The past is a treasure trove of stories. Masriadi and myself were year 1993 students in the Fine Arts Department of The Indonesian Institute of The Arts (ISI) Yogyakarta, majoring in Painting. We had about 50 people in our class and were the first year to exceed 45. We didn’t know why the University accepted so many painting students.
In the past each class had at most 35 students. With larger class sizes the lecturer had to work harder and thus be stricter. On top of that, we heard that the senior students were loudly protesting the institute’s decision to accept so many students. We were quite worried about the impact this would have on our studies.
Our class was unique in many ways. We had only four female classmates (Agni Tripratiwi, Laksmi Sitharesmi–painter, Tini, and Sri Wahyuningsih–former People’s Democratic Party (PRD) activist), graduates of high school (SMA) and also the arts secondary school (SMSR). Among the SMSR grads, there were students from Surabaya, Yogyakarta, Padang and Denpasar; a plethora of ethnicities which also includes Japanese (Sumiko Kato) and Dutch (Edwin Jurriens– who is now a lecturer in the University of Melbourne). Nyoman Masriadi’s fellow Balinese were Nyoman Putra Ardana, Wayan Gede Santiyasa, Wayan Arnata, Wayan Danu and Alpa Tedjo Purnomo.
At that time, the Faculty of Fine Arts was still situated in Gampingan, which was much smaller than the current location in Sewon. The cramped space actually made the place livelier. The daily hustle and bustle were quite apparent, inside and outside of classes. Students from various majors tended to know each other better.
The 50 students in our class often were divided into 2 or 3 groups, especially for the practical topics: sketching, drawing, and painting. Consequently, in Painting I to Painting VII, we had about 20 students per session. It was not necessary to divide our class for the theoretical topics.
I remember clearly how we criticised each other in class. We received more feedback from our own classmates than from the lecturers. After the lecturers of Painting V (Aming Prayitno and Titoes Libert) finished commenting on each work, we were asked to comment on them and play critic. I was often the first offender of each session. The other potent critics of our class were Ponco, Nyoman Putra Ardana (Mantra), Jumaldi Alfi, Suraji, Setyo Priyo Nugroho, Anang Triwahyudi and Stefan Buana.
Although we were aware that our comments were based on levels of skill and experience that were far below those of the lecturers, we were open in our evaluations because we were assessing our own peers, and also because we were plain smartasses. When Masriadi’s turn to be crucified came up, the same thing happened, though his Bali-ness became a special spice. We commented on the visual features, his composition, materials, techniques and habits.
Between 1994-1996, a phenomenal artistic movement hit the campus. A group of artists who also happened to be senior students from Bali gave rise to the “abstract expressionism ala Bali” style. Participants included Made Sukadana (year 1986), Nyoman Sukari & Made Wiradana (year 1990), Putu Sutawijaya (year 1991), Made Sumadiyasa & Mahendra Torris (year 1992).
This movement didn’t really make a dent in history, but it had quite an impact on the image of the Balinese students.Those named above are influential artists who were strongly dedicated to finding their artistic identity. It must be noted that their presence attracted the attention of other students and their works were in large formats. These artists used oil and acrylic paints that seemed outrageously expensive to me, and their works actually sell to boot! In sort of a backlash, Ugo Untoro (year 1989), S. Teddy D, Yustoni Valunteero and others once created a graffiti in one of the walls of the Sasana Aji Yasa building denouncing the existence of this “Bali style”.
The style was not true American abstract-expressionism, these Balinese seniors tended to focus on object visualization methods, while the theme or topic revolved around elements of Balinese locality along with their individual experiences. The objects of their paintings are often depicted symbolically, realistically or surrealistically.
Not all Balinese students were affected by the trend. Some chose to put forward the Balinese identity in a different manner. This was apparent in works by members of Sanggar Dewata Indonesia, one of whom was Nyoman Masriadi.
By Mikke Susanto – 11 December 2013 – click here to read Masriadi University Days (Part 2)