Artistic Insights: A Conversation with Kathrin Honesta

Kathrin Honesta is an Indonesian illustrator. Her illustrations have graced the covers of books published by prestigious international publishers such as Penguin Random House, Harper Collins, Usborne Books, Google, and Disney. She also runs a publishing house called Shadow Stories together with Malaysian writer Kay Jen. Currently, she is building a business called Trinkets by Kath, producing writing tools and knickknacks.

Kathrin recently collaborated with the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival (UWRF) team for her first solo exhibition titled Ribbons at Indus Restaurant, Ubud, Bali. The exhibition will run from 2 December 2023 to 5 January 2024. Click here to learn more about the exhibition.

To celebrate her first solo exhibition, the Festival team talked to Kathrin to understand the inspiration and messages behind her artworks, as well as her views on the Ubud arts scene. These excerpts have been edited for space and clarity.

Why did you decide to focus on the theme of faith in your exhibition? 

How did the inspiration come about?This is my first painting exhibition; I’ve never exhibited my artworks, let alone in a solo exhibition before. Therefore, for this first solo exhibition, I’d like to choose a theme that feels personal and close to my heart. In the beginning, even the theme of faith didn’t occur to me. I have this habit of journaling to record my ideas, thoughts, and the things that bother me. So, to find some inspiration, I started going through my old journals again. In total, I went through seven journals documenting my life in the past seven years. I started to notice that faith was a recurring theme in all those journals. Whether I was happy, anxious, or at my darkest moments, the idea of faith was a central theme in my life. Therefore, I started creating these artworks based on what I found in my journals. Not only the theme of the artworks itself but also the elements I incorporated into my paintings – like plants – were also present in all my old journals. I even turned one sketch from one of the journals into a painting.

What message would you like to convey through these artworks?

There are some religious people who believe that if you have faith in God, then simply believing and praying are good enough solutions to whatever problems you’re facing in your life. Also, they often have this opinion that if you have mental health problems or if you feel sad, that must mean that your faith is not strong enough. I choose to disagree with that opinion here. Realistically speaking, our faith does not exist in a steady state. Faith will go up and down, along with our life circumstances which go up and down. There’s no human being who can always stay strong from the beginning to the end of their life. So, through this exhibition, I’d like to ask people to reflect on where they’re at in their life right now, regarding their relationship with their faith.

So, the artworks in this exhibition represent three different stages in our lives. Some artworks represent a time in our life when we feel peaceful and that everything is alright. There are also paintings that depict a time in our life when we feel overwhelmed by our own personal problems or loneliness, to the point that we lose our faith. Then, there are also paintings that symbolize our darkest moments when we already pray and pray, and our situations still do not improve the way we want them to.

Faith is a deeply personal thing; every individual will have a different interpretation of what could be defined as an act of faith. However, in the end, I hope that everyone who comes to this exhibition could resonate with the messages conveyed by the artworks because, as human beings, all of us have been through lots of ups and downs in our lives.

How do you view the arts scene in Ubud? What’s your impression of Ubud as a center of artistic activities?

In the beginning, when I was asked to exhibit my works in Ubud, I hesitated for a moment because Ubud was so synonymous with traditional arts, which is inseparable from Balinese culture. Even before my exhibition here, the exhibitions in Indus Restaurant tended to feature traditional arts. For a little while, I thought: will the style of my artwork be suitable to be exhibited in Ubud?

However, after I talked to Gustra Adnyana [the Festival Indonesian Program Manager], and a number of people involved in the Ubud arts scene, they said that in recent development, the Ubud arts scene has expanded itself beyond just traditional arts, with a diverse range of other artworks also exhibited here. There are also more and more illustrators [from outside of Bali] residing in Ubud. Even at Gustra’s gallery [Purga Artspace], there is now an ongoing exhibition featuring the works of artist Lala Bohang. This, to me, is very interesting because before, I’d never seen that style of artwork being exhibited in Ubud.

This interview was conducted and translated by Sebastian Partogi.

Exhibition Information

  • From from 2 December 2023 to 5 January 2024
  • Location: Indus Restaurant, Jalan Raya Sanggingan
  • Entry: Free of charge
Learn more about Kathrin Honesta's exhibition.
Exhibition Info
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