Iwan Effendi: From Drawing, Painting, Installation, to Puppet Theatre

By: Maria Tri Sulistyani *)

NOKNsays: Iwan Effendi is a young artist from Jogja who is collaborated with NOKNbag in NOKNjam Project. See Iwan Effendi’s artwork

Known as an artist as well as the Artistic Director of Papermoon Puppet Theatre, Iwan Effendi started his milestone in fine art since 2005, when he “finished” his study in Institut Seni Indonesia (Indonesian Institute of Arts). From the very beginning, Iwan Effendi always believes in the power of public support towards his work accomplishment.

Holding his very first solo exhibition in a tiny coffee shop in northern Jogja entitled “Towards the Sunset”, he once stated that “Everyone can be a collector”. A number of youngsters bought and collected his artworks exhibited at that moment. That debut brought him to a wider horizon and to a wider circle of creative people. At the early stage of his career, he spread his wings as an illustrator, designer, and even project officer of several art and cultural events in Jogja.

“Some people put me in Lowbrow artist category, and don’t feel it that way.”

However, Iwan admits that once he used Juxtapos magazine as one of his references, as internet has inevitably becoming the window for him doing arts. For several years, he learned some techniques presented in the magazine, and tried to understand what these American artists try to communicate.

Therefore the label of “lowbrow artist” was once attached to him. Some writers even named the street graffiti he occasionally composed as “lowbrow”, which seems fit him.


Until one day, came a favorable opportunity to become a residential artist for 6 months in New York. An out to open up his mind. There, he was able to learn more, see more, and feel more about what lies behind each work of his favorite artists. He concludes that being an artist means having an ability to invite other people to reread an issue while at the same time creating distance to the issue. This conclusion brought him to a turning point. Apparently, this isn’t merely a visual matter, melting paints, nor pictures of skull.

From Pencil, Painting, Installation, to Puppet Theatre

Iwan Effendi is also known as an artist who experiment quite intensively. Many of his artworks are presented on paper and canvas. Then he jumps to interactive mechanical installation. Some others are even performed on stage in the form of puppet theatre show. When being asked about his choice of media, Iwan admitted that he had different reason for every single medium he chose. For him, sketching lines on textured paper means pouring all feelings in his heart to himself. “For me, drawing on paper is like composing a visual diary, it feels like communicating with outselves.”  Meanwhile, oil painting is his playground.  Working on colors and creating various shapes on wood or canvas take him to a fun and playful experience, though sometimes it takes lots of energy.

On the other hand, his exploration on 3D installation has brought him to an interaction process with others. When many fine artworks are not allowed to be touched, Iwan follows another way. He often invite people to touch, hold, move, and respond his artworks. Once again, he really takes other people’s existence into account to liven up his works.

Puppet theatre is a medium he’s working on for the last six years. It’s not a short periode of time for an artist who used to work alone in his studio to share his ideas with other people. As the Artistic Director of Papermoon Puppet Theatre, he is the one responsible for any visual things audience will watch and enjoy on the stage. For Iwan, working with Papermoon is his way to interact with others.

“It feels like seeing my drawings and paintings taken into live on the stage, and somehow it feels different when people dedicat an hour in their life to appreciate my work.”



*) Maria Tri Sulistyani aka Ria Papermoon is the founder artist and the Artistic Director Assistant of Papermoon Puppet Theatre, also wife of Iwan Effendi 🙂

**) Photos by Dito Yuwono, Hera Ariyani and Iwan Effendi’s collections.