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Bali art world personalities: meet Ruth Onduko

Ruth Onduko_Profile Photo                                                   Ruth Onduko

 

The 2008 GFC (global final crisis) spelt disaster for the Bali art world. The Indonesian art market after a record boom went to bust with collector’s buying immediately slowing, galleries around the island closed, while others wound down their activities. The woes continued with a decrease in tourism and smaller holiday budgets – luxury items such as artworks were off the shopping list.

Now, a decade on, the organic response by local artists, art communities and creatives is defining a new era of art infrastructure that is positively impacting upon the Bali art scene. Artist driven initiatives, alternatives spaces, foundations, creative hubs and cafes, along with new art and creative events – the art landscape is increasingly dynamic, exciting and inspiring. Behind these developments is a diverse group of people from different backgrounds shaping new horizons for Bali – one of these dedicated characters is Ruth Onduko.

Ruth Onduko along with members of Futuwonder and the public conducting a Wikilatih workshop (Wikipedia article writing) and uploading eighteen new articles on female artists from Bali. Puan Empu Seni: Edit-a-thon was a part of a national drive, held in conjunction with Wikimedia Indonesia, to increase the amount of data on Indonesian female artists available on the Internet’s most go-to source of information – Wikipedia.

Ruth Onduko hosting the opening of Futuwonder's most recent exhibition "Tanda Seru" March 2019 at Uma SeminyakRuth Onduko hosting the opening of Futuwonder’s most recent exhibition “Tanda Seru” open 31 March 2019 at Uma Seminyak

 

The most experienced and connected art manager on Bali, Ruth represents the new frontier of female art workers, including artists, writers and managers who are the essential ‘small army’ within the rising infrastructure. Born in Semarang, Central Java in 1983, a graduate in Communications Studies from the Gadjah Mada University, Yogjakarta in 2008 Ruth moved to Bali where she began her career as the Public Relations Officer and art event organizer at the Museum Kartun Indonesia, Bali in Kuta. Her next position as gallery manager at the Tony Raka Art Gallery in Ubud introduced her to the Indonesian contemporary art world, were she oversaw operations until 2012.

Ruth went on to project manage art collectives, art and photography communities and event managed “Merayakan Murni / Celebrating Murni”, the landmark collaborative initiative in 2016 by Ketemu Project Space, highlighting the legacy of late, iconic Balinese female artist I GAK Murniashi.

Puan Empu Seni, wikilatih 1.0 in collaboration with Wikimedia indonesia and Futuwonder, we held a workshop on how to make an entry to wikipedia, focusing on data entry of balinese female artists (1)Ruth Onduko along with members of Futuwonder and the public conducting a Wikilatih workshop (Wikipedia article writing) and uploading eighteen new articles on female artists from Bali. Puan Empu Seni: Edit-a-thon was a part of a national drive, held in conjunction with Wikimedia Indonesia, to increase the amount of data on Indonesian female artists available on the Internet’s most go-to source of information – Wikipedia.

 

Instrumental in the development of four important, recent projects that are helping to fill critical gaps within the infrastructure, and that will aid in the future sustainability of the Bali art ecosystem, Ruth has played vital roles in the creation of the annual world-class contemporary art exhibition Art Bali, the design themed event Seminyak Design Week, Futuwonder a collective supporting the women artists of Bali, and her pet social media project – a centralized portal of information promoting events throughout the island – “Senidibali” on Instagram.

“In 2016 I was about to participate in a group photo exhibition in Denpasar and was thinking of the best way to promote this event. At the same time a friend was asking me to help to promote her first exhibition,” Ruth explained. “Other artists, spaces, and communities also needed a platform as so many of them were already sending me their event information and asking me to share it out. Instagram is the easiest, and most accessible tool to engage with a wider audience, so I started @Senidibali, along with its supporting website. I understood the potential to help the community, and especially the art community by sharing what’s happening in the Bali art world.”

Puan Empu Seni, wikilatih 1.0 in collaboration with Wikimedia indonesia and Futuwonder, we held a workshop on how to make an entry to wikipedia, focusing on data entry of balinese female artists (2)Ruth Onduko addressing participants during Puan Empu Seni: Edit-a-thon at Rumah Sanur

 

“Seminyak is the trendsetters capital of Bali, one of the go to locations for foreign and local tourists, especially the millennials,” Ruth stated when revealing the origins of Seminyak Design Week. “Design consciousness is ever present within the architecture, the logo and brand design, and venue interiors – much of this awareness is created by communities of talented local designers. The Indonesian design industry has huge potential to contribute to the burgeoning creative economy. With this in mind, we wanted to showcase the creators who make designs for better communities.”

“I was employed by Uma Seminyak, a performance and event venue in Seminyak, as community manager in February 2018. Working together with the Uma’s team after 3 months of preparation we held the first Seminyak Design Week in May 2018,” she said. The event showcased 39 guest speakers, sixty crafters, designers, and architects participating with other creative spaces throughout Seminyak and Denpasar in design related events. Seminyak Design Week 2019 is slated for August.

