Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Power to the Women \(^~^)/

Today, I will be sharing about the feminist art movement as well as feminist artists like me. The feminist art movement is efforts and accomplishments of feminists internationally to make art that reflects women's lives and experiences. The art movement also sought to bring more visibility to women within art history and art practice. It began in the 1960s and flourished throughout the 1970s. It has been called "the most influential international movement of any during the postwar period" and its effects continue to the present. As part of the movement, I have created numerous works with the theme of feminism, portraying women in a greater and positive light, and disproving misconceptions. I would like to bring to light 2 prominent artists, Judy Chicago and Miriam Schapiro. Judy Chicago is an American feminist artist, and a work I would like to highlight is The Birth Project.

From 1980 until 1985, Chicago created The Birth Project. The piece used images of childbirth to celebrate woman's role as mother. The installation reinterpreted the Genesis creation narrative, which focused on the idea that a male god created a male human, Adam, without the involvement of a woman. She described the piece as revealing a "primordial female self hidden among the recesses of my soul...the birthing woman is part of the dawn of creation." Miriam Scharpiro was a canadian born artist based in America, and a pioneer of the feminist art movement. She has also had success in abstract expressionism. Miriam Schapiro famously rediscovered traditionally feminine women’s art by using pieces of embroidery, threads, knitting, scraps, sequins, buttons, and other material from crafts and decorative arts. She combined these in collage projects to create what she called “Femmage.” In creating these "Femmages", she insisted that society should revise the value placed on women’s creations by furthering their use in new and innovative art projects. Below is Court Jester by Miriam Schapiro, created in 2007.
In many ways, the three of us are very similar in wanting to portray women as equal individuals, and assert our importance in society. Girl power woohooo

Frida Kahlo

Today is a day that I feel like sharing about other artists, so I would like to continue on and talk about Frida Kahlo. A woman too, Frida Kahlo is a mexican painter best known for her self portraits.Her work has also been celebrated in Mexico as emblematic of national and indigenous tradition, and by feminists for its uncompromising depiction of the female experience and form. Kahlo is one of my favorite artists, because she is not afraid to be bold and courageous enough to stand up for female artists like us. Frida is a brilliant artist who has created at least 200 artworks related to her life, environment and physical pain she has suffered. Indeed, she had a troubled childhood and was not a very fortunate person. Nevertheless, she still managed to pull through and express herself through art, which is what I admire greatly. This is a self portrait:
As Frida states, she likes to paint herself because only she herself knows herslef best. Her original quote, "I paint myself because I am so often alone and because I am the subject I know best." She also stated, "I was born a bitch. I was born a painter." This shows how strong and confident she is and I admire her for this. Like me, she believes art is a brilliant tool for expression, and sometimes a way to escape from my problems and fears, or simply just let out my emotions. I can relate to Frida very well, and find that we are very much alike.. maybe she should be my BFF instead ;)

My friend, Marc Quinn

Today, instead of talking about myself all the time, I will talk about a close friend of mine Marc Quinn. Marc is a British contemporary artist who has done many great works in the years that I have known him. Marc expresses great interest in the distanced relationship we as humans have with our bodies, and how the 'natural' and 'cultural' has a grip on the contemporary psyche. Marc also like to explore the dualisms that define human life, such as the spiritual and the physical, as well as surface and depth. I am a painter, and Marc is a sculptor. A few of his most interesting works include "Self" (1999), and "Garden" (2000). "Self" was a cast of his own head, made from 4.5l of his own blood. Honestly, I found it a little disturbing, but I feel one should respect a fellow artist's works. A collection of casts of his head were to be made once every 5 years, with 10 pints of blood. Thats a lot of blood. Each portrait of himself is cast at the time it was made, which I suppose depict Marc's physical maturation as an artist over time.
Quite handsome, no? His next work is Garden, my favorite. It is a collection of incompatible plants which are cyrogenically frozen into place in a common environment. According to Marc, the plants were cast in silicone, then frozen to prevent them from drying out. I remember Marc said "The flowers, when they freeze, become pure image. They become an image of a perfect flower, because in reality their matter is dead and they are suspended in a state of transformation between pure image and pure matter."
This installation is my favorite, because the flowers are pretty. Just kidding, I feel that this installation aptly and effectively conveys Marc's ideas and it is also aesthetically very appealing.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

My BFF...Dede Eri Supria

Hello guys, today I'm going to introduce to you another great artist (apart from myself). He is none other than my fellow countryman and good friend Dede Supria!! :)

