Q: How long have you been painting murals?
A: I’ve started to paint murals in 1990 when I was still in junior high school and continued until 1998 when the reformation era started in Indonesia. At that time I moved to Bali and stayed in Ubud and Buleleng for few months. In the beginning of 1999 I’ve created Matahati, an eye-heart character, that has become my signature character until today.
Q: Do you have any formal art education or you are a self-taught artist?
A: I studied art at the Institute of Art in Jakarta, but I could not complete my studies. Because of the very intense political situation in Indonesia at that time, living in Jakarta, which is the capital of Indonesia, wasn’t artistically stimulating for me.
Q: You are a multitalented artist. What kind of arts have you created?
A: I’ve been writing poetry since I was 7 years old. I published my poetry in year 2011 and since than I don’t write anymore. I create sculpture and paint on canvas, but now I mostly paint murals. In the year 2006 I organized the first Graffiti and Mural Festival in Brebes, but this kind of art wasn’t popular at that time. For the next few years I was traveling a lot around Indonesia. I’ve been writing poetry, painting and involved myself in street theatre. In the year 2014 I organized mural competition in Brebes and established mural community here, which is still active until today.
Q: In your murals organic forms are fused with ornaments and motives. Can you explain the meaning of those symbols?
A: The main character – Matahati symbolizes soul or conscience of human being. Except the eyes, the rest of the face stays covered to express totality in art, the same as for artist during performance. Other ornaments are very simple matching people’s everyday life. Feet means moving toward a goal and hand means creativity usefulness. To complete the artwork I add the circular rotation symbol, which means the spinning wheel of life, the male impotence symbol, which means don’t lose your passion, triangle, which means rising to the top and circle overlap, which means mutually pursued issues. During the finishing process I make a background like piece of paper that sticks to the wall.
Q: How will you call the style of your mural?
A: Many people call my style decorative doodle, others call it pop art doodle, but I call it my own Gus Bill style, Mural Matahati. When creating I stay truly myself and I’m not following anyone’s footsteps. During the process of painting mural I can feel different sensations, not just hoping to get perfect score, as in my opinion no one is perfect.
Q: How long does it take to paint mural?
A: It depends. For commissioned work I can paint up to 6 meters in one day and I need 2 or 3 days to paint 14 meters. But when I paint for myself it depends on idea, mood and ammunition (painting materials) hahaha…
Q: What technics do you use to paint mural?
A: For a long time I was using only acrylic paint, but now I also use spray paint as it’s faster and colors are more vibrant. There is an interesting story how I’ve started to use spray paints. During street art touring in the town of Blitar, East Java, all my friends have already finished their artwork and I was still painting as I was the only one using acrylic paint. It was late at night and we have to go to another city. One friend borrowed me his spray paints so I could finish my artwork quickly. The next day we were painting in Mojokerto, also East Java, and that time I was using spray paint. As a result I finished my mural much quicker than my friends. Since than I’m using spray paints to paint mural.
Q: That’s similar to Banksy, who started to use stencil, so he can finish his artwork quicker and run from the police. Did you also have to run from the police?
A: Earlier, when street art wasn’t so popular as it is today, sometimes I was questioned by police or local government. Many times I could not finish my artwork, because I was stopped by the police. My mural at the stadium was secretly removed by government officers. For a long time I’ve tried to explain to the government, that my artwork has positive meaning and today I can paint freely around Brebes, without being disturbed by the police.
Q: Who is your favourite painter or urban artist?
A: From Indonesia, I love the great artist Affandi with his simplicity and ability to create wonderful paintings. I also adore Amang Rahman, whose artworks have very deep meaning. From the rest of the world, I’ve been inspired by John Paul Pollock with his sharp abstract expressionism and Basquiat with his work ethics without restrictions and main focus to stay truly himself. In my opinion, an artist, who had started creating abstract artwork is on the summit of high art, because abstract is undoubtedly sublime, odd, holy, eternal and visible only to the soul. Such artist has already reached beyond the realistic level and his art has reached the highest stage.
Q: What are your plans for the future?
A: This year I hope to finally spread my art to the rest of the world. I plan to visit London to paint mural there and if possible also other cities in Europe. In the nearest future I want to build my own studio and gallery in Brebes, as well as art school for talented and creative kids and youth from poor families, who can learn art for free and in the future will become artists and painters.