“A proposal to reclaim painting practices in Indonesia: Looking into decades of debate” in the catalogue of Hello World – Revising a Collection


Do we really have ‘painting practices’ in Indonesia? That has been a question for almost a century now. We really don’t see why its relevant to even ask this question, we are living in the now. But seeing we work in the now and are conscious that unanswered questions from the past inform the conditions of living in the now, many of us, as art practitioners, still think that it’s a quest that is still necessary to undertake. It may seem nationalistic; we must first clarify that this quest concerns more of an imagined nation as opposed to the nation-state that is far easier to conjure. This chapter of the catalogue was initially commissioned as two essays from each of us as individuals however given this is not a recent query or proposition, we decided instead to look closely at a number of existing essays together that approach this quest.

“In the Netherlands, Basuki painted (Conrad) Helfrich.” “So that my paintings become popular and people will want to buy it!” Basuki Abdullah appears to be painting. Two other artists around him are Agus Djaja and Otto Djaja.

From a caricature in the magazine Seniman (Artist) No. 3, Year I, June 1947. Published in Abdulsalam, 1964. Menudju Kemerdekaan: Sebuah lintasan sejarah Indonesia dalam lukisan, dari Budi Utomo hingga TRIKORA (Towards Independence: A trajectory of the history of Indonesia in paintings, from Budi Utomo to TRIKORA). Jakarta: PT Aryaguna. 96 pages, 21 x 32 cm, soft cover.

As a country, Indonesia is considerably young, declaring its independence as recently as 1945. As a concept, Indonesia intended to assemble the vast peoples from differing tribes, language groups, races, religions, traditions, who were all under the rule of the one colony, the Dutch. Thus, the first essay we have included in this section is by S. Sudjojono in order to iterate the artists’ emotions during the early days of independence. The second essay is an excerpt from a 5,500 word lecture given by Oesman Effendi at the very first art center in Jakarta. It states the stages of Indonesian art prior to independence up until the time he gave the lecture, in 1969. The concepts that he defines and the stages he explains represent the typical staging of Indonesian art history. This particular essay is one of the commonly cited essays that attempts to define art, especially paintings, from Indonesia. The full paper diligently tries to elaborate what painting means and how it is implemented in Indonesia. Please note the difference: “Painting in Indonesia” and not “Indonesian painting”. This distinction is key to our understanding nowadays. He ended his paper by saying, “Therefore, there is not yet such a thing as ‘painting in Indonesia’ – this is often misinterpreted as Effendi stating that, “Indonesian painting does not exist.”

The third essay is from Professor Sudjoko. He pinned down the one probable cause in defining painting practice in Indonesia: People misusing language. Professor Sudjoko was a well-known critic who initiated several translation and transliteration works within the art discipline. He was and still is an incredibly inspiring figure who made people rethink modernism and encourage the use of language as a basic logical approach towards artistic practice. He is against the “laziness” of adapting terms from foreign words. He encourages creating terms using Indonesian language or local languages that make sense to the phenomenon (such as Sundanese, Javanese, Minang, etc). This essay is our main touchstone and rationale in creating arguments towards rethinking the ideas (and ideals) of paintings in Indonesia.

We offer this collection of texts in order to build a proposal and work towards reclaiming painting practice in Indonesia as being not exotic, confident, self-aware, and universally aware. As such, the final essay of this chapter is a proposal to reclaim painting practice in Indonesia.

Read the complete chapter in the catalogue!

Enin Supriyanto & Grace Samboh

Edwina Brennan

Brigitta Isabella, Grace Samboh, Katie Bruhn

[Exhibition Catalogue] Hello World. Revising a Collection
Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart – Berlin
Nationalgalerie – Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

The exhibition catalogue “Hello World. Revising a Collection” elaborates in extensive essays and 14 chapters untold stories of transnational artistic networks and cross-cultural entanglements from the late 19th century to the present, including Heinrich Vogeler’s path to the Soviet Union, Dadaist Tomoyoshi Murayama’s sojourn in Berlin in the 1920s, and the collaborations between Nicolás García Uriburu and Joseph Beuys.

The catalogue “Hello World. Revising a Collection” is edited by Udo Kittelmann and Gabriele Knapstein for the Nationalgalerie – Staatliche Museen zu Berlin and published by Hirmer Verlag (432 pages, 600 images in colour, 24 x 32 cm softcover).

With contributions by Deepak Ananth, Zdenka Badovinac, Sven Beckstette, Arno Bertina, Eugen Blume, Daniela Bystron, Clémentine Deliss, Jenny Dirksen, Alexander Fahrenholz, Daniel Garza Usabiaga, Raffael Dedo Gadebusch, Vigen Galstyan, Anna Catharina Gebbers, Natasha Ginwala, Andrea Giunta, Udo Kittelmann, Gabriele Knapstein, Viola König, Tomoko Mamine, Andreas Neufert, Azu Nwagbogu, Meliné Pehlivanian, Melanie Roumiguière, Grace Samboh, Nina Schallenberg, Kristina Schrei, Nusrat Sheikh, Santiago da Silva, Enin Supriyanto, Hortensia Völckers.

49,00 Euro at Buchhandlung Walther Koenig, Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart – Berlin; 59,90 Euro bookstore edition.

„Hello World. Revising a Collection“ is on show until August 26, 2018 at Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart – Berlin. Funded by the German Federal Cultural Foundation.

Read our contribution here!
Or get the printed version of the catalogue at the online shop!


About Grace Samboh

Believes in unicorn, conviviality and the struggle towards collective subjectivities—even temporarily.
%d bloggers like this: