Table of Contents

Yunardi Bardo (Yuyun)

Yuyun out Riding on a Sunny DayToday’s Javanese struggle harder than ever. “This Century’s Ruler” reflects how poor people die from exploding propane tanks, produced cheaply to increase profits for the wealthy. Government leaders turn the other way.

This Century's Ruler

1. This Century’s Ruler 47 in x 39 in; ceramic cement and acrylic on canvas; 2011 in process. Penguasa Abad Ini.

But poor people in turn actively seek the convenience and glamour, the prison, offered them. Cooking at home risks death; eating at fast food courts is safe.

I was horribly alienated in 2008. My father, who had left my mother and me, came back in 2007 when I was seventeen. He hurt my mom, which hurt me badly. I was extremely sad. I could do nothing; he was my father. I struggled to care for myself and feed my mother. People laughed at me. I felt isolated. I was powerless. I was silent. I had no voice. I had no life. I had no one to watch out for me.

18. Alienation 39 in x 35 in; oil paint on canvas; Mar 2008. Terkucilkan.

“Alienation” and “Suicide”


17. Suicide 8.25 in x 11.5 in; ink and acrylic on paper; 2008. Bunuh Diri.

were all I felt, the pain of dying while still alive. It was the pain of a person better off death, worse than being beaten. “When the Soul Hangs on the Edge of the Tongue,” the soul can’t leave the body and all that’s left is the pain.

When the Soul Hangs on the Edge of the Tongue

16. When Soul Hangs on the Edge of the Tongue (Brink of Death) 11.75 x 16.5 in; pencil & ink on paper; Feb 2009. Ketika Nyawa Diujung Lidah.

I ran away to a motorcycle factory on the outskirts of Jakarta. The new group didn’t know or judge where I was from, but I felt like a robot. I lost empathy for others. I worked, monotone, 7am to 9pm exhausted, 10pm to 6am exhausted. I made a living,

Imprisoned in Time and Space

15. Imprisoned in Time & Space 39 in x 33 in; acrylic on canvas; Feb 2009. Tersita Diruang & Waktu.

but felt “Imprisoned in Time and Space” that were too small to allow for a whole life, so I returned to Jogjakarta, to my world.

When I got home, I looked at the worn faces of the simple people around me “Enjoying the Evening.”

Enjoying the Evening

14. Enjoying the Evening 11.75 x 16.5 in; pencil on paper; Apr '09. Menikmati Waktu Senja.

I wondered if I would be able to enjoy the evening like that when I was old? In 2009, Society for Health, Education, Environment and Peace—SHEEP/ Indonesia took me in. They gave me a cleaning staff position, a small room, covered space to paint, access to computers at night, kindness, encouragement and respect. They become a second family. For the first time, I felt like a person. They commissioned comics to teach people how to face natural disasters reflected in “Earthquake.”


13. Earthquake 8.25 in x 11.5 in; pencil on paper; April 2009. Gempa.

I watched them help people all over Indonesia whose lives were destroyed overnight by tsunamis, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

I realized that everything I did affected others, particularly my mother. I could make her happy, make her laugh and make her proud. I realized she loved me deeply and realized the power of “Mother’s Love.”

Mother's Love

12. Mother’s Love 31.5 in x 39 in; shredded paper, wood glue and acrylic on canvas; May 2009. Kasih Ibu.

Even though my father neglected me, my mother took care of me, taught me, guided me, hoped for me and loved me. That too was in my life. I supplemented my small income by illustrating relief and health comics and later by painting shoes and t-shirts (“No Smoking” and “Angry Wolf”).

No Smoking

11. No Smoking; acrylic on canvas shoe; May 2009.

Angry Wolf

10. Angry Wolf; latex on cotton t-shirt; May 2009.

I began to wonder, what happens when we look without our eyes that are so limited. Eyes mislead. What happens when we look with the ‘eyes of the heart,’ because the heart feels and absorbs so much more. I painted “Looking with the Heart” series

Looking with the Heart, Part I

9. Looking with the Heart, Part I 14 in x 10 in; acrylic on wood; June 2009. Melihat dengan Hati, Part I.

Looking with the Heart, Part II

8. Looking with the Heart, Part II 20 in x 16 in; pencil on paper; July 2009. Melihat dengan Hati, Part II



7. Victimization 8.25 in x 11.5 in; ink on paper; Feb '10. Pengorbanan.

“Victimization,” empathizing with the plight of exploited women.

In 2010, I entered a comic book competition to expand my experiences and supplement income. I learned from other artists and from research done for “Hide and Seek in Kota Gede,” a traditional area of Jogjakarta.

Hide and Seek in Kota Gede

5. Hide and Seek in Kota Gede page 1, 8.25 in x 11.5 in; (comic detail) ink on paper; Oct '10. Jatung Delikan Ing Kota Gede.

I learned about our history—the stories, industries, events, mystical and romantic experiences, as well as histories of food and cooking. The richness was beyond what I’d ever known and I could connect other young people to our own history, traditions and resources through comics.

Thinking critically about contemporary situations became important to me. “Chasing Fast Food” was my first attempt at surrealism.

Chasing Fast Food

4. Chasing Fast Food 65 in x 61 in; acrylic on canvas; Feb '10. Mengejar Fast Food.

I felt compassionate for the Javanese striving with their whole lives for things that are instant; more proud of buying something than knowing how it was produced. They forget their problems, histories, culture, traditions and land. They lose sight of local knowledge about food that is available right here and how to cook it. The “rulers” are based on the Javanese shadow puppet legend of the Punokawan band from the Sosok Wayang Jenaka, a traditional comic troupe that advises communities mixed with contemporary characters from Sponge-Bob cartoons, as that’s where people turn to today for instant advise.

I realized my paintings focused on pain, but that I had a new life and did not want to choose pain. Regardless of what others thought of me, I wanted to claim my own hopes and dreams for myself. I finished “Reaching Hope” on my birthday last year.

Reaching Hope

3. Reaching Hope 65 in x 67 in; acrylic on canvas; June 2010. Menembus Harapan.

At that time Friends Peace Teams taught me the developmental stages of children’s picture books and I began drawing pictures for children’s picture books.

Immediately after that, we faced suffering from two massive natural disasters, the eruption of Mount Merapi in my own back yard and the tsunami that hit Bentawai, West Java. They scared everyone around me. People faced terrifying circumstances. There was no way around it; there was no way to predict it, disaster just struck. I realized every person had the capacity to oppress, be arrogant, take and be cruel, but also the capacity to be kind, helpful, cooperative and compassionate. In the end, all we can do is “Pray for Indonesia,” for our survival, because at any moment it may all be whisked away.

Pray for Indonesia

2. Pray for Indonesia 35 in x 20 in; acrylic on canvas; Jan '11. Berdoa untuk Indonesia.

In the future, I’m interested in using discarded materials to make art, but mostly I hope to be able to feed my mom and myself while still drawing and painting, because that is my way to face this world full on.






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