Bagong Kussudiardja

Bagong Kussudiardja

January 1st – 10th 2001

Bagong Kussudiadja was born on 9 October 1928 inYogyakarta.He was raised in an artisticfamily and village inYogyakarta. At first he learned about dancing and painting fro his elder brother. Since he was young he also learned to dance classical Javanese dances from GPH Tejokusumo and became a specialist for the role of the ape in Ramayana epic. He also learned to dance form NiKetutRenenginKedaton,Denpasar. He learnedaboutartsfrom Sudiarja,Hendra Gunawan, Kusnadi, and Affandi. He was known as a dancer and since1954 he visited many countries for art missions. Since 1947 he started painting and exhibit his works for the first time in 1950 in Yogyakarta. In 1956 he obtained a scholarship from the Rockefeller Foundations to study dances in Martha Graham Modern Dance School, New York.Hestudiedmany kindsofethnic dancesinIndonesia and world’s dancesin Europe and India.He founded the Center for Dance Training (PLY) in Yogyakarta in 1957/1958. He created new dances and perform them in Indonesia and abroad. In 1971 he founded the Banjar Barong and pioneered the birth of batik painting arts. In 1978 he founded the Padepokan Seni Bagong Kussudiardja (Bagong Kussudiardja House ofArt) as an institute for fine art training, which has been developing up to present. Many of his dances are monumental and controversial. The Semar Dance performed in the 1996 Art Summit Contemporary Dance and Music gained great attention. Bagong Kussudiardja also became acoreographer specializing in colossal dances involving thousands of dancers. He had a chance to study fine arts in Indonesia Art Academy (ASRI) in Yogyakarta and Japanese traditional painting in Kyoto University, Japan. He earned national and international awards. The Indonesian Government gave him The Art Award. The Asian Award was also granted to him. Awards such as a gold medal from John Pope II of Vatican, a gold medal from the Bangladesh Government, an award from the Yogyakarta Province Government for winning the 2nd Painting Biennial were also obtained. Nearby his House ofArts he built his Art Gallery.


Many people associate long life with creativity. The older one gets, it said, the less his creativity is, because his physical strength is decreasing. They forget however, that besides the physical factor there is still the spiritual factor, which determines one’s creativity. In fact there are many artist who became greater in their old age. Picasso for example, in his old age exhibited his etch works with erotic themes which were very sensual anexciting. As the result, in an exhibition in New York, the observers crowned him as “the dirty old man”. Even though Picasso also re married to a woman much younger than him self in his late 70-s, I do not intend to equate Picasso and Bagong. When there are similarities, perhaps they are just coincidental moments, which can happen to every man who respects personal freedom rights highly. This freedom is by most people considered an outrage, but by some artists considered as a very important principle for their creativity development. Many people are talented in art, but only few of them who have somany skills in many different art fields, as if they could pass all the ways without significant troubles. For example Bagong can easily switches from dancing to painting, then to choreography, and next he can start carving a statue only because he sees a piece of wood. Sometimes people wonder how it is possibly done. The truth is, it is possible, and it happens to Bagong. For him, those fields of art are just tools to express his feelings, which in turn brings him relief 111 is probably is what happens to Bagong. He has somany enticing dreams. It seems hard for him to choose which dream is the most interesting,because to him all are interesting, all are enticing, all are exciting.

To him, all dreams should be expressed through as many media as he can find. It is as if he always seeks for new media to release his need to dis close the dreams, which are haunting his mind. Some time ago I went to an exhibition of the works of the Artistic Skills Department students of Indonesia Art Institute in Yogyakarta. I was impressed by their courage to try all expressions and media to present sculpture and installation works using many kinds of material and technique. I am sure Sculpture Department students could not do this, because Artistic Skills Department Students’ ‘knowledge’ about sculpture is unburdened. That is why they can do their work of art freely without limitations to their creativity.

In this sense I can understand Bagong’s agility in his works. No barriers can prevent him from working his arts. He relies on hissensitivity burnishedbyyearsofexperience inarts. Besides, he also relies on the a bilities he possesses namely dexterity, skill, and agility ofhis hands, which can do anything he wants. While other people have to meditate a coupleofdays tostart a work of art, Bagong, on the other hand, must have finished a work, maybe even more. What an incredible talent! It cannot be denied that Bagong’is a hard worker. Not a moment of his time spent uselessly. In this matter he can be an exemplar for younger artists. Work, work, and work. After that, everything else will come automatically: money,jame, happiness, or joyful life. This is his attitude and philosophy of lile.

Yogyakarta, 22 November 2000

G. Sidharta Soegijo
Artist, retired lecturer of the Departement of Art and Design

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