Coming together: ‘Termasuk: Contemporary Art from Indonesia’ at Darren Knight Gallery

Termasuk: Contemporary Art from Indonesia , exhibition installation view, Darren Knight Gallery, Sydney, 19 January – 16 February 2019, with the works of Setu Legi and Mohamad ‘Ucup’ Yusuf; image courtesy the artists and Darren Knight Gallery, Sydney

Termasuk: Contemporary Art from Indonesia, exhibition installation view, Darren Knight Gallery, Sydney, 19 January – 16 February 2019, with the works of Setu Legi and Mohamad ‘Ucup’ Yusuf; image courtesy the artists and Darren Knight Gallery, Sydney

The Bahasa Indonesia word ‘Termasuk’ refers to inclusiveness or togetherness. This exhibition at Sydney’s Darren Knight Gallery (until 16 February), curated by art adviser and collector John Cruthers and the cross-cultural networking organisation Indo Art Link (led by Lauren Parker with Melissa Burnet Rice), has a deliberately broad remit which is brought together neatly in its title, exploring ideas of belonging, both personal and political, within this diverse country of 265 million people.

There is a variety of media across the 12 participating artists, including drawing, painting, printmaking, textiles, ceramics and installation. However, these emerging and mid-career practitioners working in Jakarta, Bandung, Yogyakarta and Bali share a refinement of the hand and a conceptual confidence which combine to produce nuanced, beautiful works encouraging slow and considered appreciation.

Mohamad ‘Ucup’ Yusuf’s reduction woodblock prints feature impossibly dense scenes containing pop and traditional cultural references surrounding the imposing visage of a Javanese bride. Fika Ria Santika employs alternately delicate and robust found and industrial materials such as felt and chiffon, resin and beads, creating abstract sculptural reliefs which evoke organisms and landscapes. Surya Wirawan’s richly detailed comic strips, executed in aquarelle and coloured pencil, wittily narrate encounters within the art world and beyond, while Maharani Mancanagara explores Indonesia’s history of exiled political prisoners as an allegorical tale using wooden toy-like objects and a storybook.

‘Termasuk’ also serves as a reminder of the significant role that art collectors and commercial galleries can play in the art ecosystem and, more broadly, in cultural exchange. The exhibition was put together dynamically and responsively during 2018 and realised with professionalism and rigour – each artist is introduced via a suite of recent works, public programs include a presentation on the history of contemporary Indonesian art by academic Brigitta Isabella and a panel discussion on collecting Indonesian art, and the show is accompanied by a catalogue including a foreword by Aaron Seeto, Director of Museum MACAN, Jakarta.

With Indonesian art forming the focus of recent and forthcoming shows in several major Australian art institutions, ‘Termasuk’ makes for a timely and exciting introduction to the world of contemporary Indonesian art and provides important insight into our near neighbour.

Chloé Wolifson, Sydney