Dede Eri Supria is a super-realist southeast Asian artist in Indonesia.  He was born in Jakarta on January 29, 1956.  He studied at the Indonesian Fine Art Academy (ASRI) in Yogyakarta, graduating in 1974.  In 1976 he first emerged onto the Indonesian Art Scene when he exhibited his work at the first Seni Rupa Baru Indonesia exhibition at the Balai Budaya in Jakarta. Being an contemporary artist like myself, most of the subject matters that Dede explores in about the increasing trend of consumerism happening in Indonesia, emphasizing on the social commentary portion on Indonesian society in his art works. Themes in his artworks include the rich-poor divide in Indonesia, the lives of the urban dwellers in Indonesian cities, the poor and neglected and the changes in the Indonesian society in general, particularly in his own hometown, Jakarta.

I am particularly impressed by on of his most famous works, that is, 'The world is a maze': 

Supria uses photographic realism, making use of illusions and receding perspective to give a sense of space, manipulating geometric shapes and lines of varying thickness in different directions. The vast space and ambiguous background gives the feeling of fear and uncertainty of the unknown and the complex network of lines symbolize confusion and disorientation of people living in Indonesia, notably Jakarta. Through this painting, Dede wants to show that development due to rapid urbanization is becoming more extensive such that scene is becoming increasingly unfamiliar and unrecognizable. Such modernization has also threatened to marginalize certain underprivileged groups of society who are unable to keep up to the rapid pace of modern life. It reflects the reality of modern life and urban dilemmas, such that the poor has to be somewhat sacrificed in the process.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Recurring themes


I have always love nature, and it has always been my space of solitude from the chaotic world.

Possibly, that is the reason for all my depiction of cosmoscapes?

I was born among the mountains in Temanggung, Central Java on January 1959. Though I was the sixth child of nine children in my family, I spent much of my childhood alone. Then, large families were seen as old-fashioned and indicated signs of backwardness and the other kids with only three or four siblings often made fun of my family. From an early age, I had to give in before peer tauting, aggression and ostracism- experiences that I believed have shaped my character today. To yield and not fight back was a way of escape, from all the societal pressures and problems, which was something that I had learnt then.

Most of the time, I’d quietly leave the crowd and go my own way, walking through rice-fields, in distant gardens or simply somewhere with nature (like springs, plants, animals or open spaces). These were places I often spent my time at, simply watching, observing and studying; somewhere I can be completely at ease with. These things were my greatest pleasure. Gradually, it become a habit and want to communicate with nature more than with human beings.

Art is a tool for expression, where I transform my emotions such as anger into colour symbols, for example, an explosion of live-coals red. It depicts my moods, the happiness and the unhappiness I get from my daily life and daydream experiences. And nature, being a source of comfort and joy for me, would naturally be presented in the space I’m seeking to vent out my frustrations. Like how I often depict free and peaceful natural environments, imaginations of the outer space, planets, sea waves and bimorphic rocks. It is a longing, I suppose, to be free from all the chaos of life and to dwell in the space I was most familiar with. 

Nuclear Explosion in a Wok III 1993-94
Oil on canvas
150 x 150cm

Influence from Javanese culture

One other recurring theme I have in my works are influences from the Javanese culture. 
The culture of performing arts such as shadow plays (wayang) are deeply rooted in the community, accessible to all walks of life, unlike the fine arts or literature, which are enjoyed by elites and the well-educated. Shadow plays (wayang) have been present in the lives of Javanese people for more than a thousand years, thereby being a part of every Indonesian's life. A familiar image for all. 

"Srikandi" and myself
spot the resemblance?

Srikandi is a work which is influenced by a South-East Asian legend of a strong, powerful character of Srikandi, a daring female knight character of the Javanese shadow plays who is brave and characteristically holds her head upwards just like the woman figure. Blue cloth worn by the figure is an adaptation where members of the women's armies who historically protected the Sultans of feudal Central Java wore blue cloth. 

Monday, May 14, 2012

Social Changes in Indonesia

Spiritual pencerahan salah satu aspek paling penting dari karya seni saya. Tanpa itu, saya merasa bahwa setiap bagian dari karya seni saya akan kekuranganemosi, hati merasa perasaan seniman dan estetika yang sangat penting dalam memproduksi sepotong benar-benar menarik karya seni untuk penonton.

