Teacher portal: 03 East and West


We all know Gauguin travelled to the South Seas, but what is less well know is that it was seeing images of the temple at Borobudur that inspired him to leave France. The sway of the human form in the Indonesian temple carvings can be clearly seen in his woodcuts.

Down the road from Borobudur lives the contemporary artist Lucia Hartini. An artist whose work is inspired partly by European surrealism.

Alison Carroll questions conventional art-history view that a European artist inspired by other cultures is a genius, and an Asian artist who is inspired by other cultures is a copyist. Both artists have incorporated other cultures in their work. Both created unique art.

Interviewees in this episode

Lucia Hartini – Indonesia


Born in 1959, and living in Yogyakarta, the cultural centre of Java, Lucia Hartini has been a leading Indonesian painter for a number of decades, involved in numerous exhibitions in that country.  Her work focuses on a personal vision of individuals living in a literal and metaphoric cosmic world, subject to magic forces outside their control.  While she uses some of the symbolism of European Surrealism, her images reflect a deeply held Javanese belief in the immaterial world.

Questions raised in this episode

Scroll down to see questions and resources

Question 1

What happens when different cultures meet? This meeting might be traumatic, peaceful or complex – what, if anything, might we expect to find in the art of this exchange?


Exposition Universelle Paris 1889



Question 2

What is the difference between copying and absorbing a foreign element into the language of the work? How does any of this fit with the idea of “appropriation” or “sampling”?





Question 3

Are there ideas or images that you have discovered from studying other culture’s art that might make their way into the motives and/or language of your own art works? How would you describe that process?