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Jimi Hendrix on the Sixth Canvas

By 18 Jan ’11March 7th, 2014English
if six was nine V

“When I was younger, I learnt those ways. I paid attention and tried to find all those beautiful ways, like Castle Made of Sand, One Rainy Wish and all Hendrix’s cool works, which unfortunately are not as famous as his echo technique, playing-with-teeth technique, etc.”

~ Steve Vai via TEMPO, May 3 – 9 2010.

“Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens […] Excuse me while I kiss the sky […] I’m the one that has to die when it’s time for me to die, so let me live my life, the way I want to.”

—Jimi Hendrix, (accessed 15 October 2010)

The sixth of his eighteen canvases displayed at Sangkring Art Space, Yogyakarta in the exhibition entitled “Organic Mind” shows the portrait of legendary Jimmy Hendrix, depicting him as – adopting the title of an Indonesian film starred by Rhoma Irama – “Satria Bergitar” “the Guitar Knight”, who was most stunning and influential in the world history of rock music and guitar playing techniques as stated in Steve Vai’s testimony.

Supposed we are fans of Jimi Hendrix, have such testimony convinced us to related ourselves with the leading figure of The Jimi Hendrix Experience?


Let us remember Jimi Hendrix, who was born with name Johnny Allen Hendrix, especially the day when he was desperately waiting for something but it ended in endless silence that cannot be explained.

At dawn on September 18, 1970 the superstar Jimi Hendrix called his ex-manager, Chas Chandler, from his girlfriend’s flat in Grove Ladbroke, London, asking for help. Unfortunately Chandler was not home, so Hendrix just left a message on his answering machine, saying, “I need immediate help.” The help did not come and at 11.45 am it was announced that he was died on the way to hospital. He died from sleeping pill overdose (there is also assumption that it was heroin overdose). Jimi Hendrix who was considered as the greatest guitarist ever lived and known for his genius in playing blues music and brutally sexy performance on stage died in the age of 27 years old. He was the musician getting most praise in Woodstock Festival and Isle of Wright Festival. The former was a huge music event held in Bethel, New York, visited by hundreds of thousands of youngsters celebrating the hippie culture along with many “rebellious” musicians like Joan Baez, Ravi Shankar, Janis Joplin, The Who, Jefferson Airplane, etc. When he died actually he was being tangled by legal case related to his contract and royalty, by problem with his manager and by problem related to the break-up of his band. His concert four days before in Denmark ended chaotically, he left the stage during the show, saying, “I have died for a long time.”

I compiled the stories about Jimi Hendrix from some sources like the encyclopedias On this Day: the History of the World in 366 Days (2004) and Historica: 1000 Years of Our Lives and Times (2006), and weekly new magazine, TEMPO (May 3 – 9, 2010).

While compiling the stories, at certain point I paused to read book entitled Soeharto di Bawah Militerisme Jepang (Soeharto Under the Japanese Militarism) by David Jenkins, a senior journalist from Australia. This Jenkins’ second book was just published in Bahasa Indonesia by Komunitas Bambu, Jakarta, in November 2010. His first book that has been published in Bahasa Indonesia also by Komunitas Bambu is Soeharto dan Barisan Jenderal Orba: Rezim Militer Indonesia 1975 – 1983 (Soeharto and the Brigade of New Order’s Generals: Indonesian Military Regime 1975-1983; April 2010).

Besides these two books, I also have read other history books such as Asyi Warman Adam’s “Bung Karno Dibunuh Tiga Kali?” (“Soekarno Killed Three Times?” (2010)), John Roosa’s “Dalih Pembunuhan Massal; Gerakan 30 September dan Kudeta Suharto” (“Reasons of Mass Killing: 30 September Movement and Suharto’s Coup d’etat” (2008)) and Robert Edward Elson’s “Suharto: Sebuah Biografi Politik” (“Suharto: A Political Biography” (2005)). These has convinced me more that Suharto was the supreme ruler and the supreme general of the militaristic New Order regime. He ruled the country for 32 years after overthrew Sukarno from his throne in two ways; first, in “subtle way” by “asking” Sukarno to issue a decree later known as the Supersemar Decree of 11 March 1966, which then enabled Suharto to control the social and political order, and second, in “harsher way” by killing so many activists and followers of Indonesian Communist Party until the end of 1960s. The communist Party was accused as the actor of the Thirtieth of September Movement that assassinated six generals and one company officer of the Indonesian Army and tried to coup Sukarno’s administration.