التنوير الروحي واحد من أهم جوانب خلق فني. دون ذلك، وأنا أشعر أن كل قطعة واحدة من الأعمال الفنية الخاصة بيوسوف تفتقر إلى المشاعر، من القلب، شعرت بمشاعر الفنان والجماليات التي تعتبر حاسمة في انتاج قطعة جذابة حقاعمل فني للجمهور.

Okay, now back to English...Social/ demographic changes that took place in Indonesia during this period of time is one of the most important aspects of my art creation. Without this, I feel that I would not have been able to produce artworks that are brimming with emotions, heart-felt feelings of the artist and aesthetics that are crucial in producing a piece of appealing artwork for the audience.

Most of all, I am very concerned about the rapid industrial and technological development happening here in Indonesia. I started responding more to the natural and social environment, and there is a gradual shift in my concerns and so it becomes reflected in my artworks. My artworks become more 'surrealist' in nature and I like to present them as 'a reality bundled as a dream' to the audience, such as these:

The repressive political conditions of the New Order state and the social dislocation caused by rapid industrial and technological development unquestionably affected the nature of my artistic and cultural production. I started to raise questions about gender and personal transformation and the tensions created by contrary forces of political repression and social transformation indeed affected my art. In essence, my artworks contributed to the attitudinal and social change in Indonesia.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Umbrella 2000

Umbrella 2000 (1996)
Image Source:

While exhibiting my painting Payung 2000, or Umbrella 2000, some people told me that the woman in the painting resembles Supreme Master Ch’ing Hai. I was taken back initially, as I have never intended for the woman in the painting to be anyone in particular. Rather, she is like a pillar of strength to me, for I felt like help is within reach when I was painting her, this beautiful woman with long hair and white dress, carrying the world on her shoulders. This discovery intrigued me, and soon, I became a follower.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Discussion: my empowerment?

I can’t phrase how I feel properly in words; all I can say is that I just felt different from before.

So many things have happened in my life- all those criticisms, biased attitudes and discriminatory comments- things I thought I could never get rid of in the past. But now, I believe I can.

Looking back, when did all that courage started? Was it the mid-to-late 1980s?

It was where my cosmoscapes-the spaces of nature where I look for solitude and shield from- began to occasionally depict living beings, something that was void from my previous works. If my memory doesn’t fail me, my first work with the appearance of a human being would be in “Cinta Kasih” (Mother Love), and subsequent works like “Permohonan Hijau” (The Green Prayer). My cosmoscapes also start to populate with living creatures like white horses, doves and seagulls- symbols of peace and freedom.

 "Permohonan Hijau" (The Green Prayer) 1986 
Oil on canvas
145 x 145cm

Sometimes I do not know what I want and am trying to paint, but it is the emotion that I’m trying to convey. It is like a ritual I undergo while I paint to process my thoughts, feelings and come to terms with myself.
 More often than not, my works are like my reflections, it is an attempt to express how I feel or to uncover my identity within. Art is my personal way of expression, for things I just do not know how to speak of or am unsure if it is alright for me to share with the world. From mid-to-late 1980s onwards, it speaks of my struggles for self-empowerment and freedom from all those fears that crippled me before. Up till today, I may not be able to confidently express myself out rightly, but I’m willing and am striving to make a change.

In "Lucia Hartini, Javanese Painter: Against the Grain Towards Herself" (Wright, 1998) said to be turning point for life?

“Terjun” (The Dive) 1990

Oil on canvas
125 x 145cm

The work represents “a turning point in the artist’s personal development. For the first time, the full female figure is shown merging with nature. For the first time, nature is not uniformly stormy—at least the water into which the woman is diving is still. And for the first time, she is completely naked. She is also here completely free of attachments, whether positive ones like children, or negative ones like fears and spying eyes.” 

It shows “a close, intimate, peaceful space and, in the split second depicted, there is harmony between woman and nature. Though we do not know what the outcome will be once she is submerged, I first read this as an image of great courage and the consequent serenity found in having given everything over to faith. I saw it as an acknowledgement of an individual at peace with her body, acting upon the will to merge rather than flee from something fearful in her environment, in a world which is no longer strange a, forbidding, and vast beyond the human dimensions”

Well, the work was done when I felt at “rock bottom”, completely lost in darkness and when I felt I couldn’t go on. It was particularly that experience which I translated onto the canvas. Probably, it wasn’t empowerment like what Wright assumed it to be.

But I guess in a certain way, there were still similarities in ideas, where the work did depict the struggles that I was trying to tide through with my ritual processing in Art. In comparison, this time I was relatively straightforward in what I wanted to express. So, it was indeed the first time I acknowledged my struggles and came to peace with sharing them with the world.

