Images with numerous focal points in within their poses and portraits: glum faces, empty gazes, troubled atmospheres, tension, fear, and other elements with asymmetrical qualities. Non-linear stories, images jumping from one scene to the next, and stand- alone narratives. There is a thread connecting these traits: they are drawn with a sense of unapologetic freedom, an inimitable style, and a diversity of materials—pens, inks, acrylics, etc. Dragging any form of pigment across a surface, is a daily habit for Natisa Jones. She has an abundance of energy for such things. Drawing as a way of life and an indisputable choice.

Jones’ strokes often feel sharp-edged. A sense of anxiety seems to lurk and swim beneath one line and the next. The lines meet to create something which resembles the human form with a certain kind of arbitrary distortion – a capriciousness, impulsiveness, unburdened by rights and wrongs. Almost every drawing is completed with one decisively drawn line, showing her mastery in medium and an acute sensitivity. Jones draws anywhere with anything. She tends to draw facial expressions - with a distinct attention to the eyes and gaze. She exposes the characters in a similar way a photographer approaches a close-up image. The same idioms are repeated from different angles and different scenes. The eyes are not treated merely as a window from which we observe the reality existing outside of the Self, but employed to personify meanings with layered complexity. Eyes engross Jones’ attention the most, within her work. So much so, that in some drawings, they appear in extreme fashion: numerous eyes on one face, within a figure. Certainly, they create astonishing spectacles that offer uncommon meanings.

Untamed lines made with humble materials—the tip of an ordinary pen, emotional brushstrokes slapping on blocks of black, red, and so forth, using inks and acrylics.

Sharp phrases and punch lines thrown on, perhaps aphorize spontaneous expressions, unlinked from one image to the next. Everything occurs in ever-changing places, spaces, and timelines. Brief, compact texts often attached to the images are written in either Indonesian or English—representing the two worlds in Jones’ daily existence - where she agilely traverses back and forth. She tells her stories as freely as she can, as guilelessly, candidly, and truthfully as possible – as though the world of a child lays bare every detail, concealing nothing from view. She rejects distinctions and taboos, as she believes it hinders from communicating or connecting to one’s whole truth. The figures are drawn from their most basic existence: freedom and play. A majority of the subject matter tend to be drawn in transparent fashion– revealing a world that is guileless and true.

People exist in a series of interconnected events. In Jones’ drawings, occurrences are disguised in imageries that emerge from her subconscious. Where issues and dialogues are given precedence over the attainment of “beauty”. Whereby the existence of beauty remains in its raw form. This image is diametrically opposite to salon aesthetics that prescribe beautiful sensibilities: well-assembled, neat and orderly truth, even surpassing reality itself. The salon world reflects, more or less, the way through which humanity looks at the projections made by optimists with their idealistic “golden section”, sturdy physiques conveyed through three-dimensional constructions, and other rational things, widely expressed in various modern artworks especially in Europe. It is a very anthropomorphic view. The pinnacle of this optimistic outlook is perhaps “Worker and Kolkhoz Woman” by the celebrated Russian sculptress Vera Mukhina, displayed at the 1937 World Fair, held on the banks of the River Seine in Paris. Today, this tendency has developed so far as to freeze time, as represented by the waxworks of Madame Tussauds. There are people who cannot accept the destruction and extinction of humankind. They wish to preserve such realities to all eternity.

Yet, we may find in the history of European modern art that the opposite is also true. Works by Otto Dix, George Grosz, and the painters of the Weimar Republic, for instance, are the antithesis of such human grandiosity/perfection. Their works depict bruised, defected, bleeding and severed bodies, as well as decomposing corpses strewn, laid out for the vultures. There are images of social situations and moral decadence that came out of the First and Second World Wars that claimed millions of lives. Dix and his contemporaries created anti-climactic scenes that inform modern humanity of how greatness and indignity stand alongside one another, closely connected.

In her works, Jones’ seems not fully convinced by the illusion of perfection. For humanity’s existence is of a perpetual search. She is fully aware that perfection may never be obtainable; it is a mere aspiration that propels us to lofty ambitions. Look closely at each of her images; they escape a serene, beautiful and peaceful world. Her expressed energy wrestle within a warped realm: a world in tatters, broken and fragile, never living up to expectations. 

Perhaps, Jones is describing a microcosm, while also reflecting a larger world, that is: the psychological landscape of our current society. Perhaps it is a taxonomy of daily concerns articulated by Jones, through image and text on behalf of people who are unable to do so. Or, perhaps simply a form of spontaneous manifestations that pours out in waves from within the soul of a youth who exists in between a diversity of cultures, moving from one country to the next, quickly shifting from one language to the other.

Natisa Jones was born as an Indonesian citizen. At the age of five, She and her parents relocated from Jakarta to Bali. At age fifteen, she enrolled at a boarding school in Chiang Mai, Thailand, before continuing to study art in Australia. In present time, she travels between Bali and Amsterdam to roam in museums and continue to push her artistic practice. Bali, on the other hand —a region with the uncanny ability to absorb all things it encounters, or conversely, to leave a certain mark in the lives of many artists—is almost invisible in Jones’ work. Here, we can conclude that Jones is truly a child of the world, if we may borrow a sentiment once boldly proclaimed by Kelompok Gelanggang, quite some time ago. They declared thusly – because they saw their works as universal, capable of crossing the boundaries of peoples, nations, and countries. Therefore, Natisa Jones continues to grow and flourish in two worlds simultaneously.


Text by Asikin Hasan