55910093_365679750704060_8443468403250823168_oRuth Onduko addressing the audience and artists during the opening of “Tanda Seru”

 

“Bali has many artists, but lacks professionals in the field of art management and event organization. It also requires a specific venue for large-scale events,” Ruth said. “The rapid development of IT and the web is the foundation for enormous growth and opportunity, as more and more collaboration amongst the art workers with expertise continues.”

“It has always been one of my dreams to help create a large scale contemporary art event in Bali. In early 2017 I was asked to join the Art Bali team,” Ruth said. “It has been a great opportunity for me to work and learn directly from Indonesia’s leading art management group HPAM.” (Heri Pemad Art Management of Yogyakarta, responsible for the countries most unique contemporary art event ArtJog).

OPENING PAMERAN EFEK SAMPING DI KARJA ART SPACE, 20 OKT 2018_FUTUWONDER (2)The audience during the opening of the first Futuwonder exhibition “Masa Subur: Efek Samping” at Karja Art Space, Ubud, October 2018

 

A passionate photographer, Ruth Onduko’s excellent array of images can be viewed at:

www.flickr.com/photos/theonduko/

https://theonduko.weebly.com/

Instagram @senidibali

 

Words: Richard Horstman

Images: Ruth Onduko

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Swedish Artist Richard Winkler at Home in Bali

Work in progress                             Richard Winkler at work in his Sanur studio

Swedish artist Richard Winkler’s creative development charts a course that isn’t unlike others who have settled in Bali. He has, however succeeded in doing what few foreign artists in Indonesia can do.  Art lovers and collectors quickly recognized Winkler’s talent and he created a niche within the large, yet difficult to penetrate, Indonesian contemporary art market.

Within his paintings Winkler creates a fantastic Balinese utopian landscape. His compositions feature figures, bulbous and distorted, that contain the extraordinary story of his own body and personal experience of having to cope with a rare bone disorder. From an early age painful boney growths continued to reappear on Winkler’s limbs and he had to undergo regular surgery to have them removed.

Farmers of the Blue Hills, 150x200cm, 2010. oil on canvas Richar Winkler.                                        Farmers of the Blue Hills, 2010

“These experiences taught me to love and honor the physical vehicle in which I was born. They have inspired me,” Winkler said.  “This has helped develop a resilient character, and given me an enormously positive outlook on life.”

Winkler’s figures reflect the creative nature of the human DNA that manifests in countless body forms and sizes, from obese to beautiful, and from the vigorous to the diseased.   “I resonate with the abstract nature of my figures. Subconsciously a part of me springs forth and then in the studio it comes to life through my works. It is my own unique creative process,” he adds.

Mother Earth, 2011, Bronze, 217Hx152Wx212D                                         Mother Earth, 2011

At a glance Winkler’s oil paintings are an amalgamation of subtle curves, delightful arcs suggesting nature’s perfect symbol – the circle. The exaggerated human forms that occupy his compositions feature bulging backsides, toros and limbs. His works are studies of balance and precision, enhanced by his perfect brush work technique.

Winkler’s coloration is never over powering, his rich environmental scenarios send tranquil messages. The soft greens and blues within his tropical locales contain delicate, soothing melodies. Occasionally he adopts contrasting colors, positioned to create aesthetic impact.

20160825_161839                                                  A Beautiful Afternoon, 2016

Rarely does Winkler utilize the potency of the straight line within his settings. When he does it will be the horizon line, that helps denote the composition’s depth of field, while delivering a jolt of tension within his “sea of curves”.

About 12 years ago Winkler was driven to transform his ideas into large three dimensional forms. His process began with experimentation and learning how and what he needed to be. First he constructed and ‘played’ with models, simplistic and crude, and then the momentum of his creativity grew. It was not long before Winkler was forging wonderful sculptures in bronze.

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These are monumental, minimalist reclining figures, some more than 3 meters in height. Winkler takes the voluptuous characters from his paintings and expands on their size. To achieve the perfect symmetries in his sculptures requires time and skill, so during the process he must continuously run his hands over the extremities of the models to identify and correct imperfections.

The models are then dismantled in his Sanur studio and transferred to Central Java,  reassembled and caste in liquid bronze, and then the finishing is done. His characters are finally positioned according to the client’s wishes, and appear rooted and secure as if they have grown up and out of the earth.

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Richard Winkler was born in 1969 in Norrkoping, Sweden and studied graphic design and illustration at the Beckman’s School of Design in Stockholm. For some years he worked as an illustrator for advertising and magazines.  In 1997 he moved from Europe to Ubud to become a full-time painter. His work is a metaphor for the omnipotent fertility of the universe, while celebrating the beauty of the Balinese landscape.

Words & Images: Richard Horstman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Balinese artist Nyoman Wirdana’s spectacular kaleidoscope of colour and joy

‘The Dance of Shiva’ 2012 – Nyoman Wirdana, Acrylic & Oil on canvas, 178 x 150cm.

Sophisticated, meticulous, vibrant and gorgeous – Balinese artist I Nyoman Wirdana’s paintings are a celebration of colour and joy. Within the sphere of Balinese painting, he has forged a distinct path with an artistic ‘voice’ that is immediately recognisable as his own. His pictures recount the mythical and mystical, drawing inspiration from the cosmos and nature they are a fusion of styles while being uniquely Balinese.

