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Art

YOGYAKARTA – KI SUKASMAN / WAYANG UKUR

Our 2 month trip / vacation to Indonesia is slowly coming to an end and we will return to The Netherlands soon full of new energy & inspiration! A good start of the new year! In the past few weeks we went on a inspiration-hunt and we have made several small trips through Indonesia, we have visited many temples and several museums. We would like to tell more about ALL of the beautiful places we have visited but we decided to just highlight the best of them!

On our first trip to Yogyakarta, we searched for the story behind a unique artist called Ki Sukasman. Which Ade heard about a couple of years ago and felt that there was some resemblance in the way Ki Sukasman is creating art and the way he is makes his designs. So off we went!

Ki Sukasman – Wayang Ukur

Ki Sukasman

Ki Sukasman was a 66-year-old artist (he passed in 2009) from Yogyakarta who devoted all his life to wayang, the art of leather puppetry. What distinguished him from others was his view on the ‘traditional wayang’. A bit more about him and his artworks you can find in a long interview hold by The Jakarta Post in 2003. 

Sukasman has made a name as the creator of Wayang ukur, a new style of leather puppet. His puppets have been used in shadow plays at home and abroad, such as in Canada, Holland, Germany and the U.S.

Sukasman first observed the puppets as a little boy. He made leather puppets later in his youth, and graduated from the Indonesian Fine Art Academy (ASRI) in Yogyakarta, in 1962, majoring in advertising, decorative arts, illustration and graphic arts.

Since graduating, he has experimented with leather puppets. He strongly disagrees with the popular conception that the puppet’s form has already reached a state of perfection and needs no divergence.

As an artist, he purges his restlessness with the obsessive scientific study of leather puppets. He has tried to crack the stylization secret of the puppet’s shapes. Finally, he found a way to modify the form by measuring individual parts: the body, the arms, the legs, the neck and the shoulders. Hence the origins of his puppet’s name, Wayang ukur (leather puppets in measurement).

Sukasman, who worked as a dishwasher and did other jobs in the Netherlands between 1965 and 1974, has devoted nearly all his life to wayang. He remains unmarried and most of his earnings went back into his art. He owns a large house on Jl. Taman Siswa, Yogyakarta, which serves as both his house and workshop.

 

To read the full interview, click here.

It was not so easy to find the place where we knew about that you could still find some of his artworks. The first place that Google maps told us to go to turned out to be wrong… We asked around a bit and after a while we found a guy who could point us his house / workshop. We stepped inside, a bit unsure if this was the right place where we could find Ki Sukasman’s artworks. Inside the house we found a young man who confirmed that this was his old work space. He leaded us to the back of the building and showed us some of the remaining artworks and told us that all the original wayang puppets he made are now in the possession of his brother and some museums.

Sukasman

When we walked to the back we felt like entering someones private ‘studio’, not really the idea of a gallery. On the side, against the wall we found some of the remaining artworks (engraved slate stone plaques). And they where absolutely amazing! Around 170 cm high, beautifully engraved, extremely detailed. It was almost sad to find these great artworks, covered with dust, put away in a sort of garage. The boy leaded us around and explained us what he knew about the history of these artworks and around which time they where made. 3 big rooms, filled with all these beautiful doors, statues, windowpanes. We almost couldn’t believe that so many people in the past where disagreeing with his idea of traditional wayang, these were masterpieces! A small, but impressive collection of some of Ki Sukasman’s artworks, definitely one that deserves more attention.

Sukasman_3 Sukasman_4

Sukasman_8

Overall in our opinion, an amazing, under appreciated, artist with a very progressive view on the traditional wayang. If you’re interested in visiting his workshop, to see these artworks follow the directions below;

 

Head to  JL Taman Siswa in Yogyakarta, but don’t go into the small streets of the neighborhood but stay on the main road and you will find the Ki Sukasman’s workshop on the left side of the road next to a parking lot where you can park your car.

Because this is a quite ‘hidden’ place, certainly not a tourist attraction, there’s no entry-fee to see these artworks, but please grab a bite in the small warung inside the building to give some support to the people who take care of the remains of this beautiful collection.

– Lielo

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