As if there is no sun brings together over 40 canvases from public museums and private collections, placing the life and work of painter Kustiyah (1935–2012) in the company of her con- temporaries. This presentation provides a lens through which to examine Indonesia’s complex history, from Dutch colonial rule and President Sukarno’s revolutionary era (1945–65) and President Soeharto’s New Order regime (1965–98) to the present day.
An image in a 1956 issue of SIASAT magazine is accompanied by the caption: “ASRI student Kustiyah painting the landscape of a beach in Tegal.” This photograph, like many others in her family albums, shows the painter working close to fishermen in near-90-degree heat. Kustiyah came of age during Indonesia’s golden era remembered for its artistic developments, such as the practice of painting outdoors alongside everyday people. Her humble subject matter, such as fish, fruit, and flowers found in street markets and family kitchens, further distanced her prac- tice from the prevailing European studio tradition.
Despite the era’s political promise, artistic innovation, and the tropical environs in which she painted, Kustiyah’s canvases, like those of her peers, feature dark greens and blues, offset by potent applications of red. Across five decades, the painter’s color palette remained con- sistent, arguably reflecting a life lived beyond mainstream exposure, as one of a few women painters from the Indonesian revolutionary artist generation; a witness to massacre that dis- proportionally affected her homeland; and a mother, wife, and active member of the period’s vibrant art scene. This presentation illuminates Kustiyah’s contributions to art history that have remained subordinated to patriarchal structures from the times of Indonesia’s revolutionary government, through the New Order regime, and into the current Reformasi period.
This presentation is curated by Hyphen— (Akmalia Rizqita, Grace Samboh, and Ratna Mufida) (2011-present, Indonesia).