I vividly recall the day I stumbled upon Wirdana’s paintings in Ubud, about ten years ago. All the colours of the rainbow magically came to life before my eyes in The Dance of Shiva, a pulsating depiction of the Hindu god Shiva within a cosmic wheel of geometry and encircled in a delightful array of decorative motifs. I was awestruck and wondered, after years of living in Ubud, why it had taken me so long to discover the talent of this alchemist with a command over a powerful visual formula that casts spells upon those who open their senses and intimately engage with his works.

Purple forms interacted with orange hues, greens contrasted with reds, blue and yellows in opposition and conflicting relationships.  Energised with a dynamic visual tension, the composition was shining with an underlying grace. Understanding colour theory and the association upon the subconscious mind was the primary instrument of Wirdana’s methodology. Symbolism and geometry – the strength of the graphic line within precise mathematical proportions, was another tool used to seduce my awareness.

‘Borobudur Awakens-Amidst Fireflies’ 2014 – 2016 – Nyoman Wirdana. Oil on Canvas, 153 x 174cm.

While Shiva’s trance-like gaze was seductive, his four arms are arranged in an array of divine gestures with sacred symbols held within his grasp. Poised as if gently standing upon a reclining baby Krishna, sentinel guardians are positioned to his left and right. Delicate symmetrical designs enshrined the majestic Shiva, ‘The Destroyer’ within the Hindu holy trinity including Brahma and Vishnu. Wirdana opened my mind’s eye in dream of the celestial in a splendour that was far beyond my imaginings.

Other elements of Wirdana’s picture were noteworthy. A plethora of other deities on the circumference surrounds Shiva enhancing the circular flowing motion of the composition that leads the eye from the outer to the inner visual field. White and gold dots and circles – stars and planets – cover the outer plane of the picture, sparkling diamonds within an ocean of colour grandeur. The image is framed by a white border of repetitive motifs, lotus flowers and the Aum chakra symbol, all in sculpted in 3-dimensional painted forms objectifying and projecting and the focal composition outward.

‘Some Where…..Over The Rainbow’ 2016-2017 – Nyoman Wirdana, Oil on Canvas, 145x146cm.

Animals from the Balinese scriptures playing lead roles within the compositions characterise Wirdana’s other works. Deer, elephants and swans even from out of left field, the mythical unicorn. In Borobudur Awakens Amidst Fireflies (2014-2016) Wirdana selects a Buddhist narrative while including architectural design motifs from the ancient structure. Works are sometimes created in pairs – that according to the artist must remain side-by-side, Tree of Enlightenment, Deer Park I & II (2013 – 2014) and Somewhere Over the Rainbow I & II (2018).  His earlier works dominated by overlapping colours, and cubist inspired forms such as in Ganesha Samsara 2011 that suggest the surreal otherworldly atmosphere that is alive in Bali, where the veil between unseen and seen is thin. Wirdana adheres to prerequisites that define a Balinese painter, all space within the canvas is fully occupied, densely packed detail with repetition of patterns and forms. The aesthetics are dominated by line, narrative, figuration and flatness without the depth of field.

The intricate surfaces of Wirdana’s paintings demand our close inspection and texture plays an essential role. His ‘landscape’ of finely tuned valleys and peaks are constructed by layering oil paint in defined dots, strokes and rhythms across the canvas. He adopts the pointillism painting method to achieve this goal. These textual points function correctly under-designed lighting. The peaks cast tiny shadows into the valleys, the colour highlights, often accentuated by sparkling or bright colours become a distinct visual feature. In contrast, the darkness of the valley emphasises the overall aesthetic impact.

‘ Ganesha Samsara’ 2011 Nyoman Wirdana. Oil on canvas, 128 X 160cm.

Linear patterns within the texture create visual rhythms encouraging the eye to traverse the composition in swirling and pulsating motions. Wirdana’s paint layering is a pain-staking process one painting taking the artist about 18 months to complete. “My technique has constantly been evolving, and is the outcome of my years of observation while mixing and developing my style,” Wirdana stated. “My basic knowledge comes from the understanding of Impressionism, yet I describe my technique as being all about flow.”

“The impact of Cubism is apparent in my earlier paintings, along with Chinese Feng Sui and Art Deco influences that have evolved within Balinese painting. My technique is time-consuming, I work slowly, and this is my conscious methodology. The layering is a step-by-step process that requires the certain distinct depths of colour,” said the artist who has exhibited in group and solo shows in Bali, Java and France.

“I have a systematic, calculated approach and plan out each work with a grid system before I begin. Much of the composition, about 60% I can foretell the outcome. The other 40% is more a spontaneous response during the work’s progression, allowing me to enhance the aesthetic dynamics. My objective is to strive for the very best to achieve the highest outcomes in accordance with my capabilities.”

