Works in Bali
“The old question must therefore be asked anew: What is an artwork?”
Syahdan—after observing the creative process of the painter Philip Guston (1913-1980) in his studio, Maverick Road Studio, Woodstock, New York—composer John Cage (1912-1992) expressed his wisdom which was trusted by Philip Guston—as well as by leading artists of the next generation, for example, Chris Ofili (b. 1968), exponent of Young British Artists—as a kind of inner enlightenment that opens up many possibilities for artists to be creative, instead of liberating them from fear, the past, enemies, friends, influences, ideas, the world of fine arts, and even themselves.
However, this has intrigued many art enthusiasts, including the Dublin-based artist and critic, James Merrigan (b. 1976), who reviews this wisdom in his essay, To Be: A Painter, online at smallnight.org (13 January 2022), instead of coming out of John Cage's mouth, that wisdom—with an opening sentence that seems like a piece of biblical evidence—flows from Philip Guston's own mouth as follows:
“I believe it was John Cage who once told me, ‘When you start working, everybody is in your studio—the past, your friends, enemies, the art world, and above all, your own ideas—all are there. But as you continue painting, they start leaving, one by one, and you are left completely alone. Then, if you're lucky, even you leave.’”
That wisdom too—minus the sacred-sounding opening words—is quoted by American poet, critic, and art historian, Barry Schwabsky (b. 1957) in his book, The Observer Effect: On Contemporary Painting (2020). From there I know, that the wisdom is viewed—of course with the eyes of Barry Schwabsky, who believes that wisdom is Philip Guston's personal reflection—as still relevant to the creativity of today's artists. The proof, says Barry Schwabsky, "he was re-voiced to me recently by an artist who is so passionate about the privacy of his studio—Chris Ofili."
However, I have to say right away that Chris Ofili, winner of the 1998 Turner Prize, who wants to achieve solitude above the solitude of his studio, is also different from the leading artist from the Land of Sakura, Takashi Murakami (b. 1962). In her best-selling book, Seven Days in the Art World (2008), cultural sociologist Sarah Thornton (b. 1965), reveals that Takashi Murakami's studio, Hiropon Factory (now, Kaikai Kiki Co. Ltd), in Tokyo was a giant endeavor to outperform The Factory, Andy Warhol's studio, in New York. That's why, says Sarah Thornton, “Murakami's studio is not just a place to create works of art, but also a stage to express his artistic intentions—and a platform for negotiations with curators and art dealers.”
Despite these differences, Chris Ofili, Takashi Murakami, and other artists under the sky anywhere, including in Indonesia, still need another place that allows an object in their studio to become a work of art—not just an object with the potential for a work of art. It is an exhibition space—whatever the name is—a legitimate place for works of art to gain existential understanding, critical acknowledgment, and public appreciation, especially in the form of financial value (money), social value (power), and intrinsic value (beauty), to use terms Michael Findlay (b. 1945), Head of the Department of Modern and Impressionist Art (1984-1992) Christie's auction house, in his famous book, The Value of Art (2012).