Behind the Artwork: A Conversation with Ida Lawrence

To celebrate the unveiling of the 2024 Festival’s artwork, we talked to the visual artist Ida Lawrence who created the festival's latest artwork, to understand the artistic vision and creative process behind her work, as well as her personal reflections on the festival’s theme and Ubud.

For its 21st edition, the Festival teamed up with the Australian-Indonesian Ida Lawrence to create the official artwork that delves into the Festival theme 'Satyam Vada Dharmam Chara: Speak the Truth, Practice Kindness’. Ida, known for her distinct style and for her narrative paintings that blend storytelling and painting techniques, crafted a dynamic composition of books forming letters that depict the theme in Sanskrit, woven into a vibrant array of colors, textures, and patterns.

We talked to Idea ahead of the artwork reveal about the artwork and her creative artwork. These excerpts have been edited for space and clarity.

How do you feel about being involved in this year’s Ubud Writers & Readers Festival?


How do you personally relate to this year's festival theme, Satyam Vada Dharmam Chara, and find it resonating in your own life and experiences?

While working on this project, I’ve been watching various horrific world events unfold and observing too the various reactions of the rest of the world — including my own responses. Many questions have come up for me during this time and I’ve found some of them relate closely to the festival theme, for example:

How is it that people can be presented with the same information yet interpret it so differently from one another? In times of disagreement, upheaval and violence, how important or useful is listening, compassion, or emotion when responding? What happens when people think they have “more information” than others? What are our moral obligations when we do hear the truth being spoken?

Painting for me is a kind of making sense of the world. I don’t necessarily have answers to these questions, but I’ve been mulling them over these last months in conversations as well as while I’ve painted.

How did you translate the festival theme into the artwork and its details?

I like to make meaning through a combination of the images and text I am including on a canvas, as well as the way they are painted, and the way they might be experienced by the viewer. And I like to play with the fact that forms bring up different associations for different people. For me, the multiple triangular forms might reference a beam of light or projection of energy, or a megaphone, or arrows giving directions, or a zooming in, or zooming out, or the pages of a book being opened, or…

Across the composition, books form letters spelling out the theme in Sanskrit. I wanted the process of seeing them, realising they are books, and deciphering what they spell out to require a slowing down, and sustained period of looking. I enjoy making paintings that don’t instantly reveal their image or meaning — kind of the opposite to how a logo is designed to work.

The whole image feels to me like an unfinished tapestry, something in the process of being woven, or untied. There’s a vibration of colour, textures and imperfect patterns — which for me feels alive and very human somehow.

Can you take us through the artistic process?

Sure! The process included: reading, learning and making notes; conversations with friends around the theme; following and abandoning research tangents; making drawings and mind maps; sketching small paintings; then finally working on the large canvas painting.

For me, inspiration is everywhere, and ideas or images or colours sneak into my work both consciously and subconsciously. As per usual, I’ve painted this work while listening to podcasts and music — and taking breaks to enjoy conversations and cups of tea with my studio neighbours.

And I like to listen to in-depth interviews with writers discussing their ideas, or articulating things which helps me to make sense of the world. Often when fiction writers talk about their process, it feels similar somehow to my painting process: when I make a painting, I don’t know exactly how it will turn out but I try to “listen” to what it “tells” me is the next colour, brushstroke, shape. I build up the layers and bounce the colours around to try to pull the viewer’s eye around the image. Pulling gently!

What are your thoughts on Ubud and Bali?

I’ve been fortunate to visit Ubud somewhat regularly since 1994 as my family used to live there. So Bali is both familiar and unfamiliar to me. Each time I return to Ubud, I notice many changes as well as many constants and familiar faces — dear friends and some iconic characters! I once asked someone there if they ever wished to travel overseas and they replied, “Why travel when the world comes to me!”.

I really look forward to returning this year and I’m curious to see the shape in which Ubud comes alive during the festival, and have conversations with people about their interpretations of the artwork and the theme!


Ida Lawrence is a visual artist known for her narrative paintings that blend storytelling and painting techniques. Her works explore themes of (mis)understanding, (dis)connection, generosity, failure, and surprise, drawing inspiration from her experiences living in Australia, Indonesia, and Germany.

Lawrence's paintings often incorporate text and images to convey complex narratives, inviting viewers to interpret multiple layers of meaning. She embraces the "visual language" of painting, experimenting with techniques and materials to enhance the storytelling aspect of her art. Many of her works reveal their construction process, with visible patterns, mistakes, and varied painting styles adding depth to the storytelling.

Lawrence holds a degree in painting from the National Art School in Sydney and completed Honours at Sydney College of the Arts. She has also studied dance at the Institut Seni Indonesia in Yogyakarta.

Lawrence's work has been exhibited internationally, including a solo exhibition titled Basa-Basi / Chit-Chat at Art SG 2023 in Singapore with ISA Art Gallery. She frequently collaborates with Woven Kolektif, a group of artists connected by their ties to Indonesia. She was also a participant in the BPA//Berlin program for artists mentorship from 2022 to 2023. She is represented by ISA Art Gallery in Jakarta.

Learn more about the creative artist, her work, and current projects at:

Learn more about the creative artist, her work, and current projects:
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