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Jakarta Post

Nia Gautama: Rethinking ceramics as art

Nia Gautama: Rethinking ceramics as art (JP/Nurhayati) (JP/Nurhayati)
Novia D. Rulistia
Jakarta   ●   Thu, March 13, 2014


Kurniawaty, better known as Nia, says that she likes to work out-of-the box, engaging other elements to complement her ceramic art pieces.

'€œI like to make installations from ceramics and combine them with objects that I incidentally find, like dry leaves or rice,'€ she said.

Nia'€™s installations are not only something that please the eyes or decorates an exhibition room. '€œI talk to people through my installations, because there are always stories behind the works,'€ said the 40-year-old.

'€œWith an installation, I feel like I have more room to play with my creativity,'€ she adds.

Her fondness for contemporary ceramics has led her to organize exhibitions to promote the artistic side of ceramics to wider audience.

She was the program coordinator for the first Jakarta Contemporary Ceramics Biennale in 2010, managed the second event in 2012 and is director of the third iteration, slated to be held in September.

'€œThe events are designed to show that ceramics are not exclusive and can be mixed with other forms of art,'€ Nia said.

There will be around 50 artists, including 35 from more than 20 countries who will take part in the third Jakarta Contemporary Ceramics Biennale.

She said the previous events in Indonesia had been special, as artists displayed their ceramics pieces with works in other media, such as performance art or video.

'€œIndonesia is the pioneer of ceramics biennale events in Southeast Asia. So far, the response has been great,'€ she said.

Nia'€™s first involvement with ceramics started in 1998 after she visited a ceramics exhibition and fell in love with the art form.

Upon graduating from Trisakti University and The London School of Public Relations in Jakarta,
she took a ceramic course at the Apelsien Studio in Jakarta for two years.

'€œThe process is very long. We choose the clay first, shape it and dry it before glazing it and put it in the fire at a certain temperature ['€¦.] The chance to fail during the firing process is usually large,'€ Nia says, meaning that'€™s she'€™s had to learn a fair bit about chemistry to avoid unintended color changes due to oxidation in the kiln.

'€œIt'€™s complicated but it I find it very interesting,'€ she adds.

While Nia participated in her first exhibition in 2001 and several others since then, it was not until 2006 that she began to experiment. '€œI saw an opportunity to make ceramics more interesting by combining them with other elements.'€

In 2008, she organized her first solo exhibition, '€œWondrous Shelter'€, at Bentara Budaya Jakarta, which exhibited a selection of finished-but-unfired sculptures.

Nia is known for her installations made from terracotta that are transparent or feature minimal coloring to make her work appear as natural as possible.

She has also participated in exhibitions in Australia, China, Taiwan and Thailand. She also teaches at the Fine Arts and Ceramic Museum in Jakarta for ceramics maker Jenggala Keramik in Bali.

In 2010, Nia set up a jewelry line, Tanania Jewel, selling clay accessories she made herself. '€œI was interested in making accessories because I don'€™t need a big studio to do it. I can also work on it from anywhere, because I can carry the materials around with me.'€

She also works with craftsmen to add gold or silver to the accessories. '€œI used to sell the jewelry in some art shops in Jakarta and at a mall in Bali. However, due to my activities I only sell online now.'€

Nia recently moved to Bandung, West Java, where she plans to build another studio. Although busy organizing exhibitions and with the Indonesia Arts Gallery Association, where she'€™s secretary, Nia makes time for her art.

'€œI always try to find time to make ceramics, either functional ones or artwork,'€ she says. '€œIt'€™s part of my daily life.'€

On display: The beautifully crafted carved and painted ducks of Bali'€™s Duck Man, I Gusti Ngurah Umum.