For three decades of the New Order regime, the accusation seemed to be a “historical fact”, which was, borrowing the title of Jonathan Safran Foer’s novel (2010), Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close in the minds of the people of this country. It was strengthened by the release of a propaganda film entitled “Pengkhianatan G30S/PKI” directed by Arifin C. Noer in 1984.

With such visual propaganda, psychological terror broke critical mind into pieces of powerlessness. So, we seem to forget that when Jimi Hendrix died, Sukarno had been for 89 days buried in Sentul village, Blitar – East Java. According to Asvi Warman Adam, a historian, he was buried without his family’s permit for the sake of security by the time of 1971 Election. It was so ironic that his funeral was done without giving him the right and facility as a former president except with a brief speech by General Pangabean, the Commanding General of Indonesian Armed Forces, in the afternoon on June 22, 1970.

The first president of Indonesia stepped down tragically as political home prisoner until his death in Gatot Soebroto Army Hospital on June 20, 1970. Afterwards during the regime of Suharto’s administration, the gate for every effort to reminisce the Extension of People’s tongues was shut. In his country he was not respected except as the Proclaimer of Indonesian Independence, whose role and services were drowned by the Five-Year Development Plan of the New Order Regime.

Weekly magazine TEMPO (3 – 9 May 2010) on its eight-page “Intermezzo” rubric talked about “Hendrix after 40 years”, stating that

“Four decades after his death at age of 28 [It is supposed to be 27 years, or 28 ahead]. Jimi Hendrix still radiates his charm. A new album [entitled Valleys of Neptune, released by the Hendrix Experience and Legacy Recordings, a division of Sony Music Entertainment, in March 2010 – writer] consisting of a dozen of his unreleased materials he recorded on the last days of his life entered into the list of best-selling albums. Various magazines have also made him as their cover stories as if talking about his stunning career and his glamorous but short life would never run out. Does he deserve all this celebration?”

If the question is asked personally to I Nyoman Mantra, I am sure that he will answer, “Yes, he deserves it because he finds in Jimi Hendrix, as what Sugi Lanus calls him, a “figurative representation of modern man who is able to practice traditional knowledge.

With organic mind, Mantra intends to wisely harmonize the modern and traditional elements like connecting the numbers 6 and 9 (69) expressed in the title of the sixth canvas depicting the profile of Jimi Hendrix – frizzy hair, sharp eyes and obtruding cheekbones, decorated like imaginary world with colorful leaves that grow on and fall from trees symbolizing wisdom as reflected in Hendrix’s statement, “Knowledge speaks but wisdom listens”. One day in when he was on top of his career, he said, “Death is when you are classified no longer as human being. Your body is just a vehicle that makes you move from place to place without running into many problems.”

Therefore we can understand Mantra’s sixth canvas entitled “If Six Was Nine” as a sort of illustration of his thinking that regards Jimi Hendrix an “Angel of Comparison” who brings mirror on which Mantra can express the wisdom about human, animal and plant within organic state of mind. He intends to reconcile the East and West with traditional wisdom and modern value on a piece of canvas.

We can imagine how it is like Hendrix’s apology while he is flying as something that cannot be seen but felt within imagination of a man who has realized about the meaning of life and death. Imagine the roar of audience listening his fender Stratocaster guitar playing the sounds, according to Harry Shapiro and Caesar Gebbeek (TEMPO, May 3 – 9, 2010), are dirty, harsh, metal and sharp.

On the sixth canvas depicting the profile of Jimi Hendrix, I do hope to be able to listen and feel the “sound”, not juts think and talk about it during this event.

Yogyakarta, 18 December 2010



Visual Art Curator

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