AGUGN & SEKAR PUTI

In a sunny yet breezy daytime, we were flattered by Sekar Puti and Agugn’s studio ambiance. Sekar has her ceramic studio on the first floor with a rice field scenery behind it. Lots of things are happening there, and we like to see the harmony between people with nature. There are cute yet charismatic work members: some of them are doing the design, while the others do the packing, and the rest clean up the studio. Meanwhile, Agugn’s studio is on the 2nd floor, full of papers and silence. We can feel the ambiance of people focusing on details. And from Agugn’s studio we can see downstairs their pet, Tanah and Carbon playing around in the grass. Their place feels alive in the middle of Tegalalang

How long have you both been living in Bali? And the story behind your moving?

Agugn: We’ve been living in Bali for 4 and a half years.

Sekar Puti: It’s actually an old dream of mine to have a ceramic studio in Bali. But there were several things that couldn’t make it happen back then, and we felt it’s too far for us mentally and physically in 2013. But if we talk about how we could finally make it here, I feel like there was a synchronicity from the universe. Back in 2017, when I was having a big pregnancy with a second child. Agugn got a project client who was also interested in having a ceramic studio in Bali.

Agugn: Yes. Back then I got a Mural project partner who also had a big interest in ceramics. She wants to dive deeper to know more about the industry. And then I told her that she should meet my wife because it will be a good match (laughing).

Sekar Puti: We talked several times and then finally we met on the same vision. And so there goes “Arta Derau Ceramic Studio” in Bali, a continuation by “Derau Ceramic Studio” from Bandung. We want to have a creative space for people to be able to explore freely through ceramic.

Agugn: In between moving preparation from Bandung to Bali, because Sekar was having a big pregnancy, we need a lot of agreement letters from doctors for flights and moving things around. It was one of our most memorable moments.

But why did you choose Tegalalang as the first place to live in Bali?

Sekar Puti: It’s a nice environment. It’s near to Ubud, not really crowded and still has a lot of good nature.

Agugn: Also the fresh air. It’s important for the kids.

Sekar Puti: Yes, the air. And we still remember the feeling of the first time we visited this place. It was almost sunset. We went to the backyard, right when the sun made a reflection between the pool and the rice field with the road behind it. It was heartwarming and mesmerizing. We were enamoured with the scenery.

 

Do both of you feel different between Bandung and Bali for living as individuals?

Agugn: It’s so different. I’m not going to say which one is more negative or positive. But it’s more like this: Bali is more comfortable as a place, and its lifestyle is more aligned with what I believe in life. It’s a part of my art too, because I took a lot of references and inspirations from the enviroment, using old temples visual language, also Indonesian traditional puppets before Islam entered Indonesia. While in Java the majority of people already leave behind their culture, here people are still doing it regularly, day by day. Cultures are still strongly preserved here. It supports my art journey in some ways. Bali makes me feel closer and richer in visual language.

Sekar Puti: I feel that I like it better here regarding the energy, atmosphere, and support system. Personally for me, the art ecosystem here is more unfolded and inclusive. By means, there’s no hierarchy in a medium that you want to explore as an Artist. The people who come here always have big curiosity, always ask a lot of questions with pure intention just by being themselves. Bali are more open and accepting.

As a couple who have works that are quite similar in the Art Industry, how do both of you separate between making art and personal life?

Sekar Puti: Ah, it’s a hard question (laughing).

Agugn: Because everything is sometimes mixed into one piece. It’s a goal in our relationship to make both of them work for us. I think the key is to know our priorities.

Sekar Puti: Yes, knowing the priorities. For example, this week we’re going to focus on works related to art, and the next week will be more into quality time with family. Or maybe, sometimes we separate the priorities, like, “Oh, this week Agugn’s workflow is going to be busier than mine. Then this week, I will adapt and give more time to my family.” Communication is important for us, but it needs conformity with the implementation of the actions.

Can both of you share about the first time you met? And how did the romantic relationship go?

Agugn: Actually Satria (our close friend) has a big impact on that story. At that time, all of us from the Art Major were preparing for a big festival in our College. I remember Sekar needed stuff for the Art Market of the festival. Then Satria told Sekar to meet me. So we met because of that, then we started to talk and hang out. We found a lot of commonality and comfort from each other.

Sekar Puti: Yes. We share the same values and importantly the same taste of music (laughing) It’s hard for me if my partner has a different taste of music genre.

This question is particularly for Sekar Puti. How do you feel as a woman, also as a Mother and a female Artist?

Sekar Puti: I feel a lot (laughing). But gratefully, I have 9 people helping me and Arta Derau in the ceramic studio. 3 of them do the ceramic, but for the ceramic design and my personal artworks, it’s still me myself who does the process alone. I have an assistant who helps at the beginning for the base of the ceramic, but then I will continue it midways after the base is finished, until the firing process. But if we talk about motherhood, as an Artist, also as Agugn’s Manager, and having Arta Derau ceramic studio, there’s a lot to swallow. And I need to find my comfortable way on how to swallow them. I think back again it’s about priorities, that the main key is to make everything keep moving in good balance. Sometimes I feel like a conductor in an Orchestra.

