Abdi Setiawan, Mencari Merah
2005, kanvas, dakron, kayu
130 cm high x 60 cm wide


by Michelle Chin

Arya Pandjalu, Lindungi Aku dari Apa yang Kumau / Protect Me from What I Want, 2004, cloth, dacron, shoes, acrylic paint, 160 cm high (3 pieces)

The seat of the once mighty Javanese Empire of Mataram, Ngayogyakarto Hadiningrat, lies in the shadow of a 2,914 meter-high volcano named Mount Merapi ("Fire Mountain"). The city - now renamed Yogyakarta, or simply Jogja - came into being in 1755, when a land dispute effectively split the power of Mataram into the Sultanates of Yogyakarta and Surakarta (Solo).

The Sultan's Palace or Kraton continues to be the hub of Yogyakarta's traditional life, radiating the spirit of refinement which has been its hallmark for centuries.

Yogyakarta is simultaneously a centre of traditional Javanese culture and contemporary Indonesian art. Full gamelan orchestras create soundscapes from the past; classical and contemporary Javanese dancers exhibit beautiful control and poise; wayang kulit (shadow puppet) performances keep locals and visitors spellbound. It is as if the city itself has an extraordinary life force and captivating charm.

Contemporary art has grown in the fertile soil of Yogyakarta's sophisticated culture. The Indonesian Institute of Arts (ISI Yogyakarta) is an important centre of arts and Yogyakarta itself has given its name to an important school of modern and contemporary art in Indonesia. A trip to Jogja is indeed a must for any visitor interested in contemporary Indonesian art. Many excellent new galleries and art houses have opened since 1997, and you will probably need at least a few days to simply check out all the exhibitions.

The premiere venue for contemporary art in Yogyakarta is Cemeti Art House. This gallery has actively exhibited and promoted the work of Indonesian and international contemporary visual artists since its founding in 1988, and absolutely must be included on your list of galleries to visit if you are at all interested in Indonesian contemporary arts.

Every year, Cemeti Art House hosts eleven solo or group exhibitions. The selection of artists and works for these exhibitions are determined by founding directors, Nindityo Adipurnomo and Mella Jaarsma, both of whom are artists themselves. They constantly strive to deal with a multitude of paradoxes such as local-global, traditional-modern, art-non art, individual-collective, natural-manufactured, crafted-industrial, conventional-innovative, which produces for very interestingly curated exhibitions.

Ugo Untoro, Walker, 2003, foam, paper, glue, paint
19 cm high x 21 cm wide

"Contemporary art in Indonesia can be seen as a representation of artists’ concerns and views regarding issues in their society. Through their work, some artists may criticise and depict general phenomena in society, whilst others express individual and personal approaches to their reality. These ideas and themes are realised by a diverse range of media," says Nindityo Adipurnomo.

"The art scene in Yogyakarta is currently very institutionalised and the varying disciplines are divided and segregated," adds Jaarsma. "Cemeti Art House aims to stimulate interaction and exchange between these different disciplines, while still maintaining a strong visual art focus."

Cemeti Art House stocks art works by Anusapati, Agung Kurniawan, S.Teddy D., Tri Wahyudi (Popok), Yamyuli Dwi Iman, Hanura Hosea, Hedi Hariyanto, Yenny Yanuar Ernawati, Tisna Sanjaya, Mulyono, Agus Suwage, EddiE haRA, I GAK Murniasih, Magdalena Pardede, Ade Darmawan, Firman, AS Kurnia, Herly Gaya, Iwan Koeswana, Munadi, Nunung WS, Ugo Untoro, Oky Arfie Hutabarat, Shigeyo Kobayashi and others.