‘Tree on Enlightenment, Deer Park Mandala, I’ Panel 1 2013-2014 – Nyoman Wirdana. Oil on Canvas, 150 x 94cm

The quietly spoken painter resides in a small studio in Ubud, nearby to the family compound of the famous painter Ida Bagus Made Poleng (1915 – 1999). Wirdana relocated to Ubud in 1998 so he could immerse himself in the renowned international creative epicentre and to learn to paint from the many local traditional, modern and contemporary artists. In 1996, however, Wirdana ventured to Bogor and studied with Retno Tri Joko in West Java for two years. While in Ubud he learned from with the artist Sugito. Both of these teachers were students of the famous Indonesian realist painter, Dullah (1919-1996) who was close to Sukarno, the first President of the Republic of Indonesia and was appointed to care over the President’s art possessions and as the curator of the state painting collection. He also studied life drawing with Pranoto in Ubud for many years.

In the Balinese painting tradition, the sacred Classical narrative pictures displayed within the temples, shrines and the abodes of the aristocracy are strictly codified. Artists function as a mediator between the worlds of the visual and the unseen, deciphering the esoteric into practical a language for the everyday world. Wirdana’s mission is the same.

An enigma, he was born in Tejekula in 1976 on the north coast of Bali. Yet, despite the fact that Wirdana’s The Dance of Shiva is in the permanent collection of the Neka Art Museum in Ubud, his gifts are yet to be fully detected by the art market radar in Indonesia. His move to join One East Asia, Singapore, is his first significant step to get the recognition he deserves.

‘Tree on Enlightenment, Deer Park Mandala I’ Panel 2 2013-2014 Nyoman Wirdana. Oil on canvas, 150 x 94cm.

Words: Richard Horstman

Images courtesy of Nyoman Wirdana

Meet Ni Luh Vony Dewi: a free Balinese spirit with a potent creative soul

81247736_10219021728671401_2294660963074310144_n                               ‘Superfly’ 2020 – Ni Luh Vony Dewi

 

by The Internet is empowering people and has democratised the art world. It has created a platform that supports a new and dynamic digital art world which functions side-by-side with the art world that we already know. This conventional art world consists of galleries, art spaces, art and cultural centres, museums and institutions, along with books, newspapers and art magazines. It also includes the many participants – artists, collectors, dealers, curators, critics, writers and other aspects of the industry. 

The art world is an enormous multi-levelled, many-layered matrix of interaction. The highest level of the art world is exclusive and steeped in mystery – only the elite is allowed access and insider information. The new digital art world, however, offers immediate entry to anyone who can connect to Net, via an array of inexpensive electronic devices. One no longer needs to enter the conventional art world to exhibit, be critiqued and endorsed, and to sell your works.

94592318_10220073168716745_5837902686128701440_n                         ‘The Blessed Island’ 2020 – Ni Luh Vony Dewi

 

Balinese creative Ni Luh Vony Dewi is one of many people that embrace the Internet.  Via social media platforms Instagram and Facebook, she presents her artworks to a global audience on her smartphone right in the palm of her hand. She may do so in her leisure; sitting on the beach, in a café or her studio. The conventional art world is hard work; struggling for acceptance, or to invited to exhibit, the politics, tricky people and the often-exploitive demands of the commercial gallery system. Vony has experienced this, now, however, she retains her autonomy and never has to compromise.

By creating a social media presence and regularly posting Vony has created a fan base of followers. Not only has she caught my eye with her colourful, stylised paintings, yet also the attention of others, and this has led to the sale of her works. What is it about Vony’s joyous paintings that make them irresistible and so easy on the eye?

'Ganesha' 2019 - Ni Luh Voni Dewi                            ‘Lord Ganesha’ 2019 – Ni Luh Vony Dewi

 

A free spirit, Vony is a securely in touch with to her intuition. Self-assured in her abilities she sits in front of the canvas or pieces of cardboard, and with no preconceived ideas lets the creative forces take over, and gets in the flow. She has confidence and trusts her inner voice. The essential factor is her spontaneity – her art is not from a place of thinking and is unrestricted of socio-political opinions. There is an undeniably attractive feminine essence that enriches her paintings – a warmth that is a joy to behold – which is a reflection of her inner beauty.

Feminine beauty is very much a part of the Balinese character, and indeed Vony’s, a former model and in-demand make-up artist for fashion shoots and weddings. Her love of fashion and textiles influences her work. She is also open-minded and aware of the craft aspect of her creativity, adapting her designs upon keben, the popular traditional Balinese weaved boxes made from thin slithers of bamboo.

85222466_10219336201013013_95756162720333824_n                              ‘Sarasvati’ 2020 – Ni Luh Vony Dewi

 

Born in Denpasar in 1978 Vony is a self-taught, yet influenced by traditional Balinese painting. Her compositions are similar, occupying the full surface of the canvas, while all of the visual information is linear in construction. She paints directly to the canvas, however, without sketching and has an unconscious approach to structuring her compositions. The use of colour and symbols are crucial to the appeal of her works. By placing specific colours side-by-side, either lines or plains of colour, she immediately creates dynamic visual tension.

Rendering black lines next to white generate a scenario fuelled by powerful aesthetic opposites, as does the contrasting strength of green next to the red. While her use of the primary and secondary colours (red, yellow, blue, orange, green and purple) also the colours of the body’s chakra energy centres, along with white, has a distinct natural potency according to colour theory and the working order of colours upon the subconscious mind.

