Iwan Effendi “articulate” (TOKYO)

6 July - 10 August 2024

Mizuma Art Gallery is pleased to present the first solo exhibition in Japan of Iwan Effendi (b. 1979), an esteemed artist based in Yogyakarta, Indonesia.


Effendi studied visual arts at the Indonesian University of Education (Universitas Pendidikan Indonesia, UPI) in Bandung and, later, at the Yogyakarta campus of the Indonesian Institute of the Arts (Institut Seni Indonesia Yogyakarta, ISI), where he met Maria Tri Sulistyani who would later become his wife. In 2006, they co-founded the puppet theatre company Papermoon Puppet Theatre. Their puppet shows, which do not rely on words, use papier-mâché puppets described as cute, eerie, and grotesque to captivate audiences by exploring themes of identity and social issues through compelling storytelling.


Primarily serving as a puppet designer, Effendi begins by drawing rough sketches, from which he determines details such as the character’s age, gender, size, and appearance, refining his drawings along the way. He then creates a three-dimensional base for the puppet using paper and clay. For the artist, the process of finding the appropriate expression for the puppet is always the most important and challenging task.


In puppet theatre, even with a still expression, a puppet can convey a wide range of emotions through gestures, sound, and lighting. Effendi continues to explore how to eloquently and dynamically express these complex emotions two-dimensionally.


This exhibition will showcase paintings and drawings inspired by characters from Papermoon’s puppet shows, alongside puppets and masks, presented as an installation. We hope visitors will experience the “expressions” of the puppets that Iwan Effendi has reached and has been fascinated by for many years.





As a co-artistic director and puppet designer at (Papermoon) puppet theatre productions, I’ve come to appreciate how facial expressions serve as the gateway for our audience’s emotional investment in our puppets. These expressions, which I’ve dubbed ‘The Daydreaming Face ‘, are the key to bringing our puppets to life and telling their stories. They are not mere stillness, but a transformative tool that can convey a multitude of meanings to each viewer.


My exploration of the artistic possibilities for Papermoon’s Mwathirika in 2010 was a personal journey. It was a puppet performance that delved into the themes of loss and fear, inspired by the political turmoil in Indonesia in the 60s. It was during this time that I felt the need to define the wide range of emotions in the motionless face of the puppet, leading to the birth of the ‘Daydreaming Face’ concept.


Researching and interviewing people about their stories during the historic event, made me realize what kind of expressions I should put on the characters. I sense that before they express sadness in their story, they already remember sad things in particular contexts, and it is the expression they show at the point of remembering that I found enigmatic, a preload moment, the moment before the expression is loaded on their face, the moment that the daydreaming face itself appears.


That flat, empty, daydreaming face seems like a passive expression but, on the other hand, those expressions can articulate many emotions, acting as a mirror to the audience.


Iwan Effendi, May 2024



Opening reception

July 6, 2024 (Saturday) 18:00-20:00

Puppet performance by Iwan Effendi and Maria Tri Sulistyani

July 6, 2024 (Saturday) 19:00-



Performance by Iwan Effendi & Maria Tri Sulistyani on 6 July, 2024