Kedai Kebun Gallery & Café is located in the historic, southern part of Yogyakarta. Established in 1997, this venue provides an intimate, friendly and relaxed atmosphere in which to eat delicious home cooking, view art exhibitions and performances, or just meet with friends. Many local and visiting artists tend to gather here so it is a good place to hang out and you can almost always expect an interesting mix of people - you should not be surprised to see any number of well-known artists here on any given evening. Kedai Kebun holds numerous art-related activities throughout the year, such as fine arts exhibitions, theatre and music performances, short story and poetry readings, discussions, workshops, slide and video presentations. There is also a very good selection of books available for sale, including contemporary art exhibition catalogues and pubications.

Founded by Cherry Salim in 1999, Embun Gallery has held various exhibitions of paintings and sculpture. Although Embun Gallery generally tends to focus on young artists, particularly those studying at the Indonesian Institute of Arts (ISI Yogyakarta), there have also been exhibitions by senior artists including Ahmad Sopandi, Wardoyo, G. Sidharta Soegijo, IGN. Pamungkas Gardjito, Edi Sunartyo and Soetopo.

Embun Gallery organised an excellent exhibition of 15 women artists held at the National Gallery, Jakarta in April 2001 and has hosted discussion events working together with the Cemeti Art Foundation in Jogja. In August 2001 Embun Gallery hosts a solo exhibition by painter Ugo Untoro.

Ugo Untoro, In the Studio, 2004, wood, paper, paint, glass,
approx. 40 cm W 25cm H
Dirix Art Gallery opened in 1991. The owner/founder Helfi Dirix, as the grandson of the Indonesian maestro Affandi, is also the holder of copyright for reproducing limited editions of his grandfather's serigraphs, lithographs and etchings. Dirix Gallery also exhibits works by Maryati Affandi, Kartika Affandi and Saptohudoyo.

Since 1998 Dirix Gallery has incorporated a focus on modern and contemporary paintings and sculpture. Since 2000 the gallery has concentrated on young artists, many of whom are still studying at the Indonesian Institute of Arts (ISI Yogyakarta). Some artists whose works can be seen at Dirix Gallery include I Wayan Sudarna Putra, Heri Purwanto, I Putu Bambang Juliarta, Hayatuddin and Rudi Mantofani. Senior artists whose work can be found at Dirix Gallery include G. Sidharta, Anusapati, Fajar Sidik and Agus Kamal.

Exhibitions planned for 2001 include a solo show by painter Herly Gaya (24 November - 8 December 2001) and solo show by sculptor Komroden Haro (22 December 2001 - 12 January 2002).

Apotik Komik is a fascinating alternative space. It was founded by a group of artists - Samuel Indratma, Ari Diyanto, Popok Tri Wahyudi and Bambang 'Toko' Witjaksono - who wanted to reinterpret the whole concept and definition of the word "gallery". They have totally overturned the normal assumption that a gallery is a closed space in which art works are exhibited and kept safely locked up at night. Apotik Komik is simply a wall located on a street corner - Jalan Langenarjon Lor and Jalan Gamelan(njeron Banteng) to be precise. The wall, measuring 228 centimeters high by 1123 centimeters wide, is in fact the backing material onto which art works are created. These art works are clearly of a temporary nature: when an "exhibition" is over, the wall is painted over, and a new art work will be created on the wall.

The founders of Apotik Komik are seriously committed to creating a dynamic interaction and dialogue between artists and the general public through the art works they exhibit at this public gallery. They do not simply talk about "getting closer to the general public" - they are really doing it. Apotik Komik is truly an alternative exhibition space, readily accessible to the general public - becak drivers, ice sellers, office workers, mothers, children, unemployed youth. All who pass by on the street become viewers of the exhibitions at Apotik Komik, a gallery that is truly "open to the public at all times".

Bambang Toko Witjaksono, Eko Nugroho and Dani
Kotak Ajaib, 2004

Edo Pop, Keluar dari Mitos Realitas (Menyelusuri
Kebenaran), 2000, acrylic on canvas, 150 x 130 cm

Gelaran Budaya focusses on the work of young artists, many of whom are studying at the Indonesian Institute of Art (ISI Yogyakarta). This gallery opened in December l999, and was set up by a group of young artists including Dipo Andy, Nugroho Wantoro and others. Gelaran Budaya activities include weekly discussions on art-related topics, a publishing house named ARTILINE and a small book shop.