81185341_10219021729111412_4714722159304376320_n                  ‘See You in My Lucid Dreams’ 2020 – Ni Luh Vony Dewi

 

“People who are interested in my paintings enjoy the colours and my themes that are easy to understand. My stylised, figures I construct play an important role, they are cute, light-hearted even funny. They are often symbolic, complete with spiritual meanings and healing vibes for those who are attuned.”

“The people who buy my artworks are attracted to specific visual elements, and they say my art makes them feel calm and peaceful. I love to paint angels and Hindu gods, while my themes are often about spirituality. My art is a reflection of my inner world informed by my practice of yoga and meditation,” Vony said.

89319914_10219622083719902_2251911152122462208_n                                                 Ni Luh Vony Dewi

 

“I don’t like limitations. I want to make art,” she told me with a glowing smile on her face. “I am not concerned about other people’s opinions; it’s not my responsibility to please everyone. If you want to make art do it!” One of the elements of Vony’s character I admire is her simple, yet inspiring philosophy that accompanies her Instagram profile – “make art everydamn day”.

20200123_163750                                     Painting by Ni Luh Vony Dewi

 

https://www.instagram.com/vonydewi_niluh/

Words & Images:  Richard Horstman

Remembering Balinese art maverick Wayan Sika (1949-2020)

81423745_10216222470615718_4052378609589944320_n                                          I Wayan Sika (1949-2020)

 

On Saturday 4 January 2020 at 11 pm Balinese artist I Wayan Sika lay down upon his bed at his home above his gallery, the Sika Contemporary Art Gallery in Sanggingan, Ubud. He closed his eyes and sometime after he drew his final breath. His sudden and unexpected death sent immediate shock waves throughout the Balinese community, the Indonesian art world, and beyond.

A friend and inspiration to many, Sika was a true art maverick. Visionary, painter, woodcarver, community leader, art provocateur, gallerist, curator, writer, teacher, husband, father, mentor, along with being an ambassador of Balinese art and culture – he was driven by a kind, yet potent inner force. During his lifetime he connected with thousands of people from all levels of society. Many walked through the doors of his gallery, where he greeted strangers and talked about art, life and his personal experiences. His presence will be dearly missed in the Bali and Indonesian art worlds. Like the spirit of Bali his influence has extended far outside his island home.

'Kasi Cinta' (Give Love) 2008 - I Wayan Sika, Image Richard Horstman      ‘Kasih Cinta’ (Give Love) 2008 – Wayan Sika, mixed media on canvas

 

Sika was a deeply spiritual person, and during the last decade of his life, this pursuit had become his primary focus. He understood that he had well served his family and community, and in the final passage of his physical journey in the cycle of life according to the Balinese Hindu beliefs, he participated in the process of ceremonies referred to as catur marga yoga. In doing so, he was preparing for moksa, and for his spirit to ultimately be released from the human form.

Wayan Sika was born on September 24, 1949, and raised in the family compound in Silakarang, Gianyar. His father I Nyoman Narsa (born around 1922 – 2019) was a renowned woodcarver. Many students came to his studio to study under his guidance, providing an inspiring learning environment for the young Sika.  Sika’s formal art education began in SSRI (School of Fine Art Indonesia) in Denpasar, followed by four years studying painting at the Academy ASRI of Indonesian Fine Art in Yogyakarta.

'Durga' 2011 - Wayan Sika image Richard Horstman         ‘Durga’ 2011 – Wayan Sika, mixed media on canvas, 120 x 140 cm

 

In 1970, aged twenty-one, Sika along with pioneering Balinese modernist Nyoman Gunarsa (1944-2017), Made Wianta and other students at the ASRI, founded the Sanggar Dewata Indonesia (SDI) artists Foundation. Young and dynamic, the artists loved to experiment with new techniques and aesthetic concepts. A turning point and a radical new era in Balinese art, an original genre of contemporary art evolved through SDI that was recognised within world art for its aesthetic and philosophical distinctions. The artists reconfigured cultural symbols into an expressive, fresh visual language that is still influential today. Sika went on to play various essential leadership roles in SDI, Indonesia’s oldest art collective that is still active today, as the collective’s chairman on numerous occasions during the 1970’s, 1980’s and 1990’s (recording of dates unclear).

“Sika was, along with Nyoman Erawan, one of the principal proponents of ‘Hindu’ abstraction, a type of painting that structured space, and to a certain extent colour, in such a way as to express basic principles of the Balinese Hindu cosmology,” said Bali historian and art critic Jean Couteau.  “It was an important moment of the ‘rationalisation’ endeavour undertaken by the Balinese elites of the 70s and 80s to ‘universalise’ both their art and their beliefs.”

