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Janji x Soni: Artist Series


Janji x Soni: Artist Series



Fazlur Muhammad, photographer and translator


David Gleisner

Each season, we collaborate with artists from the region that inspires our collection, and they help to develop the designs that adorn our kits.

Our Java Collection brought us together with Soni Irawan, a multidisciplinary artist working out of Yogyakyarta, Indonesia. Soni began his artistic career in printmaking, and soon moved to street art to better express his vibrant, spontaneous vision.

For Janji, Soni created a composition titled “​​Resilience is the basic act of all living creatures,” which you see repeated as a pattern in our Mt. Merapi print. We talked to him about his inspirations, his process, and how he brought a volcano to life.


Artist Soni Irawan holds up a pair of shorts featuring the colorful Mt. Merapi print



I think wearing a work of art means much more than seeing it only as a painting, as if it becomes a part of the wearers.

- Soni

Q: What is the philosophy behind your artwork?

A: The thread that connects everything is exploration of spontaneity and honesty. Everything that I made comes out of my spontaneity and honesty.

Q: You have a lot of elements in your artworks, for example the masks. Where did you get the idea?

A:  I get inspiration from my everyday life: the naivety of urban society, a funny reality, a mixture of the music I play and listen to, mixed with street art. Figures like Zorro appear often in my artwork. I think our country needs more Zorro. Zorro is a superhero whose enemies are not aliens but rather fellow humans, such as a corrupt statesman, corrupt authority. That’s why Indonesia needs more Zorros. For the masks, I think it is what people need everyday. We often do not want to show our real selves. I get a lot of inspiration from street art for the color, but the strokes were inspired by the music that I play.

Q: How do you feel about your artwork being shared as a product outside of Indonesia?

A:  I am tremendously happy, because ever since the beginning, I have always liked to apply my art to fashion products such as t-shirts and band merch. I imagine once my art is being applied, mass produced, it adds an extra life to my artworks, and it will spread even further. I think wearing a work of art means much more than seeing it only as a painting, as if it becomes a part of the wearers. Imagine how proud I am.

Q: Can you explain more about your inspiration for the Janji product?

A: I took inspiration from the name ‘Janji’ (promise) itself, as for our nation it has its own meaning. An artwork comes from a promise. A promise for nature, for our water, for us to preserve it. In my artwork, you can also find the symbolism of a volcano, as that is where I live. Living at the base of a mountain means that we have to be able to adapt and be strong. And then you can find Zorro holding a sprout, meaning we have to promise to give a new life to our nature.

Q: How does Mount Merapi relate to your art?

A: Because I live side-by-side with the Merapi volcano on the northern side, I have to be ready every time it erupts. When it is calm, I have to prepare. When it is angry and erupts, I have to be ready as well.

Man wearing Mt. Merapi print Helio Tech Tank with lush background.


Diagram of Mt. Merapi print labeled with numbers corresponding to different symbols

1. The volcanic plume forms a hat.

Mt. Merapi produces more nuée ardentes, or hot ash plumes, than any other volcano on earth. This smoky hat is a playful way to humanize the mountain and place it as an important member of the surrounding community.

2. A skull sprouts seedlings.

This contrast of death and life symbolizes the renewal and regrowth generated by Mt. Merapi’s eruptions.

3. A figure grabs onto a domed arch.

Walls often promise a false sense of security. Learning from and living with nature can teach us to be healthy, nourished, and safe, outside of the artifice of human life.

4. Hanacaraka for promise.

"Promise" appears in traditional Javanese script, an homage to the word "Janji," which means "promise" in Indonesian.

5. A masked figure.

Soni uses his art for socio-political and enviro-justice commentary. This figure, his alter-ego, adds to the mythical narrative that weaves through much of his artwork.

6. A spring of water.

Life-giving water flows like an oasis out of volcanic lava rock, an homage to the aquifers that provide water to the communities surrounding Mt. Merapi.


In addition to being a visual artist, Soni is the founder of Seek Six Sick, an experimental rock band based in Yogyakarta. Listen to their album, Nothing Perfect Noise, in the playlist below.