Surrealism is an art style that began as a philosophical and cultural movement, hinged upon the teachings of psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, the work of the Dadaists, and the 20th century paintings of Giorgio de Chirico. Coined by poet Guillaume Apollinaire in 1917, the word Surrealist alludes to going beyond reality, perfectly explaining the illusory nature of Surrealist art. These fantastical artworks are born out of the innermost workings of the artists' minds, and thus manifest themselves in unpredictable forms. However, an aspect that is present throughout Surrealist art is that these artists communicate their unconscious, unrestrained thoughts, and translate them into a visual language imbued with meaning and purpose. These artworks are filled with imagery of dreamlike scenes, irrational figures, and combine realistic objects in unrealistic settings.
Surrealism has its roots in the 1900s with famous artists such as Salvador Dalí and Paul Delvaux popularising the movement, but this imaginative art style is still very much alive today through contemporary artists of the 21st century. For these 10 Indonesian artists, they continue to push the boundaries of this historical art movement with their artworks that go beyond reality.
'Rainwater Harvesting' is set in a Surrealist landscape with an unusually large coconut shell set in the middle of the canvas. Rinaldi Syam seamlessly blends reality and imagination in this acrylic painting, which was created to highlight the significance of water. The Pangkalan Koto Baru-born artist has a knack for painting his subject matter with an aesthetically Surrealist essence, and his technique comes through his mature composition. For Rinaldi, the artwork must be beautiful, pleasing to the eye, and more than a paint on a canvas.
Rapid industrial development is accompanied by economic growth and modernisation, but it also brings with it a negative impact on the environment and its inhabitants. Yogyakarta-born Irwan Guntarto depicts this destruction in 'Is there still any space'. He uses animal iconography against simple backdrops to communicate the chaotic effects of environmental degradation on the natural habitats of animals. Irwan's artworks are largely critiques of political venality, socioeconomic issues, environmental deterioration, and cultural stereotypes.
During the COVID-19 lockdown in his home of Purwokerto, Mario Viani found inspiration in the situation that he, as well as the world, was faced with. When physical meetings were restricted, the world turned to technology to stay connected with others. Mario observed its effect on the way in which we communicate, and he looked towards the canvas to express this new normal in 'Live Streaming'. This figurative painting also embodies our connection to technology as an extension of the self. Mario retains this exploration of our attachment to technology in his works, addressing different aspects of its effects.
Kusbudiyanto harmoniously combines movement, form, and colour in 'Solidarity' that is filled with vivid figures, animals, and textured patterns. The Yogyakarta-based artist often creates energetic paintings infused with traditional Indonesian motifs, vibrant batik prints, and elements of Javanese culture. However, underneath his dynamic imagery lies Kusbudiyanto's critique on socio-political and economic hardships of the common man.
In 'Confusion', Triana Nurmaria demonstrates the struggles that she faces as an artist in her creative endeavours. She expresses her anxiety through a narrative of figurative paintings. She also uses her canvas to visualise her dreams and fantasies as well as her taste for adventure. Triana is fascinated with bodily gestures and behaviour, which she conveys in her spontaneous and strong brushstrokes.
'Civilization Burden' reveals the reality and consequences of population growth in the world. Mayek Prayitno's purposeful imagery often reflect his perspective on the effects of rapid developments in society. Born in Tuban, his works are complex with a mixture of various parts of the human anatomy, machinery, and urban structures. Mayek depicts human reactions to the swift reshuffling and development of the world with finesse and precision in his artworks. Through distorted and exaggerated imagery, he communicates the impact of technological advancements, the shackles of modern society, and the emergence of endless desires.
'Growing Under the Shadow' by Mulyo Gunarso is a dream-like painting that symbolises an ideal state of a natural ecosystem where respite from massive developments exists. Hailing from Kediri, Mulyo is a proud warrior of environmental sustainability, which he interlaces with an uncanny imagination in his artworks. He attempts to weave a story into each of his artworks and strives to convey the importance of living responsibly in the present to safeguard the needs of our future generations. Mulyo enjoys the process of composing minute details into a collage of fantasy and colour that eventually translate into to meaningful paintings. Using the elements of nature such as trees, birds, and skies as metaphors, he often portrays the imbalance and desolation of nature in our modern day.
'Transcend of Mind #2' is part of Meuz Prast's series that explores the appeal of faces that are no longer genuine. Meuz hones in on this idea of touched-up faces - a mask of modern society - through his use of unnatural colours and distortion of the human figure. To the Yogyakarta-born artist, the existence of humans as social beings is a big question; one that is difficult to answer as long as humans remain drowned in an era that has already lost its face and become unrecognisable.
'I wish to fly (paper airplane series' is an acrylic painting that depicts retrospection, loneliness, frustration, and fear. Aurora Santika portrays a hidden desire to break free from symbolic barriers through her brilliantly coloured figuration. Dreamlike and vibrant, Aurora uses this imagery to communicate the notion of escape and freedom from the shackles of a conservative society. She also draws inspiration from her personal experiences, social issues in the world, and ideas in movies, music, and literature.
In 'Break Free', Andi Waskito blurs the boundaries between imagination and reality, and explores the juxtaposition of repression and freedom. The desires and the powerful inclination to one's own freedom is depicted in the movement of the central figure. Andi is a young artist from Bojonegoro who creates Surrealist paintings of intrigue with distorted figures, faceless figures, often including elements of broken glass-like patterns in his compositions.
"Consciously or unconsciously we are bound with others; our friends, relatives, and family influence and mould the decisions that we make; but there are times when we feel the strong desire to be free and make decisions for ourselves."
We hope you enjoyed stepping into the minds of these Indonesian artists. From Surrealist landscapes to distorted figures, these artists illustrate the musings of their mind through a visual language that goes beyond reality.
Browse more of our Surrealist artworks here. Check out more artworks on our curated art collection here. If you need additional guidance or have specific requirements, you can have a look at our art consultancy services, or chat with our expert curators on any page.
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