Essence of Void' 2019 - Wayan Sika, image Richard Horstman‘Essence of the Void’ 2019 – Wayan Sika, nine panel installation, mixed media on canvas, 2.5 m x 3.2 m. Exhibited in ‘Balinese Masters: Aesthetic DNA Trajectories of Balinese Visual Art’ at the AB•BC Building, Nusa Dua, April-July 2019

 

After finishing his studies in Yogyakarta in 1973 Sika returned to Bali, married Dwi Atmi and began a family, fathered three children Ni Putu Krishnawati in 1974, I Made Aji Aswino in 1977 and Ni Komang Astri Krisnandi in 1981. He began a furniture business specializing pieces carved in the Renaissance Rococo style. The company grew to employ more than 100 carvers, while Indonesian government ministers from the Suharto era acquired this furniture for their homes and offices.  In 1982 Sika was summonsed by the Indonesian government to go to New Zealand to produce furniture for the Indonesian Embassy.

Europe was his next international destination and in 1986 Sika was in Switzerland making expressive carvings and bronze statues for twelve months. He received an order in 1989 from a Museum in Basel, Switzerland to make a Balinese Barong for their collection. It was during this period that the head of the Christof Merian Foundation saw his paintings and invited him to join their program of International Exchange Artists.  Sika held his debut solo exhibition in Basel in 1989. The show sold out and this success provided the self-belief he required to devote more energy into his paintings.

Wayan Sika during the Balinese Masters Opening 2019 . Image courtesy of ArtBali Wayan Sika during the opening ceremony of ‘Balinese Masters: Aesthetic DNA Trajectories of Balinese Visual Art’ at the AB•BC Building, Nusa Dua, 12 April 2019

 

Building community was one of Sika’s life intentions. During an interview I conducted with him in 2010 he said it was consistently challenging for the SDI artists to find a location to exhibit their work in Bali. He founded the Sika Contemporary Art Gallery in 1996 in Campuhan, Ubud as an exhibition venue in time to celebrate the 25th anniversary of SDI. The non-sales orientated gallery specialised in providing space to support regular exhibitions by talented young artists from Indonesia and around the world. The gallery became a prestigious site with a reputation for showing work of a high level of creativity and innovation. While the exhibitions at the gallery have recently been infrequent, the quality remains. The gallery still functions as a vital meeting venue for discussions and gatherings. International contemporary art star Nyoman Masriadi exhibited at the gallery as an emerging artist while still living nearby in Sakah, Gianyar.

Sika’s commitment to the community also extended to education and his actions were relevant in the development of new schools and kindergartens. He was instrumental in the revival in 1987 of the SMSR Ubud (The High School of Visual Arts), which later changed its name to SMK Ubud (Vocational High of School) located in Jalan Raya Campuhan, Ubud. On the 1st October 2010, after a 34-year association, Sika retired as a part-time lecturer at ISI Denpasar (Indonesian Art Institute).

'New Rising Life' 2014 - I Wayan Sika Image Richard Horstman‘New Rising Life’ 2014 – Wayan Sika, mixed media on canvas, 180 x 120cm

 

In 1996 Sika was asked by the Christof Merian Foundation to select Indonesian artists to travel to Basel, sponsored by the foundation for 3 months periods, including the opportunity to present their work in the cultural museum in Basel. Made Wianta, Nyoman Erawan, Made Djirna, Made Budhiana, Edi Hara, Ketut Pandi Taman and Putu Sutawijaya all gained vital exposure to galleries from London, Holland and Germany. They are considered today among some of Indonesia’s finest contemporary art.

In 2001 Sika chose to step aside from the Christof Merian Foundation and reassess his focus. He had received a calling to dedicate himself to his spiritual journey. As an artist this was to have a profound effect upon his work. He continued to organise group and community exhibitions as well as curating, writing in books, catalogues, magazines and newspapers. Sika experienced a series of health problems that saw him unconscious on three occasions, once in 2003, again in 2006 and finally in 2009, when he hovered close to death for many days. On this occasion, he received visions that inspired his final artistic journey a series of spiritual-religious paintings.

'Bali 7 Maret 2017 'The Day of Nyepi New Year Cakra 1941' 2017 - I Wayan Sika Iamage Richard Horstman‘Bali 7 Maret 2017, The Day of Nyepi New Year Cakra 1941’ 2017 – I Wayan Sika, mixed media on canvas,  160 x 200 cm

 

Over the next ten years Sika painted when ‘called’, often early in the morning after meditating. He created a distinct body works within the framework of Balinese contemporary painting, pictures that channelled high frequency symbols and texts – messages from the ‘other’ world. And while such artworks are a renowned facet of the Balinese way of life, Sika’s paintings were distinctly noteworthy – rare and valuable. I lived nearby to Sika for ten years and I would often visit and we discussed an array of subjects, as well as art. A frequent topic was sekala/nisakla (the seen and unseen elements of life according to the Balinese), and about the complexities of his culture. He disclosed his preparations for moksa and his then current series of paintings that he displays in his gallery. Sika recalled how they had impacted upon visitors to the gallery. While each composition was slightly different, all resonated with an invisible force that could be felt.

Sika shared with me that on more than a few occasions he would venture downstairs from his living abode above the gallery to where his paintings hung and find a visitor, mostly foreign tourists, engaging with his works. Some expressed strong emotions of grief and sadness, he said, while others sat peacefully in meditation. He often had long conversations with these people about his paintings. I too had my personal experiences.

