When our friend, who also happens to be a very talented artist, told us that she was preparing for her second solo exhibition here in Jakarta, we just knew we had to feature her story in A Journey Bespoke.
Born in Montevideo, Artist/Architect Antonella Pedetti grew up in Buenos Aires, Argentina. In 2002 accompanied by her husband Jorge, Antonella left her home country, to embark on what would amount to over 20 years living abroad (and still counting). During this time Antonella has become a mum twice and has continued to grow as an artist, stating that the expat journey has had a profound impact on her artistic expression.
In the lead up to her fourth solo exhibition titled, ‘Rootless – a dream of water and distance’, we caught up with Antonella over lunch at her home in South Jakarta. Here we share Antonella’s story with insights into her life, inspirations, challenges and her stunning upcoming solo exhibition.
Kenalkan Antonella Pedetti.
Hello Antonella! Can you share a little bit about yourself..
I was born in Montevideo but grew up in Buenos Aires, Argentina – a city that I consider my home.
At age 17 I finished school along with a ballet career at the National School of Ballet Dance and began studying scenography (set design) at the National School of Beaux Arts. Soon after I decided to continue with my painting career instead.
After a discussion with a set designer from the main opera house of Buenos Aires, I came to the realisation that architects were some of the best set designers due to their knowledge of structure. I decided to study architecture parallel to my painting studies at Buenos Aires University of Architecture and Urbanism. In 1997 I established my own art studio (atelier) as well as my own architecture bureau in Buenos Aires.
Growing up in a family of film-makers, including my step-father Nicolás Sarquis and my brother Giorgio Peretti, I designed and created art for the film industry (Facundo, La sombra del Tigre; Vacas Gordas; Comisario Ferro), as well as scenery for theatres such as the legendary Babilonia and Vitral theaters in Buenos Aires.
Until 2002, I dedicated myself to painting and architecture after which I left Argentina with my husband. To date I have participated in several individual and collective exhibitions around the world including Argentina, Ecuador, Germany and Jakarta, amongst others. (website: www.antonellapedetti.com)
Are you from an artistic family?
Yes, throughout my childhood I lived in an artistic environment. My parents got divorced when I was 6 years old and my mother re-married a film director. At that time, she worked as a press agent at a renowned T.V Channel in Buenos Aires, and to this day still produces local cinema projects. Because of their professions, I grew up surrounded by writers, actors, costume designers, directors, dancers, photographers, scenographers and visual artists. From very young, I was fascinated by the world generated through the creation of a movie and worked on my family’s projects during my school holidays.
Can you tell us about early and later artistic influences..
I was fortunate to grow up surrounded by many local influencers; people who were able to show me what was happening around the world regardless of being in a remote country as was the case of Argentina in those days.
I developed an eclectic artistic style due to the influence of various sources of inspiration. From the music of Jorge Drexler, to the architecture of Foster, Alvaro Siza, Le Corbusier, Alvar Aalto amongst others, I was shaped by their creativity. I also experienced inspiration and influence through dance – in particular Baryshnikov, as well as through the writing of Jorge Luis Borges. Of course my step father’s cinematographic influence significantly contributed to the shaping of me as a young artist.
Later on, Maternity, Motherhood and this traveling expat lifestyle gave me a stronger need, push and force to develop my art.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a ballerina at Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow.
When I was eleven my mother signed me up at The National Ballet School. At the beginning it was not easy as it was a very competitive environment but after a while I started to like it.
Nowadays this discipline has given me the strength and determination to concentrate on obtaining my goal.
Can you share a bit about your expat journey thus far..
In 2002 I left Buenos Aires for Germany with my husband and my dog Frida.
We lived in Wiesbaden, a city on the Rhine River, for seven years. Here my two children were born. Afterwards we moved to Quito, Ecuador for almost 3 years where I learned more about the Latin America culture. As Buenos Aires is an immigrant society, it always looks towards Europe or the rest of the world.
We then moved back to Germany for a further 3 years before coming to Jakarta in 2014. This is our first time living in the Asian region.
Describe a ‘typical’ day in your life as you prepare for the Rootless exhibition
A typical day starts early, with breakfast with my family at 5:30am. I’m then off to the gym.