To say empowerment, not so much. 
But to discuss differences, definitely.

Friday, May 11, 2012

What led to enlightenment

I do not speak or understand English, and here in Yogyakarta we hardly have any material worth noting and so I do not read about international art discourses or art politics from the Western world. I am thus not influenced by any outside discussions (others later told me there were people discussing feminism at the same time) but when I chose my subjects, I did so entirely from my own choice based on my experiences and intuition.

Despite the traumatic expereiences I face, after an intensely stressful childhood and my marriage, I have endured thus far and have no intention of ever giving up. I am not sure when exactly, but I came to the conclusion one day that women should represent ourselves as autonomous subjects. We have potential which is different but no less capable than that of our male counterparts, and we should coexist harmoniously and fairly together in this SHARED WORLD.

 So I decided to paint a masterpiece, one I would be really proud of, to tell the world of my new belief.

 Srikandi (1993)

In “Srikandi”, I question the necessity of the traditional societal norms and expectations a woman is expected to live up to. Indonesian society dictates that a woman is required to fulfil the role of an obedient subject to male order and admonition, victims of sexism in their own homes. However, in “Srikandi”, I present this theme with a twist, whereby the females are spirited, bold and assertive- integrating aspects of myself in an empowered state.

I was greatly influenced by my social environment, and thus selected the character of Srikandi to represent herself. Srikandi is a beloved legendary character from the Mahabharata Hindu epic, well known throughout Indonesia for her loyalty and courage in the Bratayuda battle for the sake of the prince she loved. I painted myself as the authoritative, strong and challenging “Warrior Woman” who stridently repels the critical and doubting eyes of society, which had formerly rendered many of its women prisoners of tradition. Fists clenched on muscular arms, her head up, with wide open staring eyes, Srikandi presents a challenge to the spying eyes before her.

Critics have told me that my pride, “Srikandi”, is characteristic of the artworks by Indonesian female artists, which often depict themselves exploring and asserting the self. I have located myself in a fictional aesthetic world, indicating my desire to define my self and identity in visual and aesthetic ways rather than verbally or overly politically. As I was oppressed in her youth, the act of taking charge has vital importance to me. “Srikandi” differs greatly from my previous works such as “Spying Eyes”, which depicts women in prisons of Indonesian society. It was painted later, in 1993, when I had come to the conclusion that women should represent themselves as autonomous subjects having potential which is different but no less capable than that of their male counterparts. Thus, through “Srikandi”, I chose to express my personal liberation and struggle for self empowerment and freedom from the norms and judgement of the world through questioning dominant social paradigms.

Thus, I was greatly influenced by my social environment in my homeland, as well as my own personal background and experiences in the creation of artworks such as “Srikandi” which depict myself as a modern global woman fighting for her place to define her own place in the world, and being a woman in Indonesia is the core of my existence.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Self expression- a habit or a culture?

It was never an environment of self-expression to begin with.

I guess I am known as the Indonesian female artist who plays with private symbols and hidden messages in her artwork, possibly but inevitably.

Indonesian female artists like myself are forced to create works with allegorical and symbol-laden styles to carry our personal or social messages, to satisfy the restrictions of our culture which does not approve of straightforward critical opinions.

I would say it was culture, history and past experiences which shaped our Indonesian arts scene. From the times where under Suharto’s New Order regime, there was an attempt to get rid of opposition forces and political dissidents in order to ensure political stability within his rule, hence cultural expression was banned or heavily censored, and art which had political and social connotations was discouraged. Artists could no longer express themselves freely through their works and many artists went on to concentrate on the aesthetic and decorative elements of art.
Being constantly oppressed under the New Order regime, the importance of taking charge to define oneself and one’s own rights to expression and emotion is amplified in the Post-Suharto period. It became of great significance to liberate oneself and question issues that one could not discuss in the past. Hence, there was an urgent need to constantly remind and resist against social paradigms. 

And thus, even after the New Arts Movement (post-Suharto) took place- which promoted the freedom of expression- many artists were still trapped in societal norms and restrictions, forced to succumb by adopting symbols instead.