'Krishna Narayana' 2009 - I Wayan Sika Image Richard Horstman‘Krishna Narayana’ 2009 – Wayan Sika, mixed media on canvas, 150 x 200 cm

 

The beautiful mixed media compositions often-featured glowing golden hues. Consent, 2009, 200 cm by 300 cm depicts an enormous lotus flower with a five-tiered triangular structure positioned on top of the petals. Upon each level was Sanskrit text revealing a narrative relevant to his  process of spiritual evolution. Krishna Narayana 2009, 200 cm by 300 cm features a figure cloaked in a green fabric veil, a complex system of ‘chakras’ define energy centres upon the physical form, other sacred symbols and mantras complete the composition along with a depiction of Hyang Sang Widhi, the Balinese supreme being.

The paintings pulsate silent messages that resonate with the soul. To many these works are mysterious, and cannot be explained. According to Balinese traditions and the creation of the sacred classical, religious paintings, and the amulet diagrams on cloth, rerajahan are one of the distinct functions of an artist. They act as an intermediary between the heavenly realms and earth to translate esoteric information into decipherable and practical codes. Sika’s mission was similar while defining important steps within his journey, and contributing to the development of Balinese contemporary painting.

'Dewi Rati' 2009, 150 x 200 cm.   ‘Dewi Rati’ 2009 – Wayan Sika, mixed media on canvas, 150 x 200cm.

 

“When I met Wayan Sika in 1980 he regularly talked about spirituality and how it related to contemporary visual art,” said renowned Balinese contemporary artist, academic and lecturer at the Indonesian Art Institute (ISI) Denpasar Wayan Karja. “He often shared about Rwabhineda, the Balinese Hindu concept of dualism and his ideas about the polarity of black and white which inspired me to see the world in different way – in many colours. In 1998 I began my masters thesis on a body of 209 paintings according to the colours of Pangider Bhuwana – the Balinese religious cosmology.  “This has become my artistic pursuit and I am currently finishing my dissertation titled Kosmologi Bali: Visualisasi Warna Pangider Bhuwana dalam Seni Lukis kontemporer di Kabupaten Gianyar  (Balinese Cosmology: Color Visualization of Pangider Bhuwana in Contemporary Painting in the Gianyar Regency). Sika was one of my inspirations and helped me to create a broader picture of the Balinese religious cosmology within the concept of contemporary art.”

A special moment for Sika was 12 April 2019 at the recently commissioned exhibition facility AB•BC Building, Nusa Dua, He and his son Aswino Aji, co-founder ArtBali the annual Indonesian contemporary art exhibition at the AB•BC Building, helped officiate the opening ceremony of Balinese Masters: Aesthetic DNA Trajectories of Balinese Visual Art, a showcasing of installations, paintings, sculptures, drawings and objects by thirty-four Balinese artists and communities. Sika was also one of the invited artist, his installation of nine paintings The Essence of the Void, 2019 measuring 360 cm by 360 cm, was one of the highlights of the show.

'Consent' 2009, 300 x 200cm.    ‘Consent’ 2009 – Wayan Sika, mixed media on canvas, 200 x 300 cm

 

There is much that can and should be written about I Wayan Sika, not only about his art, yet also about his generous character. Many have tales of this important change-maker who willingly supported individual and community development (creative, human & spiritual). The Sika Contemporary Gallery has played a distinct and important role in the development of Indonesian art. His renegade anti establishment attitude was an inspiration and vital essence in the pursuit of Balinese contemporary art. Sika’s artworks are accessible to the public and continually on display in his gallery.

Sika has now crossed over to the ‘other’ side, yet the veil between the two worlds here in Bali is very thin. The Balinese are renowned for their rich oral tradition of storytelling, and now Sika’s memory will live on through this cultural expression. When we talk about Sika we will have good cause for celebration knowing that he is close by and his spirit is alive in each, and every word.

Selamat jalan Pak Sika, and thank you.

82010986_10157263232738863_1928627357434773504_o                              Wayan Sika at work in his gallery 2019

 

 

Words: Richard Horstman

Images: Richard Horstman and courtesy of Made Aji Aswino

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Indonesian artist Boedi Widjaja’s subterranean sonic temple a highlight of the Singapore Biennale 2019

Black—Hut, Black—Hut, 2019 Boedi Widjaja Image courtesy of Boedi Widjaja & 2019 Singapore Biennale #5Black—Hut, Black—Hut, 2019 – Boedi Widjaja exhibited at the National Gallery of Singapore in the Singapore Biennale 2019. Image courtesy of Boedi Widjaja & 2019 Singapore Biennale

 

Boedi Widjaja is an artist with one foot positioned in two similar, yet disparate worlds. Born in 1975 and raised by Chinese Indonesian parents in Surakarta, Central Java,  from the age of nine he has lived in Singapore. Since 2012 he has practised full-time as a multi-disciplinary contemporary artist. Widjaja’s art intersects graphic design, architectural and fine art principles while including performance and explorations and interactions with alternative cultures.

Black—Hut, Black—Hut, Widjaja’s ideas about home and the complexities of belonging in a transient world initially came to life through a distinct dream about five years ago. In his vision, he saw one of the pioneers of modern architecture Charles-Édouard Jeanneret  (1887-19650), also know as Le Corbusier, exploring and contemplating his ideas about building, dwellings and being.

