Jogja Artist’s Fine Wood Carvings Preserve Memories
Sulistyaningrum & Rachmalita Widyaswara
There are many different ways to remember life’s moments. Some people try to capture their memories in a diary. Others express their experiences in poetry, novels, short stories, paintings or music. Indonesian artist Syahrizal Pahlevi, or Levi, has carved out his own methodology, using wood carvings to document his memories.
Levi is a woodcut artist who has won numerous awards from all over the world. He was an associate at the Vermont Studio Center in the United States for three months last year, as part of an international artists’ residency program that hosts 50 artists from several countries around the world.
Now, Sangkring Art Space in Yogayakarta has become a temporary repository for Levi’s uniquely preserved memories.
Many of his woodcuts are portraits of his best friends while he was in Vermont.
“I do not easily choose models,” Levi said. “I made them my models because they mean a lot to me.”
The solo exhibition opened on May 9 with performance art from Levi, in which he collaborated with two poets, Afrizal Malna and Saut Situmorang, as well as Indonesian DJ Latex. Attendees formed a circle around the artist and witnessed a live wood-carving performance by Levi.
Most of his carvings are then printed onto canvases of varying sizes. In addition to Levi’s portraits, the exhibition includes prints of old buildings and material from the artist’s archives, like a sketch of a newspaper advertisement.
Levi said the inspiration for his work has come from various events of significance in his life.
“It is an archive project,” Levi explained. “Those faces are the ones of my closest friends, including my family and friends in Vermont.”
In this exhibition, Levi wanted to share his own colorful past with visitors. He said another aim of the exhibition is to present his take on visual journalism.
“I respect journalists,” Levi said. “I want to write, but on the other hand I also want to draw. I find it difficult when I want to share information based on facts, and instead what is appearing is fiction. I call it visual journalism a la Levi.”
He said his sketches of old buildings were a good example of his conception of visual journalism, as his attempt to show that today’s buildings served different functions for different people in former times. “I want to tell the people of Indonesia that we have to respect the history of our cities,” he added.
Levi’s solo exhibition at Sangkring Art Space runs until Tuesday.