CONTEMPORARY INDONESIAN ART
The Sotheby’s success of contemporary Indonesian artists like I Nyoman Masriadi, who sold a single painting for more than $245,000 USD at auction on October 6th, 2009 in Hong Kong, has grabbed the attention of the art world. There finally appears to be much international interest in art from the politically heated Southeast Asian island nation. However, what is Indonesian art, and is there an ‘Indonesian style’? Art Radar Asia researcher Erin Wooters discusses the emerging style from this part of the art world with renowned Indonesian artist Jumaldi Alfi at Sin Sin Fine Art in Hong Kong before the opening of the ‘Diverse 40 x 40’ exhibition, which features the works of Alfi, Andy Dewantoro, and Nasirun.
Jumaldi Alfi, born July 19th 1973, is from Padang in West Sumatra, and studied in Java at the Indonesian High School of the Arts and then the Indonesian Institute of Arts in Jogja (also known as Yogyakarta or Jogjakarta.) In 2008 his work sold for upwards of $35,000 USD at Sotheby’s, and he has experienced continued success in 2009. He describes his complicated journey to becoming an artist:
Alfi: My family has a poetry culture. My uncle is a poet and my family prepared me to be appointed to his position, because in our clan we need someone to talk to people with symbolic words. My uncle taught me, but I couldn’t [take his position], because in our poetic culture you need to have very focused writing, from the first to the last word, or else the meaning is gone… Honestly, I did not always want to be an artist. I thought I would follow my uncle, because of our bloodline. But when I chose to be an artist for my career, my mom wanted to know why. They thought artists were not disciplined, so stinky, long hair..
Q: What do you think makes Indonesian art different or unique from other Southeast Asian art?
Alfi: Eighty percent of the artists stay in Jogja.. In Indonesia, especially in Jojga, we live together and have an open community, keeping and sharing the energy… We open our hearts, not just the brain.
Q: So you think the way the people interact is special and different, and that’s what makes the art different?
Alfi: Yea, the place! The city is open, individual, and very personal. Jojgakarta is a small city, and feels like all family. If I am bored or depressed when working in my studio late at night, I can go out, places will still be open, and many artists will be there. I think it’s good. We talk, and then I am back to my studio with a renewed energy.
Q: Is there anything else that makes Indonesian art unique or different from other Southeast Asian art?
Alfi: Yes, our heart.
Q: Are there any subject matters or themes relating Indonesian art?
Alfi: Honestly, we don’t have a connector in Indonesian art. You can’t find something and say – Oh, this is Indonesian style. You can see the style is very modern. We use Western techinique. We use oil and acrylic, but still you can feel it is not Western. It is not Western because when we start working, we don’t use our brain first. We use our feeling, it’s about feeling. If we’re inspired, we work. If not, we stop.
Q: I see. That touches on the next question, which is if there is a distinct ‘Indonesian style’.
Alfi: We don’t have an Indonesian style. Indonesia is only a nation. A nation- basically, we are different. West Sumatra and Java are different. The language, the culture, the food, the character, and the emotional feeling are different. The Javanese people are more defensive than the Sumatrans. Sumatrans are more progressive, and have more heart. Javanese are more quiet.
Q: What is Jogja surrealism, and what inspired it?
Alfi: The 80’s! Jojga surrealism and abstract expressionism is the generation from the 1980’s. In Jojga, the painting is not only surreal, the situation is surreal. Many modern people live there but still believe in traditional mysticism. The surrealism concept in Indonesia and in the West is totally different.
Q: Is your art spiritually inspired or a response to the spirituality in Indonesia?
Alfi: Yes, very much. [It is] not conceptual. Art is the way for me to understand myself.
Q: Is there a central theme in your artwork or a certain idea you are exploring?
Alfi: It is my idea of myself. It is about myself and what I’m feeling. If you want to know the people, know yourself. If you know yourself, you know the people.
Q: How did you meet Sin Sin?
Alfi: I think we found each other because of her karma and my karma. When I first met her my English was really bad and we couldn’t talk, but when I showed her my work she understood. I felt good energy, and that is very important to me. I knew it was a good situation. I believe in the connection of body language and the aura. Sometimes you meet people you don’t know, but you want to help them. After one minute, you feel like old friends.
Q: What is the nationality of your major collectors?
Alfi: Mostly Indonesian, although the art is making its way to Europe. I think 80% of my collectors are concerned with investment and business, and the rest are serious art lovers.
- Sin Sin, Hong Kong gallerist and Indonesian art specialist, on the recently flourishing Indonesian art scene- interview– Sept 09
- Inspiring art at important Indonesian art shows Spring 2009– April 09
- Overview Indonesian art- Only 5 in 50 auctionable artists today will have lasting value– March 09
- Collector’s new Indonesian art gallery opening causes ripples- Jakarta Post- Feb 09