The issues plaguing society are multi-layered when viewed through the different lenses of each individual’s personal experiences. Indonesian artist Justian Jafin’s works are the visual emulations of such multidimensional perspectives as he attempts to surface societal issues through his overlays of elements in an almost collage-like manner. With each subject peeking through from beneath the dominant ones above, we are compelled to sieve through the chaos and identify what matters most in every conflict.
What was art like to you in your formative years?
I was born to artist parents in 1987, so I was almost immediately tossed into the deep end of that proverbial pool. From attending exhibition openings to having routine discussions with my parents and their friends, I was rapidly exposed to the artistic ways at an early age. This became my foundation that got me through my high school studies at SMSR Surabaya and later, my education at the Yogyakarta Indonesian Institute of the Arts. Since my college years, my depth in thinking has increased in proportion to my awareness and understanding of art. Artists may be producing tangible materials to be sold in the open markets, yet I am one who believes in the value of art to transcend its physicality and into its contribution as a discourse for alleviating conflicts. I dare say that I am amply prepared to be the professional artist that I am today.
What are the thoughts and ideas that go into your artworks?
The concepts within my works are mostly based off empirical experiences of mine or of the communities around me. I use art as a medium to address prevalent problems within society and further extend them as prompts for my viewers to develop potential resolutions to these issues. While are may be venerated for its beauty and capability of bringing joy and entertainment to the masses, I look beyond these ephemeral superficialities and into its prospect as a vessel of education and information dissemination.
While visual aesthetics may take a backseat to the concepts within my works, I have always kept the two congruent with each other, whereby the style I decide on complements the idea I evoke within a work. Thus far, my style of painting involves creating overlapping layers that cover and uncover the variety of subjects in the piece, resulting in a composition that resembles that of a collage. This way, viewers will need to observe intently as a story unfolds before their eyes, bringing their focus to their roles in contributing to society and hopefully empower them to bring about change.
Aside from social issues, how have you positioned your art to push the Indonesian art industry further into the spotlight?
Art and the act of creating have always been part of our Indonesian culture. When we think Indonesian art, big names like Raden Saleh and Affandi come to mind, and places like Ubud or Batuan even have the art styles named after them. People from all walks of life and from far and wide converge on Indonesia to revel in our rich artistic climate, so we naturally would see a “Boom” phenomenon in which there would be an increasing demand for art from the region every 7 to 10 years. Indonesia experienced this “Boom” back in 2008, and since then, the demand for art has been on a slow decline in the years to come. I think that the local art market should not be too reliant on these peak periods to push for more works into the public spaces. Instead, I intend to use my art to bring the public into our creative spaces to show them that art, in fact, intertwines entirely with everyone’s way of life, and that there should not be a boundary between the two. The fusion of art and society is an important aspect to mutually reinforce the roles of both. This is why I choose to use my paintings to broach difficult social and political topics that are often swept under the rug.
What are the upcoming plans on your art showcases?
I am currently hosting my first solo exhibition with CG Art Space and my body of works will be exhibited at Art Jakarta in December. In the following year, there will also be a second presentation in the same gallery, where the attending audiences will be encouraged to interpret and respond to the works on display.
Catch a glimpse of Justian Jafin’s socially-charged artworks through his Instagram (@justianjafinw).