Culture / Art Republik

Interview: Artist Aditya Novali

This is not his first rodeo nor is he afraid to explore various tools in creating his art.

Mar 27, 2016 | By Staff Writer

Aditya Novali was born in Solo, Indonesia. He received a Bachelor of Engineering in Architecture from the Universitas Katolik Parahyangan, Bandung, Indonesia in 2002, and an IM Master of Conceptual Design from the Design Academy Eindhoven, The Netherlands in 2008.

In recent years, he has participated in multiple group and solo exhibitions in Indonesia and abroad. In 2015 alone, his works have been presented at group shows ‘Titik Silang’ at Dia Lo Gue and ‘Ak Diponegoro’ at the National Gallery in Jakarta, ‘ArtJog15: Infinity in Flux’ at Taman Budaya in Yogyakarta and abroad in ‘Object: About Memory and Time’ at Nunu Fine Art in Taipei as well as ‘(Dis)appear’ at Primae Noctis Art Gallery in Lugano, Switzerland. His solo exhibitions include ‘Painting Sense’ at Roh Projects Jakarta in 2014, ‘Beyond the Walls’ at Primo Marella Gallery in Milan, Italy in 2013 and ‘The Wall Series: Asian (Un)Real Estate Project’ at Project Stage at Art Stage Singapore 2012.Aditya-Novali-Art-Republik

Aditya is an artist with wide-ranging interests, and works in a variety of media to comment on a myriad of issues. He is equally adept at manipulating paintbrushes and canvases (as in ‘Painting Sense’ in order to pay homage to the often hidden creative process) as he is commenting (for example, on what he deems to be the failure of the public housing scheme in Indonesia in ‘The Wall Series: Asian (Un)Real Estate Project’). What defines his oeuvre so far is the element of playful humour that is key to all his artworks.

You make use of a diverse range of materials to create your artworks. How do you decide what to use for each work? Is it important to you to constantly experiment with new materials?


To me, the material is a medium to realise an idea and not a starting point. I choose the medium to use based on research and consideration so that the message will be delivered in its best form. 

Tools Alphabet — Brush Series #6, 2014, Aditya Novali

Tools Alphabet — Brush Series #6, 2014, Aditya Novali

How has your education in architecture shaped your artistic endeavours, in, for example ‘The Wall: Asian (Un)Real Estate Project’ (2012) and ‘The Wall Series: Living Years’ (2013-2014), but also in other works? 

Honestly, I never intentionally used my architecture background in the making of my art. But I have begun to realise that it is in my blood. My sensitivity to space and knowledge of construction methods influence the way I make my art. This is probably best seen in ‘The Wall: Asian (un)Real Estate Project’, a project I started in 2011 based on my observations about how the urban landscape has evolved. 

How did your time at the Design Academy Eindhoven and in Netherlands change/inform your approach to making art?

I learned to see myself and my art practice from a different perspective. For example, I can see my country’s potential and weaknesses more clearly because I observed them from afar. The diversity of nationalities in the school created very dynamic and interesting conversations that broadened my perspective on things. Although the school focused on product design, I actually learned a great deal about philosophy and the importance of questioning what the future could be. These have had a great impact on how I respond to existing issues, as well as how I execute my artworks.

Tools Alphabet — Brush Series #4, 2014, Aditya Novali

Tools Alphabet — Brush Series #4, 2014, Aditya Novali

Art is often not wearable. Could you talk about the motivations behind the ‘Identity’ series (2010) exhibited at the Cemara 6 Gallery in March 2014, where you created intricately made skull brooches inspired by famous artists and artworks, such as Damien Hirst, and ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’? Will we be seeing more wearable art from you?

The ‘Identity’ series is part of my ongoing ‘StAtemeNt’ project. I created this experimental platform to continuously challenge myself to push the boundaries of conventional value in art. We see more and more cross-disciplinary art practices today. It can be very refreshing but challenging at the same time. Identity series started from my interest in art, fashion and product design as the medium to convey the idea of how we see our identity as a human being. By wearing the brooches, we are simultaneously showing and hiding our true ‘identity”. The inspiration from many famous artists is a metaphor of how we form our ‘identity’ based on the role models and ideas we encounter. 

Conversation Unknown, 2015, Aditya Novali

Conversation Unknown, 2015, Aditya Novali

You contributed ‘Abstract Logic’ series to the ‘A Prince for All Seasons: Diponegoro in the Memory of the Nation, from Raden Saleh to the Present’ exhibition that was held early this year at the Galeri Nasional Indonesia, in response to modern Indonesian artist Raden Saleh’s landmark work ‘The Arrest of Diponegoro’ (1857). How have previous generations of Indonesian artists influenced your work in general?

I believe everything happens for a reason. That is why history has been an interesting source for inspiration. I admire many of Indonesian artists for their artistic achievements but I am more interested in their thoughts and their journeys as artists. 

‘Conversation Unknown’ (2015), shown at ArtJog 15, is made up of more than 3500 drawings of people from Dr. Melanie Setiawan’s exhibition and book on the Indonesian art world. What made you decide to create this work? 

When ArtJog contacted me to collaborate with them, they proposed ‘fluxus’ as a theme. Many of my previous works are interactive in nature, and I wanted to continue with that. I found Dr. Melanie’s book, which archives her time in the Indonesian art world from 1980 to the present day. To me, it captures the essence of contemporary art today when everything, everyone and everywhere is more connected and this interaction becomes more essential to shape the reality of the art world. For this artwork, I wanted to invite the audience to find themselves in the work among 3500 persons to recall their memory of the event when their photograph was taken and subsequently put in Dr. Melanie’s book. 

What are you working on right now? 

I am preparing for some solo exhibitions and group exhibitions, along with a community project in my hometown, as well as my residency in Tokyo early next year and a new series as part of my ‘StAtemeNt’ project.

Story Credits

Text by Nadya Wang

This story first appeared in Art Republik.

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