Indonesian art is fresh, energetic and lively. The country has one of the most vibrant and cutting-edge art scenes in Asia, becoming increasingly recognized around the world as being a hot spot of creative energy and interest. A country of incredible diversity, vastness and richness, its art unfortunately never got the exposure or the value it deserved over the last 20 years.
Indonesian contemporary artists are a truly fascinating breed, influenced by the nation’s traditional heritage, diversity, and the dynamic modern society in which they’re living now, while expressing their own understanding of the world. In so many ways, they continue to break norms and challenge limits, influencing and expanding observers' sense of reality. Notwithstanding the newer influences shaping its production, contemporary art from Indonesia retains a surprisingly strong sense of local identity, consistently referencing a wealth of established visual and cultural tradition.
While the Western interest in the Indonesian contemporary art scene was relatively scant throughout history, the attention has been recently shifting to the country for the diversity, vivacity and ambition of its art. Indonesian artists are increasingly coveted by homegrown and regional collectors and fetching ever-rising prices in both primary and secondary markets.
Here is our selection of established contemporary artists from Indonesia that you should definitely know about.
Featured image: AT Sitompul - Guiding (detail), 2018. All images courtesy of Mayinart.
AT Sitompul started to paint when he was a kid, continuing his education at the Indonesia Institute of Art in Yogyakarta. For him, art is the act of giving value to something, and painting is the way how to express himself. Working in a range of techniques on canvas, he creates stunning graphic works characterized by intricate patterns and irregular curvilinear forms. Paying great attention to color, line and form, he seeks to visualize the things he saw, felt, and heard and also moments that he has gone through.
An expressionist and formalist painter, Uswarman creates works drawn from personal and surrounding issues that could affect and raise his artistic achievement. Using his art practice as a form of contemplation, he creates surprising sensations and delivers sublime feels through spontaneous processing of materials and visual elements. Through large and loose brushstrokes and exploration of composition, expressive incisions and letters, he has developed a unique style of abstract expressionism.
A contemporary Indonesian painter, Nugroho Heri Cahyono creates works that accumulate his experiences, memory, observation and reflection. While associated with urban culture, identity and cultural products, his works also reflect his feelings and personality. He expresses a collection of ideas that come from the environment, physical experiences and inner experiences, exploring and experimenting with different materials and techniques, forms of construction and meanings.
Using his art as a commentary on a range of events, Januri feels that it continues the art tradition of Beckman, Chagall, Francisco de Goya, Gustave Courbet, Diego Rivera, Affandi, Hendra Gunawan, Sudjojoo, Sudjono Kerton, Djoko Pekik and other artists who used their paintings as a medium to narrate social events. In his earlier practice, he focused on human figures, depicting them in transparent colors as a reflections of the political condition of the country. Over time, he began using darker colors, placing more emphasis on the background. In his latest series, the landscape takes more central role.
Based in Yogyakarta, Fery Eka Chandra has been passionate about painting since childhood. The artist describes painting as a true expression of his soul. In his works, he mostly uses repetitive lines, beams and other shapes. His works usually feature bright colors and sometimes figures as well. He has participated in art shows in South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore, China and Thailand and in 2003 and 2004, he won the top 5 of ASEAN ART AWARD, one of the most prestigious art competitions at that time.