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Made in Bandung

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Made in Bandung
'Harsavista 1 & 2' by Agung Prabowo, 2016, linocut reductive print on handmade paper. Image courtesy of Mizuma Gallery

There's a certain air of freshness to Bandung and its people. It balances the modern with the traditional. It displays respect for the country’s rich heritage and culture while acknowledging issues of gender, politics and identity that are rife in Western artistic practices. Bandung’s colonial architecture sits amongst the art deco-style spaces that pattern the city. Bandung’s people seem comfortable in the environment they have created for themselves - almost as if they are sure of themselves.

Historically speaking, Bandung was known for its distinctive qualities in the 90’s - boasting legendary predecessors and artists with strong academic traits. Indonesian art in general is the product of decades of innovations and adaptations, but Bandung, particularly, has been portrayed as being adventurous and outgoing from the beginning. In 1947, Bandung was the first city in Indonesia to dedicate a formal programme to the arts at the Bandung Institute of Technology (BIT). The specialised art academy was inspired by its colonial Dutch teachers, and generated growth in the fields of visual arts, design and architecture in the scene. It is no doubt that this rich intellectual history has mapped Bandung’s art scene today. 

Selasar Sunaryo Art Space, 2018. Image courtesy of Selasar Sunaryo Art Space. 

One of them is Selasar Sunaryo Art Space. The winding drive up here is worth it. This art space, whose construction was completed in 1998, is the brainchild of artists Sunaryo and BaskoroTedjo. Its an open space, both architecturally and in terms of its atmosphere. It offers a variety of art on view, from silkscreens to sculptures and video installations, and contains corners nestled in its branches that call out to you to sit, ponder and create. There’s a comprehensive library of art, design and culture books to allow one to melt into that atmosphere further. The air is cooler up here and Selasar Sunaryo offers clarity to the environment Indonesia artists were attempting to create for themselves in the 90’s.  

Exhibition view, Sunaryo, 2018. Image courtesy of Selasar Sunaryo Art Space.

There are separate areas in the building that are dedicated solely to Sunaryo’s works that often explore fishing culture. Other areas provide a comprehensive view into Indonesian modern and contemporary art, like that of Agung Prabowo.

'Raga Aruma' by Agung Prabowo, 2014. Image courtesy of Artsy.

Agung's kaleidoscopic colours stand out boldly against the natural brown-green setting of the Art Space up in the hills. The artist, born in 1985 and currently at a young but commendable stage in his career primarily does printmaking and installations. He is currently looking to expand into wider printmaking communities to create a more open movement to bring into Bandung.

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Similarly impressive Lawangwangi Creative Space is slightly further up in altitude from Selasar Sunaryo Art Space and boasts a modern glass-exterior, complete with a balcony overlooking the city of Bandung. The art this space hosts is a mix of traditional and avant-garde, spanning site-specific installations on music and the military amongst sculptures that are scattered over its restaurant area.

Artist Nyoman Nuarta's NuArt Sculpture Park. Image courtesy of Wisata Bagus, 2016. 

NuArt Sculpture Park is as surreal as it sounds. It is a 3-hectare exhibition and studio space artist Nyoman Nuarta built for himself. Walking around the open gardens and indoor-exhibitions gives you a teaser of the mastermind’s thought-process, and you’re left thirsty for more. He plays with intricate metal weaves and resin moulds, giving his sculptures titles that leave you analysing them further. A strong presence of nationalist messaging is seen in his works, with the Garuda towering above often. The park showcases Nuarta’s mastery in art and design.

Statues or sculptures, which are humans’ creations, have quite an impact on the society according to Nyoman. He believes in the symbiosis of nature and the human touch. Currently, he is working on the Garuda Wisnu Kencana (GWK) commission in Bali (head of sculpture pictured above), which towers 75m above ground and is due to be completed in two years.

Bandung's art scene displays variety and expertise in the materials artists use. While many artists stick to traditional methods of art making, others experiment with newer forms. Other than the self-built eponymous gallery spaces scattered around Bandung, there is also a trend of collectives of independent artists renting houses and using spaces exclusively for art-making and experimentation. Many of them conduct workshops to fund themselves. Fluxcup (Yusuf Ismail) is one such artist who uses the Internet to copy-paste and content edit as part of his process in the art of critiquing TV-viewing culture. The artist, since 2011, has been working under the moniker Fluxcup to reach wider audiences and eventually instill a Fluxcup Movement in them that inspires a reflection of the frustrations that form in society.

It is notable that the above successes saw (and still see) minimal government support. Several Bandung-based artists and art communities remain critical of the industry in noticing that official policies tend to support owners of financial capital as compared to the owners of creative ideas. Legal restrictions on the freedom of communication and information remain and like many Asian countries, the formal education system restricts the creative industry. Despite these limitations, independent art spaces like the ones listed above continue to flourish and provide younger audiences with opportunities to grow critically. Bandung has a vibrant, socially-engaged scene, and it can only go upwards from here - both in terms of brewing its independent identity and remaining visible in the West.


For more information on Bandung, check out the book, Liplap: 35 Bandung artists under 35. For information, email liplapbook@gmail.com.


Any views or opinions in the post are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the company or contributors.


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