Indonesia: Islands of the Imagination

Imago Mundi

Contemporary Artists from Indonesia

A small 10x12 cm canvas to create an imaginative representation of 80 islands. This is the result achieved if we divide the 17,500 islands that make up Indonesia by the 220 works of the local artists involved in the Imago Mundi project. In Indonesia, moreover, numbers are always significant: a transcontinental state, straddling Asia and Oceania, and the largest archipelago in the world, stretching over 5,000 miles from west to east. It also has the most intense area of volcanic activity on the planet, with 400 volcanoes, of which over a hundred are still active. More than 250 million people live in this insular universe, 300 ethnic groups with over 500 dialects. Java, the largest island, half the size of Italy, accounts for more than half of its total inhabitants and Jakarta, the capital, with a population of 12 million, is one of Asia’s largest cities.

Grace Tjondronimpuno - Love in Diversity (2015)

“In Indonesia - notes Luciano Benetton, the creator of Imago Mundi - the history of human art begins with a new, ancient, chapter. The image of a hand on the wall of a cave near Maros, on the island of Sulawesi, has been dated to nearly 40,000 years ago, making it one of the oldest examples of rock art ever discovered. Perhaps the oldest of all.”

Joseph Wiyono - Welcome to the Hello Land (2015)

The diversity represented by the 300 ethnic groups in the country resonates in the wealth of their artistic expression. “Every ethnic group throughout the archipelago - explains the curator Antonius Kho - has its own language/dialect, cuisine, traditional dress and traditional homes and each has developed its own style in fabrics, engraving, decorative objects as in those of daily use or reserved for special occasions.”

Ida Bagus Alit - We are one (2015)

Indonesia, under Dutch control from 1602 to the end of the Second World War, is now a rapidly developing country, albeit with many imbalances and examples of stagnation. The archipelago, the fifth economy in Asia, is a member of the G20 and the government has initiated reforms to support domestic consumption and give new impetus to manufacturing activities. Work has also begun on a number of important infrastructure projects, including the first high-speed rail link between Jakarta and the city of Bandung, planned to open by 2019.

Basuki Bawono - Where Has My Own Palace Gone (2015)

Jasmine Dewi - Grow Up (2015)

The Indonesians’ desire for the future has had a significant effect on the arts.
While preserving their historical memory, - observes Luciano Benetton - the
Indonesian artists try to give voice and body to uncertainties and current problems in order to overcome the vast terraqueous boundaries of
the archipelago and reach the fertile land of the imagination, a place to bring together past and present, modernity and transition, West and East.
With dreams, fantasies, thoughts, memories, feelings, observations and free interpretations of reality, Indonesian art embraces communication, openness, change. It casts off without fear, joins the search for a common identity, unafraid of not being able to find it.”

I Made Gunawan - Elephant (2015)

Hatmojo - Life Starts From a Dream (2015)

Haedar Gilang Anggita - Image of Dream (2015)

Andreas Camelia - Long Way to Freedom (2015)

“Indonesian modern art - highlights the art historian Mikke Susanto - began on the island of Java. History tells us that Indonesian painting as modern art started with Raden Saleh Sjarif Bustaman (1807-1880), an artist born in Terboyo, who established himself as a professional painter in the 1840s. Considering this moment in time as a starting point and continuing to this day in the early third millennium, Indonesian modern painting can be said to be now around 170 years old.”

Akhmad Abudinata - Astronaut & Guitar (2015)

Najzil Layin - Milky (2015)

A significant milestone in the history of Indonesian art can be found in the so-called “Colonial Era of Art”.
At around the same time, history tells us about the emergence of the painter Abdullah Suriosubroto and his legacy, in the form of the Mooi Indie or “Beautiful Indie” movement. It was a painting genre that celebrated the appeal of Indonesian landscapes as its main theme.

Syamsul Abidin - Borobudur (2015)

On 23 October 1938 in Jakarta the artists Agus Djaya, S. Sudjojono, and a group of friends founded an organization called Persagi (Association of Indonesian Painters), that would become a progres- sive organization pursuing the goal of identifying archetypal Indonesian art. In fact, the Persagi movement called for the artists to express the actual feelings, the heart and soul, the atmosphere and the real living conditions of the Indonesian people. Persagi earned its place on the Country’s art scene by encouraging Indonesian artists to speak out about the real hardships of life in Indonesia.

Klowor Waldiyono - Siddhartha Gautama (2015)

Mahdi Abdullah - Mangosteen Grenade (Chronology)

Additionally, Persagi rejected Western influences on Indonesian art and opposed the hegemony of mainstream art tastes that catered to Western tourism.
In March 1942 began Japan’s invasion of Indonesia. In the midst of the horrifying atmosphere of WWII, however, Japan promoted the concept of developing local artistic potential.
In the wake of the upheavals that followed the declaration of independence, President Soekarno moved the Country’s capital from Jakarta to Yogyakarta (1946-49), a decision that led the artist community to relocate as well. To strengthen their mutual bond, these artists founded various artistic groups and sanggars (art studios), some of which have left their mark in Indonesian history for their contribution to the art world.

Winarno - Growing Together (2015)

As the number of sanggars continued to rise and art became more politicized in the 1950s and 60s, the first art academies and schools were finally established in the Country. The main purpose of founding an educational institution for the arts was to identify a clearer direction for Indonesian art to follow by shaping the identity of future artists through formal education.
Following Indonesia's declaration of independence, in the last forty years of the last century the sanggar (art studio) phenomenon developed in the local art world. Then, gradually, as the number of sanggar grew, the first academies and art schools were established.

Herianto Maidil - Note Story (2015)

“Indonesian contemporary art, from painting to multimedia/installation works, has now earned – comments Mikke Susanto - a significant reputation both nationally and regionally. Starting in the second decade of the 2000s, considerable efforts have been put in place to gain international recognition as well. Thousands of our artists have lived, grown up, and colored the history of this nation, including those who participate actively in prestigious art events, as is the case of Imago Mundi. These are a new generation of talented Indonesian artists.”

Masari Arifin - Save Our Selves (2015)

In fact, the 220 Imago Mundi artworks are tangible confirmation of the vitality of contemporary art across the vast archipelago. “It is thus hardly surprising - concludes Antonius Kho –that attention is finally shifting to Indonesia, and that Indonesians artists’ works are increasingly coveted by local and regional collectors and they fetch ever-rising prices in both primary and secondary markets.”

I Made Suartama - Berdoa untuk Alam (Pray For Nature) (2015)

Credits: Story

Project management
La Biennale di Malindi Ltd.

Antonius Kho

Project coordination
Abdulmalik Mabellini

Valentina Granzotto

Editorial coordination
Enrico Bossan

Luciano Benetton
Mike Susanto
Antonius Kho
Demetrio De Stefano

Special Thanks to
Fondazione Sarenco
Oksana Ignatush
Holy Noor Lia (Bali)
Ipong Purnama Sidhi (Jakarta)
Arie Kadarisman (Jakarta)
Freddy Sofian (Bandung)
Ridhi Winarno (Yogyakarta)
Syahrizal Koto (Yogyakarta)
Lindu Prasekti (Yogyakarta)
Agus Koeciank (Surabaya)
Maruto Septriono (Malang)

Translation and editing
Emma Cole
Sarah Cuminetti
Pietro Valdatta

Art direction
Namyoung An

Marco Zanin

Marco Pavan

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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