Agugn with the linocut printing technique, while Sekar Puti with the ceramic. How’s the exploration of the artistic process for both of you as an Artist? Do you want to explore more? Maybe another medium?

Agugn: Beside the linocut printing technique, I already do some mural and interactive installations. But for me personally, there’s a lot more to explore about linocut technique itself, like how I make the narration from them. I fell deeply in love with this technique, maybe because of my Dad. He worked as a metal print maker, and usually he brought home a lot of different molds from his workplace. He is a very technical person. So I feel I have closure to them since I was young. There’s a lot of potential to explore in Graphic Design and printing itself.

Sekar Puti: For me, since I studied Ceramic Major, doing the maths and understanding different materials for the ceramic firing is a challenge in life that’s fun for me. I do sometimes collaborate on ceramic materials with engines and kinetic devices. For example, I mixed old clockwork in the 2000s, and then Arduino and heat censor mixed with ceramic in 2020. I have a moment when my artwork was visually a book, but from ceramic material, and then wrote it down with short words of affirmation to simply just surprise ourselves with our thoughts. Words can actually be part of my medium too as an Artist.

May we know why both of you are socially aware? We want to know both of your point of view as feminists and veganism partner.

Agugn: I become a feminist because of Sekar. She’s aware with feminist movement since we met in college. I learned a lot from her point of view, and I feel it’s clearer to have that part in myself too.

Sekar Puti: Because I believe in equality. For me, being feminist means to be inclusive, and be more aware with our surroundings. Not only about gender but also about races, social classes, also minority groups.

Agugn: One amongst some ways that introduced me to veganism was from watching “What The Health” documentary on Netflix. Then I tried to change into it in one night. After that I didn’t feel I missed something behind, but I gained much integrity with what I believe as an individual. I feel the connection between me and my art becomes more transparent because of being vegan.

Sekar Puti: I joined being a vegan after he started it several months earlier. At first I just gave myself a try and it surprised me. It gives a good impact on my well-being, no headache, no back pain. From there I got interested in knowing more and researching about what does it mean to be a ‘Vegan’. Over time it also impacted how I do my art and my life fundamentals. Because we realise it’s important to be true to ourselves, it will be reflected in the works that we make. If we lie to ourselves unconsciously it can also be reflected in the artwork.

Agugn: When we are truthful with ourselves, it will make us think beyond ourselves as individuals, but as more than one species. That’s why that collective feeling is necessary for us. It’s a part of a good movement, also a part of a good sustainable ecosystem.

Sekar Puti: We are in the process of building a new place in an area near Tegalalang. It’s going to be our new home, studio, and collective space. We actually have had the same vision since our 20s: to have a space where people can explore creatively, safely, and fearlessly. In any form of art or artistic process. We want to have a program where the Artist can do a residency and Art Exhibition in our space soon.

What do family and home mean for both of you?

Sekar Puti: For me personally it’s not a physical space thing. It’s a concept. Home means where Agugn, my kids and ceramic kiln are living together in one place with me.

Agugn: Same as mine, for me Puti (Sekar Puti), and kids are home for me. My art is also home for me. The process of making them is also home for me. Home is never about space. It means more than that.

Sekar Puti: There’s a root. Whenever and wherever my family are, then it’s home for me.

What do family and home mean for both of you?

Sekar Puti: For me personally it’s not a physical space thing. It’s a concept. Home means where Agugn, my kids and ceramic kiln are living together in one place with me.

Agugn: Same as mine, for me Puti (Sekar Puti), and kids are home for me. My art is also home for me. The process of making them is also home for me. Home is never about space. It means more than that.

Sekar Puti: There’s a root. Whenever and wherever my family are, then it’s home for me.

What kind of activities do you both like and usually do as a family?

Agugn: We like to accompany our kids playing with water, any kind of water. Any place with water when they feel into it. Swimming, running in the rice field, playing in the rain.

Sekar Puti: We also like to give our kids the kind of play that gets close to nature, like randomly feeding the cows in the green fields or just walking the dog around the neighbourhood. It’s a simple activity, but actually to do so.

Do both of you have an expectation for the kids to be an Artist too?

Agugn: They can be whatever they want to be as long as it doesn’t harm others. Their happiness with what they do is what’s important. We want our kids to know that they can live from what they like whatever it is.

Sekar Puti: The value is more direct to enjoying, knowing what makes you happy. Because we will feel exhausted and tired because of a job, so at least find a job that you can enjoy and you like. We want our kids to feel that and have that option in their life.

Any recommendations for food or places in Bali?

Sekar Puti: Since we’re vegan. Sai Prema Vegetarian Warung has a good rice menu. Also Bella By Sage, in Penestanan, and Namaskara in Tirta Tawa. For places, lately, we like to go to Candi Dasa for sunrise.

Agugn & Sekar Puti

written by Tiarama

photos by Anjar Tanjung