Ugo Untoro is an artist well known for his corat-coret (‘scribbling’, ‘casual drawing’) style. He began developing the style in the mid-1990s as marked by the heading he gave to his first solo exhibition, ‘Corat-coret Ugo Untoro’ (1991-’95)’. The style stemmed from his desire to do away with the painting style developing at the Art School in Jogja that compelled individual painters to paint in certain established styles. With his corat-coret ‘casual drawing’ he feels that he’s escaped the trapping of established styles he regards as restraining.
Also, he’s been interested in graffiti. He even comes to identify his personal style as graffiti on canvas. Generally speaking, artists in Jogja – where Ugo develops his art – have good command of a style known as sketsa, sketch drawing. The style is seen as highly effective as a means for artists to develop their painting since drawing sketches is supposedly helpful for artists in elaborating their perception and combining it with their manual skill that provides the main assets in painting.
However, while sketch-drawing practice generally only leads to a standard skill with its implications for style or merely psychomotor aspects of painting, Ugo has managed to make sharp bending from such conventional direction. Thanks to him, sketch-drawing encounters twists-and-turns and the complexity of consciousness, hence introducing the artist’s personal, internal collisions into the style. His corat-coret art wrestles with message and meaning, going beyond the boundaries and standard mastery of a glorified aspect of art. From such an obtuse setting that hinders profound interpretive and reflective exercise, he’s made a leap to escape the waves of mannerism, found himself on an unknown islet, sticking out as a new and weird or problematic species of plant, which is perhaps not too visible from a far and therefore quite unnoticed.
In that sense, Ugo becomes a ‘marginal’ artist in his own very personal way. Painting, he once said, is like a hope that fills the vast emptiness of the heart, mixed with the wishful anxiety of fishing. Persons who are fishing never know for sure the kinds of fish they will get and the richness of the pools. They always wish for some big catch, but Ugo is one that always desires to give himself new surprises, which are things that might be trivial yet able to prick his restive mind in dealing with the mystery of an artist’s attempts ‘to fish’.
Ugo develops his ideas and messages of his art in such a fishing pool; he even submerges deeply into it – and not without any doubt, too – to find some commotion in his own lonesomeness and pain, a current far beneath ripples, not always perceptible from the surface. Nonetheless, such is the style and inclination he’s been maintaining so far.
The artist has strong interest in verses. His affinity for poetical lines has encouraged him to incorporate written words that often serve as the titles of his works. In terms of origins, the written texts may come from, or be inspired by, the writing of poets Ugo admires, but more often they originate from the headings of other kinds of connotative texts that he picks and adapts.
The fluency of his drawn lines is parallel with his execution in writing down the poetic titles. This gives the impression of the supposed similarity or parallelism between the visual and the literal: writing generates images, yet images can be ‘read’ as something literal just because both have the seeds of poetry in themselves. Ut pittura poesis.
When we consider his works paradigmatically, we may notice his tendency to offer unfinished or incomplete forms. Such incomplete forms suggest and provide the attempt to share space that always remains for us to develop or perfect our own interpretations or narratives. If we believe that there isn’t any picture that can be fully described by any kind of writing, such practice by Ugo is his way to present something paradoxical: it is as if the connection between his visual and literal texts were denotative and reciprocally explanatory in terms of their basic meanings. Images in his works always have the appearance of fragments, cuts or episodes selected as the most stirring or touching. The images of blank corners feel so empty in his painting and water color drawing. The loneliness of the horizons is painful and appalling because there we find distorted figures, isolated and critical, ever disquieting to us and tearing our imaginations of things familiar to us. The image of corner springs from the famous series of corners that he made in the past decade. The series has retained its prolonged reverberations in all kinds of Ugo’s works since then. Viewing Ugo Untoro’s works is witnessing how a feeling of lonesomeness gives birth to commotions that reveal the layers of our awareness as human beings. With his works, Ugo has identified and interpreted the commotions with his characteristic and gloomy anthropomorphism.