Returning the Public to the People
and the Personal to the Self
Ari Dyanto works across several different media, from paintings and murals to wood-cuts, graffiti and lightboxes. An individual artist in his own right, he is also a member of Apotik Komik, a group of artists dedicated to taking art out on to the streets. His works explore problems facing contemporary Indonesian society, in particular youths, and are often inspired by the country’s period of political upheavals. Urban in focus and feel, his works also deal with the construction of identity and search for the self within a globalised world.
Ari Dyanto is, according to Utari Dewi Narwanti of the Cemeti Foundation in Yogyakarta, ‘one the most talented artists in the field of visual arts in Indonesia’. His diverse practice incorporates many forms of visual and media arts, from print-making and wood-cuts to lightboxes, graffiti and murals. Experimentation with different media and new working processes is as important to him as the final artwork.
His works focus on issues facing contemporary Indonesian society, and in particular on youth- and sub-cultures. Inspired by the country’s period of radical changes in 1998 to 1999, for example, Dyanto staged two exhibitions, ‘Recovering Stupidity’ and ‘Rebel without a Cause’, for which he made neon light boxes pieces. Paintings, made using a combination of china ink and spray can paint, were framed in a box and illuminated from the inside by neon bulbs. By using the techniques and materials commonly employed for commercial products in Indonesia, these works commented upon the ‘spirit of reformation’, which as Dyanto sees it, ‘still does not make a real effort on behalf of the people’.
For the last seven years Dyanto has been an active member of Apotik Komik, a group of artists who aim to ‘bring out the discourse of public art and also the understanding of public space to our community in Indonesia’. This is particularly significant in a country where art is not only still trying to establish itself as an serious, integral part of society, but also because it provides one possibility of, as Dyanto points out, ‘bringing back the term “public space” which has been corrupted by government and radical groups and political parties’ and thereby returning the ownership of public space to the people.
Participants in the group sometimes make pieces at the studio and then take them out to sites for display, other times they use the sites themselves as the medium. Recycled and cheap materials such as cardboard boxes, wall paint, used tins, photocopied texts and T-shirts are explored in works which are left behind at the place where they were produced or installed; mostly on the street or in the hands of the audience.
In one of their first shows, Apotik Komik made a mural and placed cut-out cardboard figures in a public space. The piece attracted much attention, not only because of the novelty of public art in Indonesia, but also for the artists’ use of simple and inexpensive materials.
Nindityo Adiournomo from the Cemeti Art House, Yogyakarta succinctly captures the spirit that loosely unites the group by highlighting their common emphasis on art as dialogue: ‘The aim for communication – art like a language, materialized through humour, irony, cartoon figures and text – is what connects the artists in Apotik Komik.’ With the group, Dyanto has also worked closely with underground comic artists, helping to publish and promote several comic and compilation comic books.
Dyanto´s recent work has taken an introspective turn. In late 2000 and early 2001, he was invited to Germany to stage two exhibitions. The experience of ‘being in a strange country’ had a profound effect on him and prompted a leap from the public to the personal. He says, ‘I was questioning myself in relation to the conservative traditional values around me and the responsibilities of being an artist and a young man, facing global change’.
This inspired the project ‘Freestyler: La Figuration Narrative’ in which Dyanto questioned himself and others youths around the same age as him about the quest for the self through ‘their second skin outfit’. He explains, ‘I tried to describe what became their awareness and personal growth through the statement of “judging a book by its over”’. Photographing youths chosen for a distinctive presentation of ‘self image’, Dyanto then executed his paintings of them in the gallery space so the audience could see and feed into the work in progress.
Collaboration – whether with participants of his works, the audience, or other artists – is, for Dyanto, a key element of his practice. He plans in the future to work with artists from all different fields, from music, digital arts, performing arts and video art and from different cultural backgrounds.
Ari Dyanto’s work was included in the ‘100 Best of Philip Morris Indonesia Art Awards’ in 2001. He was also nominated for the Visiting Arts International Fellowship at Delfina in 2002.
Ari Dyanto was born in Klaten, Central Java, Indonesia in 1974. He studied graphic art from 1992 to 1999 at the Faculty of Fine Arts at the Indonesia Institute of Arts, ISI, in Yogyakarta. He has been involved with Apotik Komik, a group of artists committed to public art, since 1996 and has also collaborated with underground comic artists. Currently based in Yogyakarta, he has had solo shows in Germany and Indonesia and has participated in group shows mainly in the Asia Pacific region but also in the US.
SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS
Exhibition / Installation,
2003 ‘Stray fatigues’, Kedai Kebun Galeri Restoran Forum, Yogyakarta
2003 ‘Soundgarden’, neon light box, Gelaran budaya, Yogyakarta
2003 ‘READ’, neon light box, Cemeti art hause, Yogyakarta
2003 ‘Open Source/Hidden Files’, digital print, gallery Mess 56, Yogyakarta
2003 ‘Mural Project Sama-Sama’, Apotik komik and Clarion Alley Mural Project, San Francisco
2003 ‘I’ll be your mirror…’, neon light box, CCF Jakarta
2002 Age-hibition, painting, Edwin’s Gallery, Jakarta
2002 ‘SAMA-SAMA’, mural project with Apotik komik, fly-over, Lempuyangan,
2002 ‘Read! Art Project’, neon light box, British Council exhibition space, Jakarta
2002 ‘Comic Indie’, comic, Gelaran budaya, Yogyakarta
2002 ‘AWAS! Recent Art from Indonesia’, installation, Bentara Budaya Jakarta
2001 ‘Too Much Mural is Boring’, mural with Apotik Komik, Jakarta
1999 ‘KNALPOT’, neon light box, Puri Lukisan Museum, Ubud, Bali
1999 ‘KNALPOT’, neon light box, Cemeti Art House, Yogyakarta,
1999 ‘Biennale VI Yogyakarta, neon light box, Art Center, Purna Budaya, Yogyakarta
1999 ‘Bias Sahaja ‘99, Seni Cetak Grafis Tiga Kota, wood cut, Jakarta, Bandung, Yogyakarta
1999 ‘AWAS! Recent Art from Indonesia’, installation, Benteng Vredeburg, Yogyakarta; Australian Center of Contemporary Art, Melbourne, Australi
1998 ‘Message from Distortions’, posters, 50th anniversary of Human Rights Declaration, Vredeburg Museum, Yogyakarta
1998 ‘For Fresh of Freezer’, neon light box, Vredeburg Museum, Yogyakarta,
1997 ‘Space of Liberty’, painting, installation, a note for Indonesia’s Independence Day, Borden House, Yogyakarta
1997 ‘Recovering Stupidity’, neon light box, AIKON’s office, Yogyakarta
1997 ‘Comics on Wall’, mural, together with APOTIK KOMIK, Yogyakarta
Exhibition / Installation,
2001 ‘Nachsterhalt’, neonlight box, Aquarium Music Café, Passau, Germany
2000 ‘Sorry No Artwork’, painting, Asien Haus, Essen, Germany
2000 ‘Sorry Still No Artwork’, installation, 88 Der Verein fur Kunst und Kultur e.v., Hamburg, Germany
2000 ‘Freestyler: La Figuration Narrative,’ painting, Pusat Kebudayaan Pernacis, Yogyakarta
2000 ‘Comic Indie’, comic, Gelaran Budaya Galeri, Yogyakarta
2000 ‘Parkinsound Electronic Music Festival’, graffiti action, Gedung Olah Raga Kridosono, Yogyakarta
2001 ‘100 Best of Philip Morris Indonesia Art Awards’