Going into the Fine Arts Department of ISI Yogyakarta in 1993, did not immediately cause Masriadi to “abandon” Bali’s culture. For more than two years his closest circle of friends was from the island. He lived in a rented house with Nyoman Putra Ardana, Wayan Arnata, Wayan Gede Santiyasa and Wayan Danu in Tegalmulyo. Tegalmulyo is a kampong in the Pakuncen area, about 300 meters north of ISI’s Gampingan campus.
In 1995, Masriadi moved to Gampingan I street, right in the north edge of the campus. Here he stayed with a senior who majored in Graphic Art, Made Arya Dwita (Dedok). The proximity of the house and the campus, lead to the house becoming a meeting point and even a transit area for works. Masriadi liked the extra company. He stayed there until he got married in 1997.
“It felt like a house of eternity, I don’t know why I felt so at home there and stayed for a long time,” he said to me.
During his time in Tegalmulyo, Masriadi mingled with both Balinese and non-Balinese students. During those early years, there were thoughts bouncing off each other . Their economic background, way of thinking and previous life events in Bali influenced their new life in Yogyakarta. For most Balinese students, living in Yogya is like coming out of their shell. Yogyakarta is a new world full of mysteries: awe, shock, ignorance, and challenge mixed together.
Newness abound in campus, too. The classes we take part in are pretty novel, especially for me (maybe for Masriadi too). Even their names sounded alien: Nirmana (formless forms), Still Life Painting, Monumental Art, Knowledge of Materials, Sociology of Art, etc. Yeah, those topics are foreign to me and Masriadi. What’s different between us are Sketching and Painting. He did those in secondary school, I didn’t, because I came from a normal high school.
We were taught by professors who are by now very senior or already retired. We had An Overview of Fine Arts by Drs. Suwardi and Drs. Suwarno Wisetrotomo, An Overview of the Art of Painting by Drs. Agus Burhan and Drs. Alexandri Lutfi, History of Western Fine Arts by Soedarso Sp. M.A. and Drs. Wardoyo Sugiyanto, Nirmana by Drs. Titoes Libert, Drs. Pracoyo, Drs. Hening Swasono, Drs. Agus Kamal, and Drs. Agus Burhan. In Drawing we met Drs. Sudarisman who was already retiring. General, mandatory classes include Pancasila instructed by Mrs. Moersiyati, S.H., and Basic Science by Drs. Suparto. Last but not least religious classes, of which Masriadi, obviously, took Hindu by Mr. KKS Kadi, a native of Klungkung, Bali.
Each student has an advisor, who advises the student on administrative matters and provide counseling. At times, the advisor continues to advise outside of academic settings, even after graduation. Masriadi’s advisor was Drs. Titoes Libert who even today still actively teaches. His advisor injected some enthusiasm into Masriadi, proven by how he answered when asked who is the most memorable lecturer for him, “Definitely Mr. Titoes!”
We also had the chance to be educated by Fadjar Sidik, a renowned figure in Indonesia’s Abstract movement, and the maestro Nyoman Gunarsa. Fadjar Sidik taught us An Overview of the Art of Painting, while Nyoman Gunarsa’s class was Sketching (together with Drs. Suwadji and Drs. Subroto Sm.). We only had a couple of classes with the two masters (they retired soon after), but they were unforgettable.
Both have been instrumental in shaping our artistic and professional attitudes. Both taught us the virtue of being honest and to believe in individual ability, as well as constantly provoking us to practice, work and work creatively. Gunarsa always repeated the following words, still ringing in our ears even now, “Work … Work … Work!”
With such a makeup of classes and teachers it is rather understandable that Masriadi also “wriggles” creatively in facing his new life. During those early days of university, the quiet Masriadi is not thoughtlessly silent. He is quite sensitive to the evolution and dynamics of art, particularly in campus. This is shown in how he doesn’t follow his elders to the letter in exploring and identifying his Baliness, unlike garden-variety students from Bali. I’ve written about his in the first part of this series.
Although since the very beginning he perfunctorily became a member of Sanggar Dewata Indonesia (SDI, a community of artists from Bali), he didn’t immediately follow his seniors’ assumptions in exploring his Baliness in his canvasses. He was quite active socially among fellow Balinese students, including participating in all the traditional Balinese ceremonies in Yogyakarta. When it came to his work though, he is already stylistically different. Even while still a student, he believes that differentiation, in visual style and in how to reveal “traditionalism”, is essential.
He already had the key answer to the question of how to exhibit his Baliness, which is how to identify himself. The attitude, principle, and sensibility to be unique have started to appear early in his career. In short, the fear of being different and working alone has been quashed in the fight to be distinct from his seniors.
The uniqueness is shown by resonating all the classes, Nirmana or Knowledge of Materials also his recollection of artworks of the world from the History of Western Fine Art and likewise the works for the lecturers themselves. In the nineties, Masriadi’s works in general explored plainly colored flat shapes, some cubistic some abstract, making use of technique and texture of materials in his canvasses.
Consequently, these early works attempted to literally erase any icon, symbols or visual reference to Bali (except the black and white patterns in Masriadi’s Natural Culture, though this work appears to be more a parody of Victor Vasarely’s Optic Art or other works with island of Bali in them). Most significantly, he did not use the paint splashing technique used by most his seniors at the time. In the end, the only thing linking Bali to him, is his name
By Mikke Susanto – 21 January 2014