Contemporary batik painter Tumadi Patri, 54, is staging his first solo show today, 31 years after he joined Angkatan Pelukis Aneka Daya, a Singapore Malay artists' group, where he learnt batik painting from pioneer artists such as Sarkasi Said and Sujak Rahman.
He is showing 19 of his mainly batik works done between 1995 and this year. They include a 14-piece installation titled The Journey Of Pak Dalang, which comprises wayang kulit (shadow puppet theatre) characters he made using poly carbon and colour films and can be seen hanging from the ceiling of a double- storey atrium in the main exhibition hall at DLR Gallery@Muse House.
Mr Ong Yew Huat, chairman of the National Heritage Board, will open the exhibition today at 7.30pm.
What took Tumadi so long to stage his first solo show, though his works have been shown regularly at group exhibitions in Singapore and abroad such as in the Netherlands and the Middle East since the 1980s?
Tumadi, who spent a year at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts where he attended a part-time course in painting in 1986, says he became a full-time professional painter only in 2009.
He recalls: "That year, I was retrenched as a technician from an oil drum factory where I had worked for 25 years since leaving secondary school."
A Singapore-born Javanese, Tumadi says he has been interested in art since his primary school days at the now- defunct Chua Chu Kang Malay Primary School, where he started to doodle.
"Maybe it was because of my Javanese heritage, I have been interested in wayang kulit since I was young as well," he explains.
He believes that combining batik painting, which had its origins in Java, and wayang kulit, which also came from Indonesia, respresents his cultural heritage best. "I am fascinated with the stories behind wayang kulit, which tell the struggles of life and good over evil, that
I find much joy depicting them on my canvas and in a colourful way too."
Not all his paintings are about wayang kulit though.
Others like his year 2000's mixed- media work on paper, Harmony, shows how the four races should live peacefully and happily with one another.
Another 2005 work, also in mixed media, condemns corruption all over the world.
It was DLR Gallery owner Teo Eng Seng, 75, an artist and Cultural Medallion recipient who first spotted Tumadi's works in an exhibition at The Substation recently. "I bought one of his works there. When a friend saw it and took it away from me, I decided that it was time to hold a solo exhibition of his works," he says.
On Tumadi's works at the current show, Teo adds: "He may not be a celebrity yet, but his works have reached the maturity expected of an established artist. I rank him among the best contemporary batik artists here."
Tumadi says: "My solo exhibition is a dream come true and my only regret is that I didn't go full time as a painter earlier."
STORY TIME: AN EXHIBITION OF CONTEMPORARY BATIK PAINTINGS BY TUMADI PATRI
Where: DLR Gallery@Muse House, 22, Marshall Road, Singapore 424858
When: Tomorrow to May 4, 11am to 6.30pm daily
This article was published on April 22 in The Straits Times.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.