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Simon Thelning

Simon Thelning


Simon Thelning

Artist biography

Simon Thelning grew up in Queanbeyan, New South Wales with a strong passion for drawing and storytelling. Finding that animation married these two interests perfectly, in 2010 he transferred to the Digital Media workshop after spending two years studying Drawing and Print Media.

Simon enjoys creating works of illustration, animation and live-action video. He aims to pursue his passion for drawing and storytelling for as long as he can.

Artist statement

Though at first seeming inappropriate and pointless, a lone musician's saron helps ease the tension within an internment camp besieged by a tropical rain. Set in Dutch-ruled Indonesia during the 1920s, Saron is inspired by the gamelan display in the Australian Journeys gallery. The focus of the work is the importance of social culture and creativity, even in the most adverse or oppressive of conditions.

Artist work

Title: Saron
Medium: Video
Date: October 2010

Artist inspiration

The main historical basis behind Saron is the story of the 'Gendèr barung pélong' on display in the Australian Journeys gallery. A Javanese court musician named Pontjopangrawit was imprisoned by the ruling Dutch during 1926, in what is now Indonesia. While being held in captivity he used scrap materials to construct enough of these instruments to comprise a Gamelan orchestra. This created a sense of culture, society and a pastime among his fellow captives.

The dàn tre has a similar story, being a musical instrument invented and constructed by Minh Tam Nguyen in 1975 after being imprisoned by the Vietcong. The Little Red Riding Hood wall-hanging was also crafted by victims of conflict, presented to Valerie Paling as thanks for her work in a German displaced persons' camp in the aftermath of World War Two.

A wooden instrument featuring fourteen metal cylinders, painted yellow and encased in a rectangular wooden frame. There are fourteen rectangular metal slats on the top, of varying sizes and strung together with string, which is suspended from metal hooks. The wooden case is painted yellow and green.
'Gendèr barung pélong' from the Gamelan orchestra. Photo: Lannon Harley.

Promoting Indonesian independence

In 1926 a Javanese court musician named Pontjopangrawit was imprisoned by the colonial government of the Dutch East Indies, now Indonesia. He was held at the remote Tanah Merah camp, on the Digul River, in Irian Jaya, now West Papua.

Pontjopangrawit appropriated wood, nails and tins from camp supplies and used them to make a suite of instruments for a gamelan orchestra. It is known as the gamelan Digul, or the orchestra made on the river Digul. The gendèr barung pélog is one of the instruments from this orchestra.

When the Japanese invaded the East Indies in 1942, the Dutch government sent its Tanah Merah prisoners to a camp at Cowra, New South Wales.

Pontjopangrawit's gamelan Digul travelled with the prisoners to Australia. Two years later, the prisoners were released. Many moved to Melbourne and worked towards Indonesian independence. The gamelan's music became an integral part of their campaign.