“There is nothing particularly ‘wow’ about my drawings,” said Noviadi Angkasapura matter-of-factly. In the mouth of another, these words may sound pretentious, perhaps bordering on a feigned display of modesty. But coming from the 44-year-old, whose drawings were recently featured in a collaboration with Parisian fashion label LEMAIRE, there was no questioning that he meant it.
His earliest memory of drawing is sitting on the branch of a banyan tree near his childhood home in Jayapura, West Papua, trying to capture the angled curves and flow of the river below with a graphite pencil and paper. “When you are surrounded by nature, you naturally spend most of your time running around and building a fascination with whatever is around you. It was then that I was first introduced to shapes, motifs and colours.”
Even from a young age, his illustrations have attracted a mixed response. His father was his biggest fan, generous in his praises, even going so far as likening his drawings to renowned Indonesian painters. His mother, on the other hand, would usually respond with a puzzled look followed by the question, “What is that?”. At school, the same polarising response latches to him; his teachers gave him high marks for his drawings, while his friends found them difficult to make out.
He admitted that back then, he didn’t take drawing seriously. Rather, he viewed it more like an innocent hobby that he might outgrow one day. “To be honest, I don’t consider myself a creative person. But I’ve always felt a little different, more mediumistic,” said the father of two.
It was the eve of his 24th birthday that started the domino effect that took his works internationally, a gesture still in motion today. He recalled, “I was at my lowest point. It just felt like there was no future for me. I was lying down in my room when suddenly a spirit appeared in a thick cloud of smoke, its voice like thunder. It pointed at me and said, ‘You, Raden Sastro Inggil!’ (In Javanese, Raden is a nobleman, Sastro means knowledge, while Inggil signifies respect, a term often used to refer to older people). It threw a crumpled piece of paper toward me, which I unfolded to find the words ‘Jujur, Sabar’ written forty-five times”.
“To be honest, I don’t consider myself a creative person. But I’ve always felt a little different, more mediumistic.”
Honest and patient. “Not lying doesn’t necessarily translate to honesty. In the same way, patience is more than just not being angry. To me, [these words] are like a gateway. A source, if you will, of life and understanding,” he explained. Since then, the two words are as present in his illustrations as his two names, like a mantra that repeats itself like a prayer.
The first time someone purchased his work was through a Facebook inquiry. It was a longtime habit of his to post a finished piece on social media, but he didn’t pay much attention to the comment section until a friend mentioned that someone was asking if the work was for sale. Soon, more purchase inquiries flooded in, leading to a conversation between him and a representative from New York-based gallery Calvin-Morris, his official representation today.
Things catapulted quite quickly after, opening opportunities for his work to travel across Morocco, England, the United States and most notably, Switzerland. It was there that his work, alongside one other Indonesian artist, Bali-based Ni Tanjung, was acquired by Collection de l’Art Brut in Lausanne, a museum dedicated to showcasing “outsider art” or works created by social outcasts.
Categorised between Mystic Art and Art Brut or ‘raw art’ (a term created by French artist slash founder of the museum, Jean Dubuffet, that refers to raw expressions or visions that defy conventional art), Noviadi’s work unveils anamorphic figures, djinns and demons in varying shades and thicknesses.
“I’ll draw until I cannot draw anymore. It’s as simple as that.”
As if a magnet was pulling the pen from the other side, his lines travel fluidly across the paper (sometimes already marked by his daughters’ illustrations) or cardboard (often already stained with coffee or shoe marks). Yet, contrary to the intricate lines and otherworldly figures found in his drawings, Noviadi would be the first to say that his creative process is quite simple.
“I pick up any scrap paper I see lying around, grab a pen, and draw,” the 44-year-old shared. As for the subject of his drawings, he claims, “It’s one of those things that just comes [to me]. Some days, I feel more connected to the spirit and that naturally guides me. The visions appear in frequencies, and I try to translate that through my drawings.”
In May this year, LEMAIRE held ‘Jujur Sabar’, an exhibition at its flagship at rue Elzévier, Paris, dedicated to Noviadi and their collaboration for the Spring-Summer 2023 collection. Marking the second of four collections they are collaborating on, the artist’s inimitable drawings were showcased alongside those emblazoned on the collection’s cotton pieces, featuring shirts and tops in relaxed silhouettes.
Yet even with the recognition and status that has enveloped his work, there is a refreshing absence of ego in his works, true to someone whose motives are far from self-gain. “When I’m not in the mood, I draw. When I’m happy, I draw. When I’m sad, I draw. I’ll draw until I cannot draw anymore. It’s as simple as that”.