Balanced by the Spirit: Drawings by Noviadi Angkasapura

This is the very crux of the difference between mainstream and non-mainstream. This process of art making continues as long as it needs to. Angkasapura tries to make a drawing a day. It isn’t about the finished drawing, it is about fulfilling the mandate of his vision, received in 2001 from a dreamlike otherworldly presence. He draws to live. So the work, or the process really, is never completed, it moves on, whether it is the obsessive repetition of the artist in an institution or the spirit yard of a culture bearer in the American South. It is up to us as the infrastructure of our field to find those intentionalities, understand them, and then give the work its real and proper contextualization.

Noviadi Angkasapura is not a trained artist. Nor is he what some might call pure art brut. He is certainly not an outsider. His mission is guided and spiritual. He comes from a hybrid world. Even his name is self-created. He was born in 1979 in Irian Jaya to a moderate Moslem family. He does not dwell on any negative influence or experiences from his childhood. He knew he was driven. He knew his life had to be special.

For Angkasapura the act of making marks on whatever materials he finds are a form of repetitive prayer. The spirit who visited him gave him a phrase that has within its meaning “peace” and “patience”. The knowledge that he is drawing to satisfy the calling of a spirit he encountered is more important to him than the finished drawing itself. It is the act of self-manifestation that fulfills his mandate of artmaking.

NoA 116

Noviadi Angkasapura Untitled, 2014 Ink on found paper 12.25 x 8.5 inches 31.1 x 21.6 cm

He began to seriously draw in 2001. While he had always drawn, it was at this time that he had a visitation from a spirit-like being who gave him a phrase/name which one can often find written into the Drawings: KI RADEN SASTRO INGGIL. To Angkasapura this visitation was a moral wake-up call. The spirit gave him a blueprint of ethical living and balance, including the virtues of honesty and patience, “up to 45 points”, the artist has told me. The presence of this spirit is always with him when he draws and again points to his body of work as a process of achieving a moral balance in a difficult world. The act of drawing is a meditation and fulfillment of the spirits words.

NoA 125

Noviadi Angkasapura Untitled, 2014 Ink on found paper 11.75 x 8.5 inches 29.8 x 21.6 cm

He knows he is dealing with both fears and joy in the drawings. He senses the dramas played out in the drawings but he does not know much more about them. He does not feel he controls the outcome. He feels that those who understand the spirit’s intentions will understand the drawings. Angkasapura himself is merely a conduit for the messages; he is the mediator between us and the spirit, he does not have to explain them.

That sense of unusual balance translates to the drawings. There is a sense of music and cohesiveness in them that is not achieved through symmetry; quite often the focal point changes as if he were turning the paper round as he draws.

NoA 111

Noviadi Angkasapura Untitled, 2014 Ink on found paper 8.25 x 11.5 inches 21 x 29.2 cm

The figures in his drawings are encounters with internal and external forces. His beings are fanged and clawed. They are spawned by but not orthodox to local imagery. They move singly or in tandem with others, their internal organs often worn on the outside, again the play of internal and external forces exposed. Their bodies appear aggressive and dangerous but never really threatening which gives them the qualities of amulets. Fierce images drive away much fiercer forces.

“Although the characters seem different or repeated there is one thing that can never be lost, there are always flowing lines and fibers and spines (lines and filamentous forms always form in my head like tangles). At higher levels when I start drawing I have only one story. It will be split into many stories at the beginning as I draw so there are then a lot of stories here, the images will be irregular, there are a lot of symbols, yes there are a lot of stories here, in the world. Everyone will see it. That’s why I do not have titles every time I finish a picture. (I have a secret. I never project anything when drawing, except a little splash of flavor. This is the spirit’s meaning of “honest” and “patience”. . . they are the source and the destination end of my journey, which becomes the message in each drawing.)”

Another evidence of the self-therapeutic aspect of the drawings is the calligraphy present everywhere. What he captures ranges from street sounds, mumbled phrases, thinking out loud in relationship to the protective words of his primal vision; Inga Sastri. The writing also affirms the process as the ultimate satisfaction of artmaking for him. He is thinking right onto the paper. It gives each drawing a sense of immediacy.

Despite making as many drawings as he does each is very different from the other. If there is anything immediately noticeable as serial in them it would be the materials used to make the drawings which sometimes carry over from drawing to drawing, where color itself becomes a motif.
Although he is a Muslim living in Indonesia the drawings are not specifically about his formal religion as much as the imagery touches on local animism in its vivid language. He has said to me that he is spiritual rather than religious; interested in the spiritual lives of all the peoples where he grew up. This is what makes contemporary world art like his so interesting. We can universally relate to these drawings in the West because they are NOT traditional Asian images. They are idiosyncratic even if some of the imagery (rows of dancers, demons, spirits, women, animals, long fingernails and toenails) is seemingly local. They are elaborated upon obsessively. When looking at an Angkasapura drawing the eye moves constantly. Again, it is musical, there is a beat, a 21st Century beat in the timeless forms.

NoA 113

Noviadi Angkasapura Untitled, 2014 Ink on found paper 11.5 x 8.5 inches 29.2 x 21.6 cm