My name is Ichsan Harja. I live in Bandung, Indonesia, a city known nationally as being rich in its Art Deco buildings (follow me on Instagram, Facebook and visit my website for more!) Living here has made me an art, history and architecture enthusiast. One of my ways of sharing this enthusiasm was using sketches, and since 2005, along with several friends, we’ve been publishing sketchbooks depicting hundreds of historic buildings in several cities in Indonesia.
In 2009, Asian Public Intellectuals (API) Foundation offered me the chance for an artist-in-residence program in Japan for almost one year (2011-2012). The program (and Japan’s landscape) has greatly affected the style of my artworks, resulted in a more vivid and dramatic painting.
I currently work as an architect; however, sketching and painting activities are my favorite past time. Along with some friends, several years ago we’ve founded Bandung Sketchwalk, a group specifically dedicated to sketch scenes and activities around our hometown.
Last year we’ve (rather successfully, I might add) held an international sketching event attended by almost 300 participants from Canada, New Zealand, Hongkong, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia.
The goal is to promote and appreciate our own heritage through sketching activities. I strongly believe that in this case, sketching is more beneficial compared to photography, since it requires the participant to observe and interact more with his or her surroundings.
Most of my watercolor works are landscape/urbanscape, usually taken from the best angle possible. Sometimes this means I have to reinterpret something that had been done by somebody else; however, I often add dramatic elements by putting those objects in an entirely different-yet-realistic light or atmosphere.
In fact, most of my works are about a certain quality of light: the harsh autumn light with ultramarine-hued shadows, or unusual marmalade sky caused by a rare combination of late noon sunlight, low-hanging clouds and thin snow. Most of my earliest works (2005-2009) done in studio; however, I’ve been doing a lot of plein-air painting lately, since the limited time and the everchanging quality of light compel me to work quickly, creating a more spontaneous and expressive artworks.
Although I want a certain message to be conveyed through my artworks, those are not a political statement. I’m not interested in using it to criticize any social, cultural nor political conditions in any context and time. Instead, I tried to convey a notion of universal, timeless beauty.
I want the viewer to enjoy my work as is, without any pretext nor context. Indeed, one of my best moments happened during my exhibition in Kyoto, when a janitor, after cleaning the exhibition room right before the opening ceremony, came up to me with his wife (brought hastily from their home, just to see my painting) and said, “We enjoy your picture very much, sir”. Art should be universal, regardless of one’s education and position in life.
This universal beauty, I believe, will enhance any historic and cultural meaning embodied by the original object. And that is my main message: I want the viewer to see these objects differently, with meanings that transcend their physical appearance.