Rumah Seni Keluarga TUK opened in November 2000. Founded by a group of young artists - Muhammad Basori, Kaji Habeb, Edo Pop, Rudi, Tulus, Paox Ibnu Wiboeo, Suluh Pratita and Nurul M - the word 'TUK' signifies a water source and is intended to convey the hope that this gallery will become a source of new life and fertile growth in the contemporary arts scene. AIR Art House hopes to become an umbrella organisation for many other groups of artists, and will work closely with a variety of organisations involved in both the visual and performing arts.

Opened in January 2001, Rumah Seni AIR (AIR Art House) aims to contribute to the art scene both nationally and internationally. The founders, Bintang Hanggono and Andra chose the name AIR because it is easy to remember by both Indonesian and English language speakers, even though the name ends up having two totally different meanings - 'water' or 'air' - in those two languages. AIR Art House will hold exhibitions of both painting, sculpture and crafts in its Jogja venue and sister-gallery in Menteng, Jakarta.

Yusra Martunus, 0419, Ed. of 10, 2004
aluminium, 17 x 14 x 10 cm

Three of the newest galleries in Jogja are highly specialised in their choice of art work media. Galeri Benda opened in August 2000. It is the only gallery in Jogja to focus purely on three-dimensional art works such as sculptures, art objects and hand-crafted items made from metal, wood, leather, ceramics or textiles. The gallery is involved in promoting three-dimensional art through its website, newsletter, the mass media and other print publications.

Exhibitions planned for 2001 include a solo exhibition by Joko Avianto (3-15 September 2001), a photography exhibition by disabled children from the Yakkum Rehabilitation Centre (20-31 September 2001), solo show by Handi Hermansyah (23 September - 6 November 2001) and a design show by Ria (4-18 December 2001). Galeri Benda shows work by many artists, including Handi Wirman, Ali Umar, Midori Hirota (Japan), Reto Pulfer (Switzerland), Iskandar Fawzi, Edi Prabandono, and the late Hendra Prasetya.

The gallery has also held various arts-related activities such as a recent papier mache workshop on dolls and masks led by Australian artist Cindy Czabania, and discussions on the topics of "internet art" and arts criticism.

Ali Umar
Takaran / Ukuran, 2004, kayu jatu, sono, kaca, 40 cm high, 20 cm long
Buyangaleri opened in May 2001. Their focus is on works on paper - etchings, engravings, woodcuts, comics, lithography, photography, prints, sketches, posters and intaglio. The founder, Taufik Rahzen realised that there was a real need for a gallery specialising in works on paper, as no other gallery in Jogja focusses on this medium.

Galeri 9 sells a range of work by contemporary artists - both young, "undiscovered talent" and established names. Agus Leonardus, a photographer and founder of this gallery, intends to focus on art photography in this new venue.

Finally, there are several public venues which have numerous temporary exhibitions throughout the year. It will certainly be worth your while to find out what is on at Bentara Budaya, Museum Benteng Vredeburg, Lembaga Indonesia Perancis and Purna Budaya during your stay in Jogja.

[Published in Island Life, No. 7, 2001. The published version included a credit for photographs taken by Made Budhiana]

Contributor's Note:

"The contemporary art scene is very dynamic in Jogja at the moment, and it's not just limited to painting - you can see great contemporary sculpture, installations, photography, prints, street art painted on walls, anything goes! With so many great artists living and working in Jogja, and so many new galleries opening in the past few years, you really need quite a bit of time to check out what's on at all the galleries - and that's only contemporary art. Plus, it's easy to fall in love with Jogja itself. Last year, on a short visit, I enjoyed it so much I ended up renting a house there for two years - it was very spontaneous!" Michelle Chin is a writer and arts management consultant based in Ubud, Bali. She has been living in Indonesia for most of the past twenty years.