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Jumaadi: Indonesian-Australian artist transforming stories and traditions

Jumaadi: Indonesian-Australian artist transforming stories and traditions

Indonesian-Australian artist Jumaadi is renowned for painting a story through his artworks and sculptures. From shadow puppets to buffalo hide, he invites his audiences to imagine, dream and think deeply about what it means to be human.

Moving to Sydney in 2000, he studied a Bachelor of Fine Art and a Master of Fine Art at the National Art School, and he has since gone on to living and working in Sydney with his latest exhibition, Bring Me Back My Body And I Will Return Your Soul.

Where were you born and raised? What was this experience like?

I was born and raised in Sidoarjo, which is now a part of the big city of Surabaya, East Java. My father had a fish farm, which was near mangroves and wetland. He had a canoe and rice field, which was good and playing kites were fun. Even school was new to the village.

How much does your upbringing influence your art?

I’m not sure how much my upbringing has shaped my art now. My art is constructed of selected memory, not mine personally. But my art are ways to understand human conditions and of longing and displacement.

Why did you decide to study art in Sydney/Australia as opposed to somewhere like the USA?

Australia is near Indonesia, and I had more friends in Australia than in the USA.

Did you find the transition to Australia quite difficult initially? How so?

It was difficult because when I moved here, my English was quite limited but I get by. My skill in life was also limited as working for money was a problem and it still is.

Why do you think it is important to share stories of your life in Indonesia through your art?

I don’t really share my life from Indonesia. I live here in Australia for more than half of my life. I know more places in Australia then I do in Indonesia. If my pictures or works looks like they are from Indonesia, perhaps it is like those works that you think they are from America or England. No, they are stories from various places. These particular works were made in Charleston, South Carolina, USA, where the first slave was sent. It is the oldest town of white and black American. The slave was forced to work on a rice farm. This is the connection to Indonesia – rice.

It’s often mentioned that you take a ‘contemporary perspective on traditional art forms’. How do you do this and why do you feel this is important?

They are traditional and as contemporary as they can be. Painting, sculpture, puppet, dance… are art. They are my medium expressions. It is important to start somewhere in my case. In this project, shadow and drawing was the starting point. Both shadow and drawing are traditions of so many cultures in the world. Even Javanese shadow puppet later became the most famous in the world, which are grand and colossal. They are a long durational performance. My practice is not near at all to that tradition.

What has been your favourite work of art so far?

To name a few, Sydney Nolan, Balinese performance, Japanese theatre, American expressionist, Aboriginal ceremonies and South American poets like Pablo Neruda.

Who is your biggest artistic inspiration and why?

Those I mentioned above are also my biggest influences as they are raw and rich. They are giving, complex and open at the same time.

What is next for you as an artist?

I just came back from having a solo show in Singapore as part of the Singapore Art Week with a South East Asia focus. I’m working towards a solo show at Mosman Regional gallery, Lismore Art Gallery and also a solo show in Indonesia, Singapore and Taipei this year. But next year, I’m going to show at the National Gallery of Indonesia in Jakarta.

Find out more about Jumaadi on Facebook HERE


Anisha Mistry

As the Editor of CulturalPulse, Anisha is passionate about listening to, writing and sharing stories of Australia's multicultural achievement. Got a story to tell? Get in touch: editor@culturalpulse.com.au