(b. 1975, WEST SUMATRA)

Born in Bukittinggi, West Sumatra, Ibrahim Sutan Parpatiah, or Ibrahim, is an abstract artist distinguished among the art communities of Indonesia. Ibrahim began his basic fine arts training at Sekolah Menangah Kejuruan Seni Rupa (SMSR), a vocational arts college in West Sumatra. He later pursued a formal education at the Institut Seni Indonesia—Yogyakarta (ISI) in 1996, finishing his fine arts degree with a focus in painting in 2006.

Ibrahim returned to West Sumatra in 2006 to pursue a new venture in teaching at the ISI Padang Panjang, yet he remains focused on exploring and enhancing his creative work. While he is occupied in the world of academia, Ibrahim continues to push himself to investigate the possibilities of color and further cultivate his experiments on canvas. Though physically removed from his friends and from the community that berthed his artistic career, Ibrahim works diligently to stay connected to the excitement and vigor of Yogyakarta’s boisterous art scene.

Since receiving his fine arts degree, Ibrahim’s approach to painting has been rooted in characteristics of abstract expressionism—a visual language shared among many of his pupils such as the prolific Minang artists, Yunizar, Handiwirman Saputra, Yusra Martunus, and Zulkarnaini. Ibrahim’s method of painting is founded on an acute awareness of feeling; emotions experienced day-to-day, at home or at work, are integral to his creative decision-making. For Ibrahim, allowing emotions to direct his artistic approach is the most effective way to articulate both his inner and external self. Inspired by the works of abstract-expressionist pioneers Willem de Kooning (b.1904) and Jackson Pollock (b. 1912), Ibraham pursues a creative process grounded in visceral instinct and spontaneity.

The fruit of his particular process in abstraction is a sense of beauty unrestricted and free of ideological, psychological, and political encumbrance. Ibrahim’s arrangement and juxtaposition of every stroke, line, unresolved shape or unfixed contour is an exploration, and a means by which to achieve the painting’s final composition. Ibrahim’s paintings are often untitled, encouraging viewers to attach their own personal and subjective experiences to the pieces. This quality thus creates space for a unique and intimate engagement between the artwork and its spectator. Through his work, Ibrahim attempts to intervene with a burgeoning human experience that has severed the connection between people and objects, altering the collective conscious mind. For Ibrahim, a painted canvas does not indicate a final product—but rather presents the inception of a potential shared human experience.


Acrylic, Pencil and Pastel on Canvas, 70 x 85 cm

Grounded in a strong abstract expressionist practice, Ibrahim’s new series reveals the artist challenging himself to capture his unique, emotionally charged abstractions within a small scale. Without the freedom and space of a grand canvas, merging the spontaneity of loose, gestural strokes with a refined, cohesive composition is an understated difficulty, giving less room for movement and mistakes. Yet, this piece proves that even with less space, Ibrahim can translate his complex interior world with both power and grace. 

Against the calm of a smooth, powder blue background, a vivid and energetic force coalesce fine strokes of black, browns, greens, blues, purples and pinks at the centre of the canvas. The work evocatively expresses the unexpected, inevitable ruptures that occur amidst an otherwise quiet and peaceful environment—and how these ruptures, no matter how jarring or turbulent, can eventually grow into something sublime.

Acrylic and Pencil on Canvas, 80.5 x 80 cm

Amidst a cloudy grey and brown background, sharp strokes of black, brown, and red shooting up from the bottom of the canvas command our attention. The bold and urgent movements captured communicate a sense of chaos, as if a loud, powerful outburst had just caused debris to fly in the air. 

Disorienting us amidst the disarray, a pink presence glows at the centre of the painting. The color is calming and comforting—almost like a mystical fire, a burning bush, reassuring us that all will be okay. Suddenly, the turmoil previously felt disappears, and a sense of harmony overpowers. In the context of our tumultuous times, the work is an evocative reminder to ponder these grounding symbols—the sources of light that emerge, anchor and embrace us throughout dimmer moments in history.

Acrylic and Pencil on Canvas, 85 x 70 cm

With muddy shades of brown and black spilled across the canvas, this work immediately evokes a sense of depth and heaviness. The piece would fittingly fall under Ibrahim’s series of works, which he calls ‘dark narratives’—abstract paintings that reveal his raw interior conflicts, capturing the longing and uncertainty he felt as he moved back to West Sumatra from Yogyakarta, and left behind his comforts and a sense of community. Yet, what gives these pieces their power is that beyond portraying darkness, they strive to accept it and thrive within it. 

Thus, in this piece, pink, yellow, and white colours appear like bursts of light, and rich textures emerge all across the canvas. At the bottom of the canvas, tiny dots form an intriguing pattern, bringing a sense of play and childlike aesthetic amidst the dim background. In expressing this dissonance of gloom and joy, Ibrahim expresses the brave struggle of refusing to be consumed by the darkness.