POST C: Art and Design Collectives in Indonesia – Karina Smole

Art and Design Collectives in Indonesia

Art and Design in Indonesia has blossomed since the end of the Suharto dictatorship, fuelled by the people’s desire for self expression and in response to a changing urbanised landscape. (Modern Art Edition 2012) Under the rule of Suharto, the arts were very much segregated to the formal and the traditional. In discussion with visual comunications student Intan Purnamasari, it appears the contemporary arts scene is still very much driven from, or responding to, traditional arts and crafts. “There is lots of Batik and Wayang, which are traditional arts, we still want to maintain and keep the culture of Batik and Wayang.” (2015, pers. comm., 29 April) However, while keeping that tradition alive, Intan explains that there are modern interpretations of these artforms. Similarly in painting, a uniquely Indonesian hybrid of modern and traditional exists – for example the works of Gusti Agung Istri, an female artist part of the Seniwati Arts Collective. Her paintings are highly refined and traditional, yet also have modern references in technique and composition.

Progressive collectives such as The Seniwati Arts Collective are extremely important in expanding modern arts and design in Indonesia. Intan laments that she believes the contemporary art and design scene, in her experience, is something you have to actively seek in her home city of Jakarta (2015, pers. comm., 29 April) – it is still something quite underground. Seniwati promotes female Indonesian artists in the alternative sphere of arts – rejected by the mainstream. They currently represent 22 artists that are highly diverse – producing contemporary works to traditional paintings. As well has having a permanent gallery space in Batu Bulan, they have also established ‘The Imagination Club’ where neighbourhood children develop their creativity and artistic talents. (Modern Art Edition 2012) The group is encourages and empowers women and their role in the arts scene, where they are hugely under-represented. The collective has a very important place in a changing the Indonesian art scene and is gradually gaining international recognition. (The Jakarta Post 2012,)

As Indonesia progresses and changes, influenced by globalisation and urbanisation processes, this is reflected in the contemporary arts scene. Intan identified the high density of the population, and subsequent traffic and pollution issues as key problems in her experiences of living in Jakarta. (2015, pers. comm., 29 April) The expansion and over-crowding of cities brings up questions of identity, that tradition and tighter-knit community living perhaps once solidified. Artists such as Mella Jaarsma question what constructs identity in works such Moral Pointers (Modern Art Edition 2012). Indonesian artists and designers are responding to a changing environment, where the search for new senses of identity firmly shapes their practices.


Mella Jaarsma’s ‘Moral Pointers’

(Modern Art Edition 2012)


2015, pers. comm., 29 April

Modern Art Edition 2012, Indonesian Contemporary Art, Indonesia, viewed 20 April 2015, <;

The Jakarta Post 2012, Arts Collective Evolution, Jakarta, Indonesia, viewed 29 April 2015, <;

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