Indonesian Fine Arts student Join Silica Liong connects the dots

IT’S an uncommon study pathway for international students, but Fine Arts student Join Silica Liong from Indonesia is confident about her future in the industry. Her exhibition is on show at Red Gallery in Fitzroy North. Marcella Purnama brings you the story.

Indonesian student Join Silica Liong is passionate about art, and her future in the industry.

Fine Arts is one of the least common study options that an international student would take, but for Indonesia’s Join Silica Liong, it is the path that enables her to live her dream.

It’s the third and final week an exhibition featuring her artwork is on at the Red Gallery in Fitzroy, and Join is really grateful for the opportunity that’s been given.

“I was given an offer,” Join says.

“The person who’s in charge of the gallery wanted to give a chance for graduate students to show their artwork. He went to university graduate exhibitions around Melbourne and chose six people to do this exhibition.

“I was one of them.”

Graduating from RMIT University with a bachelor degree in Fine Art (Drawing) last December, Join is not yet prepared to let go of the student life. She is now enrolled in the University of Melbourne to undertake a Master of Teaching (Secondary), with a focus on teaching visual art.

“I really enjoyed my uni life. Three years of study is not enough, I still want to learn more,” Join says.

Connecting the Dots, one of two works by Join on display at Red Gallery in North Fitzroy. Photo: Simon Tay

Join says she has had a passion for Fine Arts since she was young. In Asia where art subjects are more of a rarity than the norm, she indulged in the only platform of learning available to her – drawing class.

“Since I was little, I was taught to draw. In Asian countries, it is very rare for them to offer arts subjects other than drawing, take sculpture as an example. And I like to draw, a lot,” Join says.

“I moved to Malaysia in the middle of my primary school, and in highschool I was exposed to several art courses. And they were good. From there I had a very good chance to go on to do a Fine Art degree because I have developed my own portfolio.”

Since coming to Melbourne, she has noticed differences the way art is taught in the east and west. Unlike Asia where a lot of focus is placed on technique, concepts – “the thought behind an artwork” – is celebrated in the west.

“In Asia, what you draw is usually not your own thoughts; it’s not from your heart; it’s not what you want to express,” Join says.

“In Asia, the usual way to learn art is to see an object, and draw it. You may put your feelings on that drawing but somehow the drawing is not the result of the process of your thoughts.

“Here, I learn that art is a process of your thoughts. It’s an idea. It’s your thinking. It’s just a piece of paper, but what’s behind that paper is what I’m concerned about. The piece of paper is just a representation of what I want to tell.

“That’s why I like art.”

Connecting the dots. All things will come together and make sense eventually, says Join. Photo: Simon Tay

Connecting the Dots

In her current exhibition, Join has two bodies of work on show: Connecting the Dots and I Put My Hope in Your Word.

Join says Connecting the Dots represents people’s decisions. She believes that in real life, people need to make decisions, and sometimes these decisions are so random, people sometimes end up doing things that don’t really make sense. But these things that people do, these dots, will connect later in life.

“When we want to make a decision, we can only see what’s in front of us. But we can’t really know what will happen next before we actually make that first decision,” Join says.

“Connecting the dots is, in a sense, the need to follow the faith in making decisions. Even though you are doing completely irrelevant and random things, one day you will reach the point where you never imagine you’re going to be.

“You will realise that at the end of the day, these dots that we’re doing will all make sense. They might not make sense now, but they will make sense later,” she says.

I Put My Hope in Your Word is a commentary about media consumption. Photo: Simon Tay

I Put My Hope in Your Word

The second set of Join’s work is about the media. The media, says Join, outputs vast amounts of information, and individuals can’t take everything for granted and need to filter what they consume.

“The media is where you hear and see information, and what you hear and see, you consume. You don’t trust everything that you see, but you actually pick the ones that you think it’s true,” Join says.

“I put my hope in your word. Those who are in power will control the words that we hear and see. They will be the ones on whom we put our trust, but then can we really trust them?

“I have put my hope in your word, so what are you going to do?”

To realise this concept, Join used a second-hand book and began to weave alternative lines of text through its pages. Most of the sentences become unreadable, but there are some words she does not weave: the words she thinks are important.

“These words that I do not weave are the basic. There is much information in today’s media that needs to go back to basic because at the end of the day, it’s the most important thing.”

Some examples of the unwoven words are money, children, men and women.

Join is really hopeful for the future in art.

“Art has begun to be common to everyone. In the past, everyone dreams to be having a bachelor degree. Now, everyone wants to pursue further studies more and more. And that’s what is going to be happening to art as well.

“The media has exposed artwork more and more, and in the future, more people will come to appreciate art, or they might study art themselves. Although it depends heavily on the economy, I believe they will all link together, and that’s where the dots are coming.”

Connecting the Dots is a free exhibition that is open from 11am to 5pm for three more days, from today Wednesday March 7 to Saturday March 9, and is located at the Red Gallery, 157 St. Georges Rd, Fitzroy North. To get there, take the 112 tram to West Preston and get off at tram stop 21.

For more information, visit the Red Gallery website.

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