I wouldn't say that every single Indonesian artist use symbols and hidden messages to express themselves like I do, but I truly believe that culture, be it the discriminatory stance the society has on females or be it on cultivating the habit for indirect expression has made a certain significant change in the Indonesian arts scene.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

my child

Communication Between Mother and Child (1989)
Oil on canvas 150 x 140 cm
Image Source:

I don’t know how to step out of this pain, how to reconcile with the fact that you are not here, in my arms. I am sorry, my dear child. How quick your life cycle ends. You never had the opportunity to see the world. I love you. You are in heaven now, and I could only chase after you in futility, and express my love and longing for you through my paintings.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Family Background (After Marriage)

I am one of the few female artists who makes a living fully from painting in Indonesia. I am married to an artist who lives far away in another island and very seldom comes home. 
In 1996, in a rare moment, I painted a portrait of my husband, from whom I had been estranged for years. 
To me, I imagined him as a young man standing in a mountain range, holding a bouquet of white roses. He has stopped, mid-step, uncertain whether to proceed or turn back, an expression of anxious reflection on his face. His army pants indicate battle or struggle, the flowers indicate beauty, longing, ideals. With this, I painted a wishful portrait of my husband, where I visualize him with the power to fulfill his dreams. The title is open-ended, to include the possible reference to my hopes for a possible reconciliation. These paintings represent a clear concern with the pain and struggle of another human being. Not only do they signal an important step beyond my involvement with my own personal challenges but a step towards bridging the gender-gap ('bridging' in the sense of connecting, not erasing) in my works which, till 1993, had maintained a near-total absence of men in my painted worlds.

"Lelaki di bulan Mei/Young Man of May" (1998)
by Lucia Hartini
(oil on canvas, 200 x 200 cm)

I am essentially a single mother and I feed my children and do domestic jobs by myself besides painting. This is why I have developed the habit of working at night after my children have gone to bed. Even though it is tiring, for my children, I am willing to sacrifice anything- part of being a true mother. 

I know my life may not seem easy, but I believe in what I am doing and for my children and for my art, I will keep going.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Female Discrimination

All my life, I have been a woman. A woman in a patriachal society. My homeland Indonesia has a rich history and culture which unfortunately includes traditional societal expectations under which women have obediently placed themselves, victims of sexism in their own homes. Women in my country willingly subject themselves to male order and admonition throughout their lives, and as a result have enforced the belief that women should traditionally be regarded as subordinate to men. I, like most other Indonesian women, live by the rules made by and for men: "masak, macak and manak (cook, make herself up and have children)" are my primary functions. 

My art is a reflection of myself and the way in which I interpret this environment, inseparable from the social conditions of my home Yogyakarta. The view that a wife's status depends on her husband and the status of a girl depends on her father and male siblings is still prevalent in my society, in this modern day and age. People often say that the word "wanita (a woman)" is derived from the Javanese words "wani (to dare)" and "tata (to order)", which then means a wanita is a non-male being who "dares to be ordered". 

To express the situation I am in, my  work often deals with themes of cultural status quo as a female in my male-dominated society, as well as being Catholic in a Muslim environment.  My art is a reflection of myself, as affected by the social and political climate in my homeland.

Born in Central Java in 1959, I was a victim of domestic violence. This troubled background has greatly influenced me, encouraging me to integrate the personal pain and struggles I have been subject to in my artworks.

Spying Eyes (1989)

 I feel so passive, so vulnerable and always listen to what the men say.
The sense of terror I feel is indescribable... as I struggle to be myself
No one is here, I am all alone and I have to face the stares and judgment of those around me.

"Spying Eyes" shows a sleeping female figure who is the object of spying, gazing and scrutinising. This is what I told the reporters when I tried to explain myself, "It tells of my obsession with eyes, especially human (spying) eyes, which frighten me very much. They follow me wherever I go and always want to watch my business."

I feel passively lost in a dream world, trapped in a maze of societal expectations and cultural traditions. Cloth billows all around me, and I feel as though I am constantly floating along on this journey, a zig zag path ahead leading nowhere, and

I have no idea where I am going.


Saturday, May 5, 2012

my education

I started art as a child, doodling around on whatever surface I could find. When I was 12 or 13, I went to a vocational school for girls. I desired to study painting after graduating, so that I can create images of stories we discussed about. My parents didn’t allow me to continue my studies as girls are thought of as merely domestic figures. We didn’t have enough money too. But I went to Yogyakarta secretly with my elder sibling to find an art school, and I enrolled in SSRI (Art (High) School of Indonesia), where I drew and painted. I stayed there for about a year, before I was expelled for being what they perceived to be ill-disciplined. I stayed on in Yogyakarta, and continued painting.