The Jakarta Post
Playful and colorful: Painter Erica Hestu Wahyuni always has fun when she paints. (Erica Hestu Wahyuni/-)
With multiple exhibitions in several countries, painter Erica Hestu Wahyuni has become a familiar face on the international art scene.
Frequent flyers may have glanced or admired Erica’s work displayed at terminal three of the Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Banten.
Her artworks feature a colorful and playful style like that of a child and charm collectors, artists and art enthusiasts from all over the world.
“As a self-taught artist, I retained and developed the style that I have had from when I was a kid,” Erica said during an interview.
“Children’s paintings are pure, in drawing and coloring, and I want to keep that pureness.”
Go big: Erica Hestu Wahyuni poses with one of her painting that is three times her height. (Erica Hestu Wahyuni/-)
In a live Instagram event held by Bartega on June 23, Erica said that growing up, she used to paint as a hobby. During her junior and senior high school years, she was primary focused on her schoolwork, but her love for painting kept her excited for the rare opportunities she was able to practice her craft.
After graduating from high school, Erica enrolled in the Institute of Art in Jogjakarta (ISI), but that did not last long as she decided to drop out and become an independent artist.
Following her passion for painting, in the late 1990s, she submitted her works of art to the National Gallery. Although her artworks were overlooked at first, this experience only fueled her ambition. In 1999 she succeeded in having her works of art exhibited in the gallery.
After her individual exhibition at the National Gallery, Erica published a book titled Reka-Reka Erica (Erica’s Sketches) with the help of curator Amir Sidharta in April 2001.
She also got the opportunity to be part of an artist exchange between Indonesia and Russia. While in Russia, she was intrigued by the artistry of Russian art and architecture. She then decided to apply to study at the Moscow State Academic Art Institute.
“I wanted to appreciate the artworks of Eastern Europe longer, and Russian artworks were not widely spread internationally,” she said.
Her road to enrollment at Moscow State Institute was not easy. Not having a bachelor’s degree led to the confusion within the university’s faculty about whether to place Erica in the undergraduate or graduate program.
No space wasted: Erica’s paintings spread out onto the frame. (Erica Hestu Wahyuni/-)
After a few hours of meetings and discussions, the faculty decided to consider her published book as having the same value as an academic thesis and she was accepted to enroll as a graduate student.
Erica said that she did not care about the degree that she would get out of her studies in Moscow because she only wanted to learn new things.
“I hate it when people ask what I got from studying in Russia,” she said.
“I learned many things not just of art. Adapting to the differences in language, culture and climate are also part of what I learned from being there.”
The lessons at her university were delivered in the native language, forcing Erica to learn Russian and she also had to adapt a lot both as a person and as an artist.
Being away from family and having to adapt to a different place with a different culture is hard, but for Erica, that it is what it takes to be successful.
“Everything in Russia is cold, the climate, the atmosphere and the people,” she said.
“This affected my mindset, and of course my work of art.”
The snowy weather of Russia also influenced her unconscious preference for color compositions. On top of that, having to study a realist style of art has helped her develop her own style.
After five years, the city of Moscow became a second home for Erica, but during her time abroad, she also missed her home and family in Yogjakarta.
“Being with family gives me the energy to keep creating, spending time with them is my way of refueling my energy,” she said. “That is why my longing to be with my family was strong.”
The Writer is an intern at The Jakarta Post.
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