves behind his majestic artworks. Goodbye, Jeihan. (rp)