Tag Archives: Indonesia

This is not a toy

I haven’t seen an exhibition of art toys for almost a decade, not since 2010. This year there have been two; the second one, This is Not a Toy Scene, opened last night at B-Side Gallery in Fitzroy.

It was an impressive group show with almost a dozen artists showing their toys, or should they be described as limited edition objet d’art? Perhaps the word ‘toy’ is more of reference to diminutive size, as in ‘toy poodles’, rather than use for play. Miniature polychromatic sculptures many in their own bubble packaging that imitated the commercial versions faultlessly.

Although many of the toys reflect a nostalgia for childhood there was more art than that sentiment and collectability in the exhibition. Cepholopede had some most immediate pop cultural references (egg boy, the milk-crate) by that I have seen in any show in a long time. There were some works that questioned copyright issues (not mentioning any names there). And some hard-core surrealistic work by Wendy Olsen.

There is still some cross-over between Melbourne’s street art scene and exhibitions of toys. I remember seeing the work of Phibs, Deb, and Junior in Villain’s ‘Munny show’ of customisable toys figures (see my post).

I knew that ADi and Facter have been making toys for years but I didn’t know about Russkid’s dragsters 3D doodles. Facter’s Irikanii Corps figures have the same colours as his work on the street and ADi’s toys (featured in earlier exhibitions) riff on Star Wars abstracting the characters to a minimal. Facter says that he now prefers making toys to painting on the streets because he can finish more.

If art toys are not really a happening scene in Australia it is in Asia. GGNW (GoodGuysNeverWin) from Indonesia is now based in Melbourne and promoting the art toy scene here. He told me about the Indonesian art toy scene. There had been a public controversy that some of his toys had created because people got the idea that toys depicting child killers might be sold to children in toy shops rather than to adults at art galleries.

Earlier this year I saw that there was a limited edition toy depicting the American art critic Jerry Salz so I guess we can call this an international toy art movement.


Underground Indonesian Art

Fort Delta is an underground gallery down a flight of stairs at the back of the Capitol Arcade in Melbourne; it is an appropriate location for New Underground: Indonesian Contemporary. It is Fort Delta’s first collaborative exhibition with MiFA Gallery that represents artists from the Asia Pacific region.

Lugas Syllabus, Step By Step, My Friend, 2011

Lugas Syllabus, Step By Step, My Friend, 2011

This is a great exhibition of contemporary Indonesian art featuring work by work by Soni Irawan, Iyok Prayogo, and Lugas Syllabus. Prayogo and Syllabus are both graduates of The Indonesian Institute Of The Arts, Yogyakarta. Irawan completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Indonesian Art Institute in Jogjakarta. According to the exhibition notes they are all “emerged from the Indo Punk scene” hence “New Underground”.

I laugh out loud when I look at Lugas Syllabus’s mixed media sculpture Step by Step, My Friend (2011) a cartoon rabbit is progressively jumping into a trap baited with carrots. It is so funny, so funky inexplicable with a clearly wise message about progress all at the same time.

Most of the exhibition is filled with paintings by Soni Irawan. His painting are intense; the accretion of layers of images, in layers of different media, is a urban experience and vision. He spray paints aerosol enamel over his own work in bubble graffiti for Fake Fact (2012), stencils in the Chupa Chups logo on Lady Candy (2013) and pastes on embroidery patches on Ultra Flat Black (2011). All on top of his line drawings of strange creatures, people with faces in their torsos, Blemmyae, masked and animal headed figures.

Soni Irawan, Fake Fact, 2012

Soni Irawan, Fake Fact, 2012

Iyok Prayogo’s two light boxes in hard road cases, Walk on By (2009) and Going Metal (2012), were a bit too mainstream rock’n’roll for my taste.

I don’t get to see much Indonesian contemporary art here in Melbourne but what I have seen, like the New Underground has been very worth while.

Contemporary Indonesian Art @ NGV

“Rally: Contemporary Indonesian Art” at the NGV International was limited to two artists Jompet Kuswidananto and Eko Nugroho both from Yogyakarta. The title is wrong. “Rally” does not have exciting connotations in Melbourne just more of the usual politics. And this is not an exhibition about contemporary Indonesia and these two artists do not represent Indonesian and their art is about more than location or nationality.


Jompet Kuswidananto’s installation, The Commoners, 2012 is a ghostly march of day labours in the foyer. Only their boots, tools, megaphones, drums and t-shirts tied around their heads and flags fluttering in the wind of leaf blowers were visible. Only the sound of their drums and street sounds were audible. (See my video on YouTube.)

The Commoners were attracting the crowds of young and old visitors but fewer were venturing down the corridor to see the exhibition. Most were off to see the Post-Impressionists or the rest of the NGV. I had seen works by Jompet Kuswidananto before, in 2009 at Bus Gallery and I wanted to see more – I wanted to see more of contemporary Indonesian art in general because there is so much going on in the Indonesia art scene.

Jompet Kuswidananto creates sculptures that make the figure disappear, only the accoutrements, the drumming and noise remains. These ghostly statues question the person in the military, the day labourers, the person made invisible by their occupation or nationality. The carnival of life is made up of so many ghosts in costume. These are not exclusively Javanese ghosts, the ghosts of our own history and culture haunt us.

