Diyan Achjadi’s vibrant, intricately detailed works investigate the relationship between beings and the land they inhabit in an illustrative style that draws heavily on textile traditions such as toile and Javanese batik. The artist’s Indonesian heritage figures prominently in her work, and in the past she has drawn on diverse cultural practices to raise questions about complex issues related to the environment and colonialism. For Façade Festival 2017, she will explore the ocean-bound nature of her home archipelago through an animation of shifting islands and clouds. 


Back and Forth, Diyan Achjadi, 2016

Burrard Arts Foundation: Can you tell us a bit about your artistic practice and background?

Diyan Achjadi: I was born in Jakarta, Indonesia, of West-Javanese and English-Canadian parents, and have been living North America since my late teens. Much of my work looks to Indonesia’s long and complex history as a starting point to explore and respond to contemporary socio-political contexts. I borrow from historical prints and surface ornamentation, tracing narratives of cross-cultural imaginings, influences and contaminations, retranslating and reinterpreting them through drawing, printmaking and animation. I am interested in the ways that pattern, decoration, and ornamentation can function as visual records and story-telling devices.

BAF: Describe your project for Façade Fest 2017.

DA: In the past year, I’ve been working with clusters of shapes that indicate cloud or island formations. These shapes are derived from a variety of textiles, prints, and ceramics, combined with landscape features and constructed creatures, and are embellished further with pattern and adornments. Indonesia is an archipelago of over 17,000 islands. The relationship between bodies of land and bodies of water is central to my understanding of place. I often feel trapped when not near a large body of water. The shifting of shorelines due to climate change, land reclamation, and sand mining (among other things) is of recurring concern. The impact that activity in one location may have on another location – for instance, how an ash-cloud from volcanic activity in one island might change the colour of the sky thousands of miles away – is another area of investigation. In this project, I am taking elements from my prints, photographs, and drawings and constructing a series of inter-related animations. There are three primary components: a shifting series of moving patterns; a view of the sky with animated clouds passing through; an ocean-scape with an island.

Java Toile, Diyan Achjadi, 2016

BAF: Have you ever worked in video art or projection mapping before? To what extent was working with this technology a new experience for you?

DA: I’ve never worked with projection mapping before, but I have been working with animation since 2000. I am not formally trained in animation. With a few exceptions, most of my animated works function as moving drawings or small gestures, meant to be viewed in a gallery context rather than to be watched in linear time in a cinematic format. Often, after making a series of drawings or prints, I will take elements of a body of work and redraw and reconfigure them as a moving-image piece as a way to approach the subject in a new manner.

The planning process of Diyan Achjadi’s Façade Festival project, taken at an artist session with Go2 Productions.

BAF: Is your Façade idea an entirely new project or are you further developing existing themes?

DA: Concurrently with developing this animation, I am also working on a large-scale drawing with similar themes. I tend to work on an idea or a method of approach over several years.

BAF: Your work will be projected over the entire façade of the Vancouver Art Gallery. Have you ever worked in such a large scale before? What has been exciting, and challenging, about the process?

DA: It’s exciting to work not only in the immense scale, but also with the consideration of the surface of the building and its architectural components. The scale forces one to pay particular note of the level of detail in the imagery and line quality, as well as the tempo of the movements. It’s challenging to work on the piece on a desktop monitor, and try to imagine what the same image might be like 100x its scale. As well as to picture how the changes in surface depth of the building will impact the way the imagery can be seen. It has been a great process to work with Go2 productions and learn a bit about how to conceptualize and manage a project of this visual scale.

See Diyan Achjadi’s projection mapped artwork in Façade Festival 2017 – it will be shown from 7:30PM to Midnight on Tuesday, September 5th, as well as in the encore presentations on September 9th and 10th.