Afterwards, I chug a latte at my favourite coffee shop (1/15 Coffee Kemang) and then head straight to my studio (atelier) to concentrate on work.
I have a notebook at the atelier where I record the time I arrive and leave. This gives me motivation and helps me focus and avoid the temptation of distractions.
Music is very important in my daily work and keeps me off the messages on my phone. It is essential to my performance, helping me focus. Some songs even guide me on the artistic development process.
I usually work on paintings, objects or sculptures during daylight and leave the planning of work for the evening.
I generally stop for a quick lunch before working nonstop until my kids arrived home when we have some family-tea time. If they do not need help with homework I go back to the atelier until 7pm when dinner is ready.
For the Rootless exhibition I have been working on weekends for some months to achieve my goal, but usually I dedicate this time to my family.
Can you tell us more about your forthcoming solo exhibition, ‘Rootless – a dream of water and distance’
‘Rootless – a dream of water and distance’, is about the process of losing your roots which occurs when you leave your home country. It explores the need to build new roots inside of you, influenced by the new cultures and experiences that you discover in this expat lifestyle.
Somebody who has left their country, culture, traditions, family, and all which represents the essence of a person, becomes rootless. Breaking your cultural roots implies losing the north on aspects that most humans consider fixed. I went through a process of losing these ties, to then find new grounds on which to build my new cultural connections to my art.
As it is a personal process, you will find that I am represented in my exhibition, mainly as a woman or as a family. The works become part of my pains, (part of) my nostalgia, my losses and victories, and therefore they become part of my person and I become part of my artwork.
In some of my paintings you can get to know the essence of different places where my roots were influenced. You may recognise the silhouette of Argentina; you can perceive the mountains of Ecuador or the batik of Indonesia. You can comprehend that as the artist roots are mobile, they are a moving concept that starts in Argentina and ends in Indonesia.
Jorge Luis Borges, an Argentinean writer, once asked himself who he was on the other side of his dreams:
¿Quién serás esta noche en el oscuro sueño, del otro lado de su muro?
El sueño – J.L.Borges
When dreaming, your real self comes out, and therefore although you may be rootless, in your dreams you always create strong roots. My dreams became my real roots, and probably they were so, even before I became rootless.
Can you describe some of the logistics in preparing for Rootless?
Preparing a solo exhibition consists of distinct stages which can be summarised as follows:
First you have to establish a global idea for the exhibition, along with a theme definition and written message of what you want to convey. For Rootless, this phase took me about 3 months.
Next, detailed research of the exhibition space and proper measurements and plans needs to occur. As an architect I am obsessed with this part. In this case Galeri Salihara is probably one of the best places you can dream of exhibiting, as it is a large, open space that allows you to create and develop several options.
The production of the art works comes next. In this case I wanted to create with a mix and variety of materials and media. This was a real challenge as I desired to work with acrylic, as well as painting with resin. I aspired to make collages, sculptures, installations and to also include photography in my exhibition. Securing all the suppliers for these materials always takes time, however, I really appreciate Jakarta’s market as I found almost everything I needed right here. I always buy my acrylic paints when I am in Argentina as they are the ones I grew artistically with. Also Germany is excellent for pearly acrylics as well as minifigures.
Buying resin was a real adventure in the lead up to Rootless, but luckily I met a young “Resin-Guru”, Irvanda Aprila Widyatama, (a jewellery and miniatures resin designer) who showed me some of the resin worlds that runs along Jl. Gajah Mada and Jl. Hayam Wuruk (PT Justus Kimiaraya).
Photography works were the first approach to Rootless. I wanted some underwater pictures to help me deliver my global idea so I bought a waterproof professional case. I photographed the underwater life surrounding the Komodo Islands during my family holidays, helping me to structure the idea behind Rootless.
After all the creative process of painting and media works, it is onto the curating and marketing of my exhibition. Preparing the catalogue and flyer, and a visit from the gallery curator Pak Asikin Hasan, (curator from Galeri Salihara and Galeri Nasional) were all key events in the lead up. I also built a scale model of the exhibition space to provide me with a visual representation of how my works will be displayed.
