Interview

Ronald Kurniawan


It usually starts with a word, a lyric, it could even come from a conversation, but my ideas come from word associations. Then I try making imagery with those associations... loose sketches then its off to paint and this whole process from start to finish could take a couple of hours to a couple of weeks, depending upon the complexity of my sketch.

Issue 17 (3/2006) • december 31, 2006 • wersja polska »»


Ronald Kurniawan

Ronald Kurniawan
graduated with honors from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California.

Inspired by ideograms, syllables, letterforms, beasts and heroic landscapes, he slowly but surely continues to create a visual language where the wilderness and civilization could merge happily together.

With the belief that the sublime and nuclear age could coexist, he paints romantic environments and breaks the quiet scene with juxtaposed imagery taking the shape of icons and letterforms.

He currently lives and works in Los Angeles where he paints meticulously and happily accompanied by his pug Ruffles, an avid artist himself.

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Ronald Kurniawan online:


Sea of Lies


Interview: Ronald Kurniawan


By Adam Szrotek & Sylwia Banasiak

How did you get involved with art? Do you have any formal training?

I got involved in art by trying to become a doctor. I went to school ultimately to become a surgeon, but realized within a couple of years, I couldn't stand the sight of blood. Tried as I might, the feeling of dread would not leave, I then had to deal with reality and started all over again in the journey of trying what I wanted to become in life. I took almost every class in a nearby college in Los Angeles, from anthropology to zoology and everything in between.

presentations : Ronald Kurniawan presentations : Ronald Kurniawan presentations : Ronald Kurniawan

I was the guy you would see around campus and wonder to yourself what the hell was he up to? I didn't know myself, feeling frustrated and really angry, I took an art class to relax. This was the beginning of the end for me, because I got addicted to art. I then proceeded to take every art class offered from making plates in ceramics class with all the old ladies, to painting the figure with all the young kids leering at the nude model for the first time in their lives.

I took everything until there was nothing else for me to take... unless I attended art school. I set my eyes on Art Center College of Design, in Pasadena California and that is where I graduated from with an Illustration degree.

presentations : Ronald Kurniawan presentations : Ronald Kurniawan presentations : Ronald Kurniawan

Many of your paintings are a juxtaposition of symbols and pristine outdoors. Where does this idea originate from?

I have been experimenting with infusing emotional content into landscapes, meaning that if I wanted to convey a sense of sorrow, I would paint a desolated landscape or a sense of sublime, I would paint some creek in a forest... these are just some simple examples. Anyway, I took many photos for reference then started to see all of these fonts and man-made objects juxtaposed against the natural environment. I started to really see my own environment, how there was a large square sign posted in a park, a man-made crescent shaped bridge over a river, even the simple rectangular bus passing through a tree lined street made me realize the world we live in.

Even in a cityscape, there would be large billboards lending the type and its graphic shape be infused into the scene. Graphic imagery, symbols and type were everywhere and it seemed natural that I painted the world how I see it.

I came accross description of your art as these peaceful landscapes but I do not see it that way. There is something frightening there, like those images have been invaded and lost its serenity. Is this your methaphor for today's world?

Probably just one aspect of today's world because nature itself could be daunting and ominous itself. Most of the landscapes are invented or a concoction of different places I have seen.

Do you fears appear in your art? What do you fear the most in life?

My fears do appear in my artwork and what I fear most is the inability to create.

Looking at your paintings I get a constant feeling of a paradise lost. Am I wrong? Do you also feel like humanity just took a wrong direction?

Very perceptive, most of my imagery are bittersweet in content.

Humanity will take its own course, albeit right or wrong. I do also believe that nature does shape the course of humanity as well.

Do you find harmony between nature and humans?

Sometimes but its more in the realm of coexistence versus harmonious.

How important are symbols in your life?

Symbols or signs are actually pretty important in my life. I believe things happen for a reason and there are signs leading to them. Some mumbo-jumbo way of thinking, but it did lead me to art, where one door shuts and another open.

What is your lucky number if you have one. Do you play lottery?

My lucky number is 3 {three} and I actually do not play the lotto. I like the scratchy lotto things where the rewards are instantaneous but I never win.

I know it is rather hard to point out the inspiration source, but please try to describe yours.

Albrecht Durer, Yoshida Hiroshi, 18 th - 19 th century engravings, Ernst Haeckel, Albert Bierstadt, Thomas Moran, Johann Gutenberg, Rembrant and Renoir.

Please describe your usual work process. From the idea to the final work.

It usually starts with a word, a lyric, it could even come from a conversation, but my ideas come from word associations. Then I try making imagery with those associations... loose sketches then its off to paint and this whole process from start to finish could take a couple of hours to a couple of weeks, depending upon the complexity of my sketch.

How much freedom do you have in your commision work?

I actually have a lot of creative freedom. People that approach me tend to already know what I do, whether it be for an illustration or fine art, they let me run with my ideas first because its more free form.

If there was a one way to save the world, what would it be?

Put it in a bag and store it.

© Ronald Kurniawan