Culture / Art Republik

How Petek Sutrisno Uses Art To Talk Pop Culture and Politics in Indonesia

Petek Sutrisno is part of the generation of artists whose works are heavily influenced by comics, cartoons, illustrations, and pop culture, thus mixing a variety of modern and traditional mediums to create a distinct work of art.

Sep 12, 2020 | By Julia Roxan

“Fanatik” – Acrylic on Canvas, 140cm x 180cm, 2019

Part of the young artist generation whose works are heavily influenced by comics, cartoons, illustrations, and pop culture, Petek Sutrisno was born in 1988 and has graduated from the Indonesian Institute of The Art in Yogyakarta. Through blending modern and traditional means, Sutrisno deliberately incorporates his daily life into each piece of work, to portray an intended and relatable message.

How Petek Sutrisno Uses Art To Talk Pop Culture and Politics in Indonesia

“Nothing to Fear” – Acrylic on Canvas, 130cm x 170cm, 2020

You are now established in Yogyakarta which can be considered as the art capital of Indonesia. Tell us more about your first steps as an artist?


I’m interested in art since I was a kid, back then during my childhood my big brother always bring me to art exhibition in Yogyakarta and I always express my interest in art by drawing on all of my school textbooks and on the wall at home. I started to pursue my dream in art by studying art in high school (SMSR) in my city. Then I continue my study in Indonesia Institute of The Arts of Yogyakarta and then I decided to be an artist. That decision bring me a dream, in a bigger picture that one day I want the world see my paintings.

“Regal” – Acrylic on Canvas, 150cm x 120cm, 2020

You art is vibrant colors! Tell us more about the symbolic imagery we can find across your art: from Indonesia divinities & traditional motives to cosmonauts & robot?

Most of my work talk about my childhood experience and current political issues. The cosmonauts and robot symbol came into my mind when during my nostalgic session I contemplated my toys when I was a child. I also gave some traditional culture and modernity touch in my paintings like wayang, batik and I mixed them with few characters and some symbols from pop culture like movies, comic books, animation and illustration. Whenever I paint I feel that I need these exposures, the modernity and my traditional roots, for me they create a harmony on my paintings.

“Finding Home” – Acrylic on Canvas, 140cm x 180cm, 2020

Why this fascination for flowers which are prominently featured in almost all of your artworks?

Love, beauty and peace. I tried to put these 3 elements on my work and I choose flower as the symbol of these 3 things. I always think that I have to put nature element in my work since what I see nowadays so many bad news about our planet. This flower is to remind us that we have to preserve nature and the world where we live now.

“Teenage Fantasy No. 1” – Acrylic on Canvas, 140cm x 180cm, 2020

You are always looking for new techniques in your art. How would you describe your style?

I like to try new technique during the process, I don’t like to repeat the same thing all the time, sometimes it bores me and It’s fun to explore many techniques and possibilities during the painting making. It’s true that it affects my style but honestly I don’t really care about style because I don’t want to set a border in my creativity and set a limit for all the new ideas just because it doesn’t suit my style. So, I decided to freed my imagination and doing what I feel right.

“Teenage Fantasy No. 2” – Acrylic on Canvas, 140cm x 180cm, 2020

You works contains social and political themes. Do you see yourself as an engaged artist.

The influence of social – politic issues reflect the condition of my country, it affects me during the process I create my paintings, it’s like I can’t get those things out of my head so I decided to put all what I had in my mind on canvas. I like to use my work as a media to reflect what I thought. I like being critical, not all of the time but you can see I show what I feel about political injustice and some political issue. for me art is one of some ways to speak about the truth, and we can also fight for what we believe through art.

“Identity No.2” – Acrylic on Canvas, 150cm x 120cm, 2019

Any current or past pop artists who has influenced you?

To be honest I don’t know who is the most influential artist during my career but I really like the work of several artists like Jeff Koons,Takashi Murakami,Andy Warhol,I Nyoman Masriadi & Eko Nugroho, they are amazing and they give me good and  positive influence.

“Diantara” – Acrylic on Canvas, 140cm x 180cm, 2019

How do you view the current art scene in Indonesia? How important is the space given to artists in modern Indonesian society?

In my opinion art in Indonesia has been developed over time and you can see there are many galleries where you can find the work of some young artists. Not only that, the society appreciate art a lot better nowadays. Art in Indonesia already take a part in their life, and we see it as a lifestyle. So I’m very glad see how Indonesians especially the young generations taking part on the art development here.

“Toys Story” – Acrylic on Canvas, 140cm x 200cm, 2020

The five words that best describe your art?

Fun, Funny, Beauty, Interesting and Curious

In which city can we expect to see your next solo exhibition?

Currently I don’t have any plan for solo exhibition because I still have to finish many projects till the end of the year. I hope next year I’ll be able to have my next solo exhibition.

Artotel Surabaya 2015

Where can we see some of your work online, are these for sale?

You can check out my Instagram account, but some of them are already sold.

“Sebelum Hujan Turun” – Acrylic on Canvas, 150cm x 200cm, 2019

If you were to name one mentor who has inspired you in life and path as an artist, who would that be?

The reason why I become an artist is my family, but if I have to mention someone who has encouraged me during my early career is Bambang Toko. He was my lecturer when I was studying in university.

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