Women and Fine Art in Indonesia

Wanita dan Seni Rupa di Indonesia. Sanento Yuliman maybe the only scholar who really addressed sexual differences within artists in modern Indonesian era.

Author: Sanento Yuliman
Year: 1988
Country: Indonesia
Published in the exhibition catalogue of “Nuansa Indonesia III”, pp. 23-30, November 1988, Jakarta: Taman Ismail Marzuki. No English translation available.

Sanento Yuliman maybe the only scholar who really addressed sexual differences within artists in modern Indonesian era. He was using the terms feminine and masculine, as well as questioning whether there was a necessity to define the so-called feminine aesthetic for Indonesian women artists. In terms of sexual division of labor, Yuliman addressed in within the same realm fine arts and craft; and how the painters and sculptors are men, meanwhile the textile and ceramic artists are women.

Writings on Indonesian women artists have almost always been celebratory and have the tendency of discovering a lineage (such as how writers generally address Emiria Soenassa as the mother of fine art alongside with some other figure as the father; or how writers address sculptor Tridjoto Abdullah as the sister of the painter Basuki Abdullah). Even though Yuliman did point out something in relation to lineage, such as how Kartini spoke about her sister Rukmini who is a talented drawing, his view on Emiria Soenassa’s paintings were based on her multiple professions (therefore interests), unlike others who mythologized her by writing about her relationship to a Prince from Tidore.

Yuliman finished off the essay by saying that the issue for women in Indonesia is not that they have no production capacity or skill, but rather social obstacles. This is a rather precious angle, because many people that writes about women artists tend to dwell upon—if not complaint—the lack of practice in terms of art-making and exhibiting; as well as break phases in their career due to childbirth.