top of page


February 19 - April 3, 2022

Atreyu Moniaga

Tirtodipuran Building A

One of the keys to happiness is to accept sadness as part of the realities in life. That being said, this is not an encouragement nor an excuse for us to dwell in our own pessimism and stop every attempt in our pursuit of happiness. Instead, this is a call to cultivate a new mindset in understanding sadness, anger, and disappointments, not as negative emotions that need to be resisted or avoided, but as a moment or opportunity to reflect and understand ourselves.

Nevertheless, for the longest time, sadness and art have been associated as two sides of the same coin, in which depressive episodes have served as inspirations for artists – from poets, musicians, to visual artists – in producing their works. Therefore, it is unsurprising that we may have, inadvertently, perpetuated the myth of the tortured artists, which romanticizes frustrated feelings, chronic fatigue, anxiety, and mental stress as the prerequisites for the creative process. We admire figures like actor Robin Williams, poet Sylvia Plath, and painter Vincent van Gogh as the creative geniuses who produced extraordinary works because of their mental conditions. In recent years, as conversations around mental health become more widespread, we realize just how this mindset is wrong and dangerous. Williams, Plath, and van Gogh were the exceptions – their remarkable achievements in spite of their conditions were not common, and we all know the tragic way their stories ended. Prolonged sadness, depression, and sufferings are not to be normalized and glorified as the price of creative and artistic genius. Research has shown that being at peace and in good health are important factors that help us optimize our creativity and improve our artistic abilities. Then, what about artists who still use sadness as the source of inspiration for their process?

Atreyu Moniaga is aware that sadness is the fuel that drives his artistic process. Since he was young, drawing and painting have become his way to process complex emotions that he cannot express in words. As a daily journal, visual art is his safe space, a sanctuary where he can pour his most-personal thoughts without the fear of being judged by others. Through the symbols that he creates, Atreyu develops a visual language and his own secret world. With such a degree of privacy in his symbols and language, he is conscious of the tendency that some people may simplify his practice as an insular process that is limited to his own personal space. However, this simplification overlooks Atreyu’s external exploration process that is as extensive as his internal interrogation. These seemingly cryptic, obscure, and undecipherable language carries references from popular culture and art history, so upon closer examination, there is actually a way to interpret his semiotics.

Atreyu’s works, both the new pieces produced for this exhibition and his previous oeuvre, already have several identifiable signature symbols: Sjajh, the sun with multiple eyes, crescent moon, giant whale, arowanas, snakes and dragons, roses and foliage, fairies and nymphets, little boys, and many others. These elements come together in colorful compositions that stir our emotions. Some of his works, especially in his early career, are monochromatic, dominated by subdued pastels that sway us in serene sentimentality. While this softer tone has become one of his trademarks, recent works have shown some bolder moves with contrasting, vivid colors that emanate the burning passion and intensity. Either way, there is one thing that is present in both compositions: Atreyu’s paradoxical universe of imaginations. His paintings are scenes from fantasy land that are both intriguing and terrifying, where on one hand we are mesmerized by the spectacular visuals, and yet on the other hand there is this eerie mystery that cannot be construed.

Exhibition View


bottom of page