An Artistic Practice Aligned with Life with Sanchia Hamidjaja

In the margins of her textbooks, little Sanchia Hamidjaja often doodled and filled the space with drawings. As far as Sanchia could remember, her interest in visual arts had been growing since at least the 3rd grade. She really liked science lessons because there are lots of pictures in the textbook. Apart from that, in this lesson Sanchia was also able to express her passion for drawing because she was often required to make pictures of leaves, body organs, and cells under the microscope. Sanchia also grew up in a family that, according to her, had a high appreciation for art. As a child, her parents often took her to see art exhibitions in various galleries.

After high school, she continued studying Visual Communication Design at the Swinburne National Institute of Technology, Melbourne, Australia. For her, these scientific disciplines really influenced her current work and creative process. "Within Visual Communication Design itself we are taught problem solving, responding to issues, and trying to communicate through visuals. Most of my works are like that. The audience's response or the way the audience interprets or relates to my work is the most important thing. Until now, the approach to creating works is still like that. It's all pragmatic," said Sanchia.

After graduating, Sanchia entered the advertising industry. Regarding her profession at that time, she said, "At the time, the advertising industry looked really sexy because wow you could go to work but still be yourself. Not really a corporate executive, the salary was decent at that time, the lifestyle was exciting like a madman. At that time, the world was not as supportive as it is now for creative people. Finally, you can find supportive, like-minded people here and creative geniuses. There I got everything. Working with a team, forming a strong and do-it-all mentality, and learning to market yourself through the right networks."

In 2010, she received an offer to make a solo exhibition. "It’s true that working in advertising, with all its pressures and limitations, triggered an anxiety in me to create work that I like, so naturally, a body of work was formed that is strong enough to be exhibited," she said. "I decided to become a full time artist simply out of convenience and needed more intense time without the distraction of office work and luckily I was able to survive until the pandemic hit so I returned to the ad agency," she chuckled. “People say Jakarta is tough. For me, Jakarta is expensive.”

Sanchia's daily life is the biggest inspiration for her in her work. She is also perceptive enough to respond to issues that occur that are troubling her personally. Sanchia always tries not to look at other people's work as a reference although she admits this is easier said than done. In her work, Sanchia tries to always start from the goal of her work and what she wants to communicate.

Regarding visual references, Sanchia was mostly influenced by what she watched as a teenager, such as The Simpsons and Ren and Stimpy. The children's books she used to read—and now reads to her children—also played a role in Sanchia's visual character. However, she doesn't want to be confined to one particular visual style. "Maybe I don't want to stay in one style because versatility is important for me to sustain in the industry and be part of always developing and continuing to explore," Sanchia opined.


As a practitioner in the creative industry and an artist, Sanchia continues to explore amidst the adaptations she is trying to make. “All of this turned out to be in line with my life now. Becoming a mother has also changed the way I work. The speed at which I work, for example. So, more work on the iPad because you can take it everywhere. With the new tool, it also automatically changes the style. The point is that at this age, I choose comfort while keeping my mind open."

Her experiences as a female artist and mother are also present in many of her works. Sanchia has her own views regarding the position of women in the realm of art. “Women are expected to try harder, put more effort despite our given role in the household and society. We still have to work hard 1000% to achieve whatever it is. It's never the same playing field as men. The most important thing is to have a life partner you can work with," she said.

Sanchia's illustrations are often intriguing and relevant to the public. The creative process usually begins with chatting or listening to people's stories and seeing what is on social media. Sanchia explained further, “From there, it usually triggers me to find out more. Usually from listening to podcasts that discuss the same topic, reading articles, chatting with friends who have the same concerns or who are observers too. For example, in my and Mar Galo's comic project called Problema Nona, the process starts with opening a story submission where women can confide in us on a predetermined topic. Usually the topic is hot at that time, yes. [You can submit] anonymous[ly] or not. Then, we turned it into a comic and podcast discussion.”

Sanchia is quite active in exploring media in her work. Her work ranges from print media, murals, to digital pieces. According to Sanchia, her courage in testing many media started from recklessness and curiosity. "When the opportunity arose to try other media, I just tried it. From that, everything sorts itself out by which one is more comfortable, then it's done. Of course, it comes back to the purpose of the work, what medium is it good in, which one is more effective," she added.

Comics and graphic novels are familiar media for Sanchia. However, she also realized that these media were not popular enough in Indonesia. “My opinion is, well. Whatever the art form, as long as the country is not conducive to it, does not understand or support the arts community, it will just keep being like this. The reality is that aside from that, people have the same time and abilities, and the country's funding is wide open to support creating art. Meanwhile here, it still depends on the private sector, corporations or foundations. So it really all depends on how enthusiastic we want to fight for our work. Especially if the medium is a long form comic which definitely takes a long time to work on," Sanchia closed our conversation.

About the Author

Daud Sihombing

Daud Sihombing has been writing professionally for the past 9 years. This fervent alternative publishing enthusiast prefers his quaint little town over the hustle and bustle of the city and doesn't let sleep stop him from watching every single AS Roma match.