Arts |

British Painter Finds Inspiration in Indonesia’s Landscapes

Arts | 19 April 2017

Artistic inspiration can come from many different sources. British painter Siobhan King, the wife of Belgium’s Ambassador to Indonesia, says that her life as a global nomad has had an immense influence on her artistic oeuvre, which ranges from abstraction to realism.

“For me, art is where it all began,” Siobhan says. “I’ve been painting since I was very small and hold a BA in Fine Art from Nottingham and Trent University and a PGCE in Art and Design from Brighton University. I’ve continued in one way or another to be a part of art whether it’s in education or exhibitions.”

Siobhan met her husband in Zimbabwe, where she was teaching art and English at the time. The couple has since lived in Beijing, China, Brussels, Washington D.C. in the US before moving to Jakarta two and a half years ago.

“Being constantly on the move is great for inspiration, but on the other hand, you always have to reinvent yourself again,” Siobhan explains. “A lot of the work that I do is based on landscapes and travel. We have lived in a lot of countries with a beautiful and inspiring environment, but usually when I get back to Brussels, I do more figurative work.”

Siobhan is currently preparing her first exhibition in South Jakarta, which will take place from April 20 to 22 at Ciputra Artpreneur in Kuningan.

“It is a joint exhibition with ceramicist Arti Gidwani,” Siobhan says. “This is actually my first joint exhibition with another artist. When you are moving a lot, it is quite rare to have this kind of connection with somebody, but this is the first time I got together with another artist and decided that we would like to do an exhibition. We actually couldn’t be more opposite, but at the same time, I think we are good for each other.”

Siobhan is contributing between 25 and 30 of her paintings from over the past two years to the exhibition whereas Arti, a contemporary ceramicist, is creating her works exclusively for the exhibition, responding to Siobhan’s works and adapting similar ideas.

“This has been my busiest posting by far, and I can’t do as much work as I would like to do, so I’m quite impressed that I managed to get this exhibition together,” she says with a laugh. “I’ve been lucky to have had an exhibition for each posting. It’s hard work to get to the stage where you can exhibit; it doesn’t just come to you. In this case, I have been extremely lucky because it was Arti who got the ball rolling on the exhibition, and I kind of happily tagged along.”

Despite her busy schedule, Siobhan makes sure that she dedicates as much time as possible to painting.

“You need to find time to have that space in your mind for creativity, when you live in a very busy city, you could lose that, and you have to be quite disciplined,” she says.

Siobhan also enjoys getting to the Indonesian art scene little by little. She has traveled to Yogyakarta several times, and has also learned about the Bandung school and other Indonesian artists.

“In Belgium, we have this huge international arts festival Europalia, which is held every two years,” she says. “In 2017, its focus is going to be on Indonesia. Therefore, we have been able host dinners and receptions for the Europalia team and through them, we have met some incredibly talented contemporary artists. It has been quite eye opening for me. There are certainly some great artists here. It’s wonderful to see the explosion of contemporary artists coming through. It’s an exciting period for art in Indonesia.”

In a sense, she adds, it reminds her of her time in Beijing, which coincided with the boom of the contemporary art scene.

“It was such a vibrant atmosphere which I can feel here too, with young people being full of bright enthusiasm and optimism.”

Siobhan says that after two and a half years in Indonesia, she can already see traces of the country in her works.

“It’s incredible how the landscapes of Indonesia have affected me, rather than me representing the landscapes in my paintings,” she acknowledges. “The strength and the power of nature here is mind-blowing. I’ve never seen that anywhere else in the world, and I wasn’t prepared for it, but it has really influenced my work.”

When asked about her future as a painter, Siobhan simply shrugs – she doesn’t like to make concrete plans.

“I never say, ‘I’d like to be here in ten years time’, because otherwise it would be frustrating if you’d never reach that point,” she explains. “I just hope to continue to work wherever I am. I’ve never stopped learning from painting, and I suppose you continue to learn and develop. There are always opportunities, you just have to grab them.”

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