And now it’s time for the last minute works- preparing and sending invitations, marketing and promotion, transportation of the pieces, hanging and placing the artwork, catering for opening night… the list is long!!
Throughout these final few weeks everything must come together to ensure visitors to my exhibition have a wonderful experience. The message my audience receives when experiencing my exhibition must be completely in line with my original idea and theme. When this happens, I feel that my mission has been accomplished.
Did you receive any support for this exhibition?
Yes, the Argentinian Embassy, in particular Ambassador for Argentina His Excellency Ricardo Bocalandro, his wife María Elena Urriste and consul Martín Costanzo have been a great support throughout this process.
Has expat life affected you as an artist? If so, in what ways?
All experiences in life define you.
Before leaving Argentina I was working as an architect. Arriving in Germany without knowledge of the language, culture and rules was not easy. It was also a time in life to start our family so my artistic background played a big role in my life.
Expat life affects us in all ways, particularly the nostalgia you feel towards your family and the emotion of sometimes not feeling integrated. As an expat there is so much to tell, as you are continuously moving and shifting both physically and emotionally.
‘Resilience’ has become my motto.
This life has helped me to know who I really am and what I need to tell with my artwork.
Future goals and aspirations?
The future is always uncertain. I like what I do, so I can only dream to continue on this journey, finding new ways to express myself and continue living experiences that will define me better as an artist.
I also look forward to getting involved in Bandung’s artistic movement which has always attracted me but to date, I have not had the opportunity to visit.
Please complete these sentences –
I am most inspired by…
Talented people regardless of their background. It could be a painter, architect, a sculptor, a writer, a singer. Any person that has a message to deliver, that wants to leave his mark in this world.
I am most challenged by…
My environment and time; knowing that there is more to say than the time that I have to say it, or my capacity to transmit it properly.
Favourite Jakarta museums & galleries
Salihara for sure first, but there are many others depending on what you are interested in.
Museum Nasional is a great museum to understand Indonesian culture and history.
Art:1 New Museum, I like that it is a building that was designed as a museum. It also houses permanent and non-permanent exhibitions.
I loved visiting the Yayoi Kusama exhibition at Museum MACAN.
Favourite places to travel in Indonesia
The north-west of Lombok is my place to relax and the ideal location to get new ideas for my future works, or big life decisions. It’s perfect for family time.
Komodo Islands due to the inspiring unique beauty and amazing ocean life to photograph.
Ubud in Bali is also a place that inspires me. The first time I visited I got inspiration for my Sawah Series (2015 – 2017).
Best place for coffee in Jakarta
1/15 Coffee in Kemang. I visit briefly each day after my sports training.
3 words to describe ‘Your’ Jakarta
Best way for our AJB followers to keep up with your work?
I have a web page: Antonella Pedetti
And on Instagram: antonellapedetti_art and antonellapedetti_photography
Anything else you would like to share with our readers?
Come to visit the exhibition ‘Rootless – a dream of water and distance’. You will not regret it. 🙂
‘Rootless – a dream of water and distance’
Venue: Galeri Salihara, Jl. Salihara 16, Pasar Minggu, South Jakarta
Official opening: Saturday 6th October 2018, 7:00 pm
Exhibition: Sunday 7th October – Tuesday 16th 2018 from 11:00am to 8pm (closed Monday)
Artist talk: Thursday11th October 2018, 4pm
Entrance is free.
We hope you have your diary open and have made a date to visit Antonella’s solo exhibition. On until Tuesday 16th October, 2018, it’s an experience not to be missed. We’re particularly looking forward to Antonella’s Artist Talk on Thursday 11th October. After experiencing the exhibition, I know we will have more questions for Antonella.
In the meantime, below are some posts which relate to today’s story. Happy reading & a very happy weekend to you as well 🙂
Vanessa Van Houten: Photographer Jakarta, Indonesia
An afternoon with Jakarta-based artist Ruth Marbun
Q & A with Aaron Seeto, Director of Museum MACAN
5 Galleries you should know and visit in Jakarta
Posts about other inspiring expats –
Making the most of Expat life – Daleen Fourie
Moving to Jakarta – A one month diary of a newly arrived expat
Words: as told to Jo Stevens Photography: All photographs supplied by Antonella Pedetti