The Jakarta Post
Indonesian artist Ari Bayuaji finds making art to be a great life adventure.
'My artwork is inspired by things around me and I like to share the work with many people,' Ari says. 'That's why I love to create art installations for public spaces.'
Being a full-time artist, he said, was the only work he thought he could do best.
'I've been very lucky to be able to do something that I really love to do. I don't have to work for a company or [answer to] a boss. I can't be happier,' says the 39-year-old artist.
Ari, who lives in Canada with permanent resident status, returns to Indonesia from time to time, including to his workshop in Bali, where he is preparing for his upcoming art project, commissioned by the Esplanade Singapore.
'I do not want to drop my Indonesian citizenship. I think it's good to have an option to work in Indonesia and Canada at the same time,' he says.
As an Indonesian, he says it is important for him to live in Indonesia, at least for some part of the year, while constantly following news from home, especially on politics and the arts.
'We have a very dynamic country. Probably it's one of the reasons why visual art is Indonesia is growing really well,' said Ari, who mostly spends his time reading when not working at his studio.
Born in Mojokerto, East Java, at school, Ari found himself learning about culture, from ethnic songs to traditional architecture styles from the country's many islands ' instilling in him a pride and love for his country.
His parents, especially his late father, played an important role in nurturing his curiosity.
Ari said his father was a teacher of Indonesian at the town's junior high school, but at home he gave
his children a thorough education on the country's arts and culture.
He recalled how his father took his children to the Borobudur temple when he was eight and asked him to look closely at the details of stone carving reliefs on the temple's walls.
'He said, 'look at these carvings carefully and feel their beauty and you will remember this for the rest of your life.' I had no idea what he was talking about but I did what he said and he was right. I still remember these images until now. This changed the way I see things in life.'
He later moved to Bandung, West Java, to continue his high school education and was fascinated by students playing Kenny G's melodies on angklung musical instruments.
But art was not his first choice. Instead, he studied civil engineering in college to ensure he would land
a good job upon graduation.
He recalled nothing fascinating happening during his college time, other than the fact it helped to
develop his self-discipline to study, read more and learn about problem solving.
'When I got my engineering degree, I felt liberated,' Ari says.
His 'artistic career', he said, began when he landed a job as an assistant product designer with a big interior design company in Denpasar, Bali, soon after his graduation in 1998. In the company, he started to learn about the 3-D design-making process and its materials.
He left the company two years later to take a course on design and drawing in Germany for 16 months, allowing him to travel across Europe and visit its many museums and historical sites.
Exposure to art and culture in Europe helped him understand artists' contributions to society and their countries' image, stimulating his own desire to become one himself.
Following his return to Indonesia, he took a big project to design a private villa in Bali, where the owners gave him the freedom to express his talent from start to finish while giving him a deeper insight into Balinese art and culture.
Upon the project's completion in 2003, he decided to stop working in design and set his eyes on developing his artistic talents.
His first move was to visit Bali's many museums, where he met the island's leading art figures, such as Neka Museum owner Suteja Neka.
But it was not until 2004 that he decided to officially study art, applying to study it at the Concordia University of Montreal in Canada.
For his studies, he moved permanently to Montreal in mid-2005, shipping two containers of old objects ' from books to art materials that he had collected throughout the years ' to his second home.
During his studies, he tried to use objects he had taken from Indonesia, such as pieces of teak wood,
not canvas, as the medium for his paintings.
'I believe that by being away from my own country, I appreciate my country and its culture even more,' Ari says.
In 2008, he displayed his art installation, composed of many traditional architectural ornaments and old household objects, at the Indonesian Embassy in Ottawa.
In the same year, he won a Bronze Prize Danfoss Award, as part of a global competition of the Danfoss Group Global Denmark, which was open to students of art, design and architecture from all over the world. He was the only student from Southeast Asia among the winners that year.
He later took part in various group and joint exhibitions in Montreal. In 2011, he was given the opportunity to mount his installation in the middle of Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours church, one of Montreal's most important historical buildings, for two weeks.
His upcoming work will be on display at The Esplanade from April 4 until June 30, the time when the place hosts big events, from the Tapestry of Sacred Music Festival to the annual meeting of the Association of Asia-Pacific Performing Arts Centers.
Ari said the latest artwork ' an installation titled 'Silence' ' is inspired by music and the remembrance of music.
For the piece, he will suspend more than 1,300 sculptures in the shape of wooden bells constructed without clappers ' wooden bells that are unable to produce sound as they only have empty spaces within them.
Each sculpture, he said, will be hand-painted with geometric shapes on both sides in many different colors. The painted geometric shapes are inspired by musical notation.
All of the bells will be suspended from the ceiling with transparent threads to create a large hanging sculptural installation.
The 'empty wooden bell', he said, is also the symbol of the 'negative space' in music, which is as
important as the notes being played.
'Through 'Silence', I want to propose the wooden bells as the illusion of music, silent bells that lead the audience to imagine any music they wish to hear. Since music has such a strong resonance in any culture, the silent bells perhaps also help us to remember [that fact].'