As if there is no sun

Photo taken by Paul Kadarisman

Welcome to the As if there is no sun exhibition! You will be greeted by a pair of ‘twin’ paintings! Painter Sudarso (1914-2006) painted the portrait of painter Kustiyah (1935-2012) twice! The first painting is signed with a time marker, 1979, and an identity. The second painting was signed with a caption: Copy painting. In the painting, Kustiyah is sitting on a piece of wood, or stone, in a natural setting. Contemplating in nature is a luxury for residents of big cities like Jakarta.

The exhibition As if there is no sun presents 54 paintings, which most of them are older than most of us. Even so, they exist almost as equals to us, standing by themselves, and as they are. Mounting these paintings on iron poles was a layered decision. First, to present the paintings in almost their entire condition, so that we have the opportunity to recognize the age of these works through their materials. Secondly, to emphasize that these works don’t always need to be ‘staged’ with solid colored walls. These paintings have their own stories, but each of their stories is intertwined. Just like the painters, their friendships, and the spaces in which they lived. Thirdly, to allow them—the paintings—to greet the sun, once in a while.

Unlike the models in the twin paintings, these works end up in the cold, lonely collection storage rooms. When displayed in museums or galleries, their display spaces tend to be dimly lit and isolated from everyday reality. The Multipurpose Room of the National Gallery of Indonesia has provided an opportunity for these works to return to a similar setting to when they were created in their time. In the open landscape, in the sun-laden alleys of a market, or in a studio that didn’t have enough lights—so that they needed the sun to paint. In this room, we have the opportunity to witness these paintings in two ‘realms’. When the sun is present, where its hues and rays will find their way into this room. And, when the sun sets, when our bodies are relieved as the temperature drops, but our eyes long for the yellowish glow of the dawn.

The similarity in the color tones of all the paintings in this exhibition indicates several things. First, they come from the same era, the 1950s-1970s. Even though some of the paintings are made in the 1980s, 1990s or even 2000s, their taste, composition and choice of subject matter still hint at their generation. After experiencing the list of long-duration media works and interactive, installative works in the National Culture Week 2023, these paintings might make us uncomfortable. “Uh, what should I do in this room?”

Hm, how about taking a breath first?! In this exhibition space, temperature and humidity are carefully maintained for the care of works that may be as old as our parents, or even our grandparents. Then, imagine the landscape where Kustiyah sat, contemplating, when Sudarso painted her. If we were in their surroundings, what would we be doing there? Enjoying nature? Just laying around? Or? Provided with these images, let’s dive into the end of the Revolutionary era and the rapid development of ideas and state infrastructure in the era of Fulfilling Independence, through this selection of paintings!

Halfway through the day, this room is full of sunlight. When dusk comes, the serenity will transform our experience of being present among these paintings. Do come a few times to experience these works in different hues and atmospheres! Enjoy the painting exhibition As if there is no sun!

Very best,



Photo taken by Paul Kadarisman

As if there is no sun

A painting exhibition from the collection of Griya Seni Hj. Kustiyah Edhi Sunarso, Galeri Nasional Indonesia, Museum Seni Rupa dan Keramik, Pusat Kesenian Jakarta Taman Ismail Marzuki, Museum Universitas Pelita Harapan, Museum Affandi, and OHD Museum.

Kustiyah (b. Probolinggo, 1935 – d. Yogyakarta, 2012)
Siti Ruliyati (b. Jombang, 1930 – d. Tangerang, 2023)
Sriyani (b. Yogyakarta, 1930; d. Jakarta, 2006)
Kartika (b. Jakarta, 1934)
Rustamadji (b. Klaten, 1921; d. Klaten, 2001)
Trubus Soedarsono (b. Yogyakarta, 1926; missing in 1966)
Zaini (b. Pariaman, 1924; d. Jakarta, 1977)
G. Sidharta Soegijo (b. Yogyakarta, 1932; d. Surakarta, 2006)
Sudarso (b. Purwokerto, 1914; d. Purwakarta, 2006)
Sutopo (b. Yogyakarta, 1931)
Edhi Sunarso (b. Salatiga, 1932; d. Yogyakarta, 2016).

20 October – 19 November 2023
Ruang Serbaguna, Galeri Nasional Indonesia
Jl. Medan Merdeka Timur No. 14
Gambir, Jakarta Pusat

Jejaring, rimpang
Pekan Kebudayaan Nasional 2023


Public programs

  • Panel discussion: How did they perceive paintings then, and how do we do it now? 24 October 2023, 14.30 – 16.00 WIB, Komplek Kemendikbudristek, Jakarta 
  • Exhibition tour with Roger Nelson, 25 October 2023, 16.30 WIB, Ruang serbaguna Galeri Nasional Indonesia, Jakarta
  • Kelompok Belajar with Kelas Liarsip and Hyphen—, 27 October 2023, 09.30 WIB, Komplek Kemdikbud, Jakarta
  • Film screening and discussion, 28 October 2023, 18.30 WIB, Plaza Tenda Galeri Nasional Indonesia, Jakarta
  • Catalog launching of Para sekutu yang tidak bisa berkata tidak (The acquiescent allies) — Collecting Entanglements and Embodied Histories, 29 October 2023, 18.30 WIB, Ruang serbaguna Galeri Nasional Indonesia, Jakarta
  • Exhibition tour with Hyphen—, 12 & 19 November 2023, 15.00 WIB, Ruang serbaguna Galeri Nasional Indonesia, Jakarta


Read more about the research trajectory of Kustiyah, et al here

Access and download the catalogue in English here

Access the page in Bahasa Indonesia here


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