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LK Bing: Artistic Spontaneity

LK Bing, also known as Soekandi, is one of the most talented urban sketchers to hail from Surabaya. "Only in spontaneity can we be who we truly are," says Bing, quoting the famed guitarist John McLaughlin. Bing himself has a reputation for crafting spontaneous masterpieces that appear haphazard - but that also capture an atmosphere to tell a beautiful tale.

Photo by Bagus Tri Laksono & LK Bing (Soekandi)

Urban sketching pioneer Gabriel Campanario described the art form as a drawing activity that takes as its subject daily activities. Subjects cover more than buildings – and can take any form, as long as they define the activities of a city. The media used are as varied as the subjects. What is important is how artists record the city through sketches, which are usually done on the spot.

Bing is an architect who creates interior and landscape designs. His interest in painting was piqued after he obtained a large project that required him to do the interior arrangement. Facing problems in acquiring artwork that matched the colour scheme, he created by himself an abstract painting that was appropriate for one room’s palette and theme. Since then, other designers have commissioned him to do abstract paintings, acknowledging his ability to follow space and colour arrangements, thus creating synergy for designs.

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Bing, who has worked as an architectural illustrator for 10 years and as a drawing and design lecturer at Petra University’s architecture department, said that his professional experience heightened his interest to start making urban sketches. This fascination led him to join a non-pro urban sketchers group before he co-founded Urban Sketchers Surabaya in 2013. The group was invited to join an exhibition held by Grha Wismilak, Surabaya, and garnered appreciation from painting aficionados while brining urban sketchers into the spotlight.

“People’s appreciation of [community co-founder] Sudarman and me has encouraged artists in other areas across the country to initiate urban sketching events,” Bing says. With the emergence of urban sketchers in Indonesia, national symposiums have been held in many places. In 2014, Bing and Sudarman were selected as instructors in for the Southeast Asian Urban Sketchers Symposium in Penang. To top it off, Bing was named as an instructor for the 7th International Urban Sketchers Symposium in Manchester, England, teaching to an international audience a class titled “Capturing Atmosphere Using Dramatic Lighting and Fast Spontaneity,” a skill that requires a spontaneous and dramatic style.

The strength of Bing’s sketches lies in the ambience and an ability to capture atmosphere instead of highlighting the architectural details of an object. “In the world of urban sketchers, I don’t want to present only the architectural side. I want to express artistic values from a spontaneous stroke by presenting the spirit of a place in a symphony of dramatic lights and shadows,” Bing says.

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The uniqueness of his works can be seen in how he makes incredible sketches evincing a personal style and artistic spontaneity that he obtained from his experience in making abstract and mural paintings. This combination of architectural drawing and pure art gives Bing’s works a different character. “The strokes, spontaneity and artistic values are all important to feature.

“Honesty and valour can be read through strokes,” Bing says. As a sketcher, muralist and abstract painter, he has an impressive list of works, as well as competent technique and an abundant knowledge of photography, composition and basic drawing techniques. He is also keen on using various other media and tools, from common devices to unusual ones, combining them with various kinds of paint: Watercolours, coffee as well as egg tempera, giving his works a multitude of different expressions.

His works always have a dramatic quality. He can present a play of focal point and depth of field through his works. To gain these artistic values, he takes his time to delve deeper into each object before executing his observation through spontaneous and swift strokes. Unsurprisingly, with his extraordinary talent and experience, he has made works with a wide range of appearance, from small drawings on A5 paper to a 6-metre tall wall mural in a Jakarta hotel lobby. It’s like Japanese author Junichiro Tanizaki once wrote: “Find beauty, not only in the thing itself but in the pattern of shadow, the light and dark which that thing provides.” Bing would agree.

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