The installation of the exhibition was fantastic, opening you up to the world of the two artists in a single room. Two sentinel figures sit at the entrance of the gallery by Eko Nugroho. Inside some of the walls have been painted in a pattern, corrugated iron lines another wall. The room instantly takes you to another world there is so much to look at.

Eko Nugroho’s work has all the intensity of street art. His street art background is clearly evident with images embroided on velour on the painted wall and his stickers, embroided badges, t-shirts, hoodies, tot bags, comic books and other merchandise at the gift shop. While at the NGV Nugroho painted the water wall; I only saw Nugroho painting on NGV’s water wall from the outside before one of the windows cracked and the whole thing was taken down (similar to Keith Haring’s experience with the water wall). As well as, painting a wall in Hosier Lane with his sci-fi inspired images with faces staring out of machines.

Eko Nugroho in Hosier Lane, 2012

Eko Nugroho in Hosier Lane, 2012

Eko Nugroho’s fantastic costumes are something else. Unlike Kuswidananto’s figures they are visible, like mad ravers or cultists from the future.

I wanted to read more about the artists. Aclaim Magazine has an interview with Jompet Kuswidananto and Eko Nugroho. Art Guide Australia has a review of “Rally”. And Art Asia has an interview with Jompet Kuswidananto from last year.

Wanda Gillespie @ Seventh

“The Museum of Lost Worlds presents: Swi Gunting (reconstructing artefacts from the lost island of Tana Swiwi)” must be the longest title for an exhibition that I’ve seen this year – it is on at Seventh Gallery and it is worth seeing.

Swi Gunting are carved and decorated wooden scissor-lifts constructed by the Jatiwangi Arts Factory from Jatiwangi West Java. The craftsmen at the Jatiwangi Arts Factory have produced beautiful carved and painted work. And the wooden scissor-lifts do actually work; they are capable of being cranked up and down with an adapted bicycle chain and sprocket wheel. Since these scissor-lifts are too small and decorative to have a practical use archaeologists would classify them as ceremonial objects and we know that they must be contemporary art.

Wanda Gillespie is the artist behind this spectacle of the Museum of Lost Worlds; her website has images and details of the sculpture on exhibit. For more information about her residency see Creative Journeys.

I like imaginary museums like the Museum of Lost Worlds; I have also seen the Museum of Modern Oddities and the Museum of Soy Sauce Art. The idea of a museum, the older relative of the art gallery, has an aesthetic impact on the art displayed. The artist becomes the curator and gallery director of their imaginary gallery. Unfortunately “The Museum” part doesn’t really work, it didn’t make me believe in a museum, and feels like an excess of words. Some didactic cards, a website, other exhibits or souvenirs from the imaginary museum would have helped make it more complete.

Wanda Gillespie is a Melbourne based-artist who mixes the conceptual and sculptural. I first saw her exhibition “Flying For Dummies and failed attempts” at Blindside in 2006. I thought that it was a good exhibition when I saw it but Swi Gunting is much better. For two years Gillespie was the secretary for Seventh Gallery, an artist run initiative, in part explaining why Seventh Gallery consistently has good exhibitions of quality contemporary art. She was also founding director of Twentybythirty, a miniature gallery, in Melbourne’s CBD.

Indonesian Art @ Bus

Having seen “Kompilasi: A survey of contemporary Indonesian art” at Bus I would have to conclude that contemporary art in Indonesia includes a lot of performance elements. Having missed the opening of the exhibition I was mostly looking at the ghosts of the performances in the galleries, ghosts captured in photographs and videos.

The star of the show is Jompet Kuswidananto’s “Java – the ghost warrior”, a video installation. It is instantly engaging and entrancing, the slow motion dancer on the video and the figure made from empty helmet, drum and boots. And then I realized that Jompet has done something amazing; the ghostly drummer beats his drum in time with the video. Having made such an impressive impact I was well prepared to meditate on Jompet’s post-colonial themes.

Attending artist Tintin Wulia’s wall painting map “Terra Incognito etcetera” was the remains of a performance, with its trays of flags and wine glasses with dried paint. Bambang ‘Toko’ Witjksono’s installation and performance “Future House” felt as ghostly as an empty real estate office in a new suburb. The table of colour printed and die-cut cardboard box houses looked like McHappy Meal boxes.

Angki Purbandono’s “Anonymous project” and “The Indonesian Wedding Photo Ritual” looks at the ordinary performance of ordinary people in photographs, like wedding photographs. Angki Purbandono playfully examines the structure of Indonesian pre-wedding, during wedding and post-wedding photographs. The inclusion of a mock Gilbert and George performance in “The Indonesian Wedding Photo Ritual” series is more insightful than a simple homage.

The Taring Padi collective have 2 large woodblock prints on canvas banners in the exhibition. In 2002 I first encountered the art of Taring Padi in a small exhibition of posters, publications, banners and videos of their performance at Irene Warehouse in Brunswick. At that time the Taring Padi collective had been working for 4 years, now they are over 10 years old. 10 years later Taring Padi’s people art style is still recognizable and is even more intense.

Curators Kritis Monfries, Tim O’Donoghue and Georgie Sedgwick have made an excellent selection of contemporary Indonesian art. The exhibition fills the whole of Bus gallery including the stairs and in a painting on the front wall of the gallery. The selection of contemporary Indonesian art is fun and engaging without any loss of serious content. Not having a lot of knowledge of contemporary Indonesian art I don’t know if “Kompilasi” is representative survey but it is a good exhibition.

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