This is interestingly very revealing about me. I don’t do things cos I think about every possible outcome before hand, and either I chicken out, or I do something else so I don’t have to do that thing I thought would be too hard. Planning my day seems to occupy the bulk of my morning breakfast thought. I am planning away while the day is disappearing. Could I just sit here and do as little as possible, which means whatever it is I decide to do,I will do it slowly, and for a longer period of time then I’d normally be comfortable? Would this do anything to me? What’s the benefit. And so on I go.
Who’s my audience, what would I look like if I do 'anything'? It’s all externally focused is it not? All I can say is ‘oh for fuck sake!’.
People who agree to sit for a portrait and a chat, are people who agree because they are curious, and they don't let their fear or ambivalence stop them, this is in turn productive for everyone because it gives the sitter an opportunity to do something unusual, and for me to sit and sketch them as they perhaps grapple with their own discomfort. If people sit because I pay them to, it makes the whole exercise change in tone because people are not here because they are curious; they agree for an economic benefit. It’s fantastically different and I want people to agree to satisfy their curiosity and use courage to do so. I am too in search of my courage and my curiosity never failed me. When people agree to sit for a portrait, they aren’t just Indonesians, Javanese, fathers, mothers, widows, daughters or anything else that they identify with, they are also just people, nothing special, nothing new, and just having a chat, even if it feels uncomfortable a little, it’s two people engaging in a very normal activity, nothing precious or out of the ordinary about it.
Babun just came to check on me, what do I need, how was my sleep and how was breakfast. His name is kinda comical to a western mind, it is pronounced exactly like ‘baboon’, Babun has a regal javanese face, very soft spoken, and has a nose that most of those wayang's are modeled after, a perfect Javanese nose, and lips like the Buddha. I’ve just asked him to find out if anyone would like to pose for me. And not a minute later he found my first model. Ibu Narsih. The cook and the cleaner lady came and dropped her hat to reveal a long lush hair, she and I started chatting as I begun to draw her.
She told me she was born in 1959, she has two daughters and 1.5 grand kids of which will become a rounded 2 soon with the youngest one pregnant. She has been in this parts for 31 years and was originally from Gunung Kidul (Kidul Mountain) but her husband is from here. She has worked and known Warwick, the owner of D’omah since the early 90’s and she now has worked for this current place since 2003. She does all the cooking with Ibu Idah, and some of the cleaning and has worked in expatriate houses for a long time. She understands what most people are saying but has a hard time replying in English. She told me the workers and the village people are now used to foreigners hanging around, sometimes in their bras and bikinis, they don’t think much of it. In the past when the village was undeveloped, there were way more commotion, and naturally she added, ugliness in some people started to appear. With a resigned calmness she recalled when she had once worked for 3 months and hasn’t been paid, and found out that someone had been filtering the cash into their own pocket. As long as I was healthy, I can just keep working, she calmly ended that like just an anecdote. In Yogyakarta, she continued, it’s easy to find people but it’s a whole other thing to trust that they are good people and trustworthy.
It’s quite hot on this porch now, I am visibly perspiring, or maybe it is from the pressure I give myself as I am drawing this portrait. It’s quite nice to small talk as I draw Ibu Narsih, the conversation seem to flow naturally, she has a high cheek bone, and also a full Javanese lips and good teeth, I should add, she has a demeanor that matches her self-image of someone fifty-something, she laughed as she said that in this part of the world fifty-something is definitely already old. The reaction I got after I’d done the portrait, it couldn’t have been more then 20 minutes, was her saying that it makes the hair on her body stand up. The Javanese word ‘Merinding’ was the exact words used. So I attributed that reaction to two things, either the drawing looks absolutely nothing like her, or it is an expression she has since it’s her first time posing for a portrait. I can’t tell, and in the end it doesn’t matter.
Does this feel like work? no but I am actually working on something, it is a lose concept - 'Work' is. I have been sitting here since breakfast. It feels like work, if what you think of work is a form of acting upon your artistic impulses, it doesn't feel like work if that means you have to judge your work later for it to be valid or mean something. In the end we all judge what every we do, so why shouldn't drawing portrait and talking to the sitter be work?