Artisan Profiles: Astuti

If Pollock is synonymous to Abstract Expressionism, Picasso to Cubism, Warhol to Pop Art, then Astuti is tantamount to Indonesian Batik Art paintings. Born on March 27, 1935 in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, Astuti has had over 50 years of experience in letting the world see his world through his melodramatic canvases.  In 1955, Astuti studied at Indonesian Academy of Fine Arts (abbreviated ASRI) and since then, he has never stopped making masterpieces up till recent years.

Astuti was different from other Batik painters; he had more than one area of specialization. In fact, his initial “Unique Selling Point” was not Batik. From 1963 to 1970, Astuti studied oil painting under several great masters in that era, and produced psychologically-daunting surrealistic and abstract human figures. His most famous and finest oil painting art to date is ‘Affandi Self Portrait’ – and as the title suggests – a picture of a famous Indonesian painter painting his own portrait, with eyes that Astuti himself was quoted as saying “follow you around like in a male version of the Mona Lisa”.

In 1965, Astuti was married to Mutiningsih, and they both have four children. He dedicated his love for his soul mate in a painting titled ‘My Woman’, and right in the same collection are other portraits of the important people in his life. His artistic production is very much a reflection of the world he lives in, and his style is an attempt to go deeper (Scarpello, F. 2002). In 1970, Astuti began studying Batik painting, emphasizing on Abstract and Human Figure. His first major exhibition was held in Jakarta in 1973, and two years following his debut, Astuti was a recognized Artisan with his own studio and gallery.

A man with various aspirations and inspirations, Astuti’s styles change with time. In his Batik collections, one can almost be in a state of trance dazing into the serene atmosphere of Javanese and Balinese landscapes. Astuti’s forte of concentrating on details truly embodies ‘intricate and delicate’ work of art, and his choice of colours is mostly seen as monochromatic but yet visually satisfying. His “framing” of the sceneries is often focused on large trees at the foreground, without obscuring what is more beautiful at the background, which is usually village huts by a river, and often near the mountains.

1979 marked his debut overseas exhibition in Darwin, Australia, and subsequently in 1980 and years after that Astuti travelled to the United States, Belgium, England, Italy, Holland, France, Germany and Austria to promote and place Indonesian Batik Art on par with other internationally-acclaimed European counterparts.

Beginning of the twenty-first century has seen Astuti appeared on various mass media such as books, newspapers and television programs. Like a leading man with a torch in a marathon – though his frail physique may hold him down a little – his spirit and pure intentions to preserve the traditional art have sure lighten the path for future artists in pursuing Indonesian Batik Art.

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