Widjaja’s architectural-sound proto-structure has evolved through three individual installations. Black—Hut was first commissioned and presented at the Institute of Contemporary Arts Singapore in 2016, as a Singapore Biennale Affiliate Project. The second and third installations – both titled Black—Hut, Black—Hut – were co-commissioned by the Queensland Art Gallery & Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA) and the Singapore Art Museum. Conceived as a diptych of site-specific proto-structures across space and time, the second installation of the Black—Hut series was presented at the 9th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art in 2018 and the third, in the 6th Singapore Biennale in 2019.

Black—Hut, Black—Hut, 2019 Boedi Widjaja Image courtesy of Boedi Widjaja & 2019 Singapore Biennale

 

Black—Hut, Black—Hut is on display at the National Gallery of Singapore (NGS) from 22 November 2019 through 22 March 2020. Entitled Every Step in the Right Direction, the Singapore Biennale 2019 presents 150 works by 77 artists and art collectives from 36 countries and territories displayed at the National Gallery Singapore (NGS), Gillman Barracks, Lasalle College of the Arts and other various historic locations and public spaces. Helmed by artistic director Patrick Flores, the biennale seeks to address questions and ideas of how humanity can approach the past, present and future, looking to create a pathway to brighter and more harmonic times ahead.

Memories and impressions of the Surakarta Royal Palace located close to his childhood home and the sounds of the traditional Javanese gamelan floating gracefully upon the late afternoon breeze are encoded upon Widjaja’s psyche. They ignite a wonderful sense of nostalgia that has helped inspired his installation. “Three years ago I discovered an online library of recordings of a 100-year old gamelan – Gamelan Kjai Paridjata – that was acquired from the Surakarta Palace,” explained the artist who to avoid the racial tensions under President Suharto’s New Order regime (1965-1998) his parents sent him to Singapore, where he has since resided apart from his family.

”I then rearranged the 131 recordings within a matrix and displaced and inverted each sound out of its original position to generate the sequential pulse-like sounds ‘Datum’ (the musical piece in the installation),” he said. “The sounds are alien yet somehow feel at home. Perhaps I’ve grown to be familiar with there distorted, displaced qualities.”

Black—Hut, Black—Hut, 2019 Boedi Widjaja Image courtesy of Boedi Widjaja & 2019 Singapore Biennale #2

 

Black—Hut, Black—Hut is positioned on a flight of stairs leading from the ground floor down to the basement in NGS’ Coleman courtyard. It exists in the space between the two physical levels of the historic building reflecting the deep-seated and ongoing theme at the core of Widjaja’s artworks – of the diaspora, isolation, of the complexities of hybridity and the bridging of multiple cultures, along with his relationship with the physical surrounds where he intuitively feels grounded and at home.

Widjaja coordinates the linear planes of the steps into the vertical cladding of the structure, a continuation of the horizontal line aspect so that it appears grounded into the gallery as one harmonic and unified form. The striking exterior cocoons an inner sanctum, the imagined centre of Black—Hut, Black—Hut. From this unusual space ‘Datum’ radiates a distinct, yet strangely assuring atmospheric sound.

A salt-infused black concrete membrane upon the surface of the steps and the roof of the structure introduces an ecosystem to the installation.  This encourages efflorescence crystallisation blooms as the material ‘sweats’ in the tropical climate of Singapore. “When I started to think about concrete, the material triggered memories of my transition from Surakarta to Singapore. From a less urbanised environment to a very urbanised city in SE Asia,” said Widjaja who in 2000 received his Bachelor of Architecture from the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, while as young adulthood he explored his creativity via graphic design.

Black—Hut, Black—Hut, 2019 Boedi Widjaja Image courtesy of Boedi Widjaja & 2019 Singapore Biennale #6

 

“When I first came to Singapore in 1984, the constructed landscape was very different from that in Surakarta. I was in awe of the row upon row of public flats, large-scale mass housing structures, with ordered recto linear geometry and the repetition of elements that were very different, all built in concrete. This visual memory has seeped into my design ideas.”

“In responding to the NGS site, a transitory space used for human movement, I was drawn to the basement as it is a new addition to the historic building. When we think about what transpires below the ground, the context becomes interesting with the NGS role in the historization of SE Asian art. So much of the history that goes beyond the 200 years of Raffles belongs underground within an archeological state,” adds Widjaja who in his relatively short career has exhibited in some highly prestigious events representing Singapore in the Live Art program of the Diaspora Pavilion at the 57th Venice Biennale (2017); Jerusalem Biennale (2017); ‘From East to the Barbican’ at Barbican (London, 2015) and ‘Bains Numériques #7’ at Enghien-les-Bains (France, 2012).

“In Singapore, we look to the underground as a means to project into the future by building structures. There is an exciting anachronistic quality where the future and the past intersect. This expresses a sense of time which I associate to my migrant experience – in being in an in-between space-time.”

Black—Hut, Black—Hut, 2019 Boedi Widjaja Image courtesy of Boedi Widjaja & 2019 Singapore Biennale #8

 

“What I try to do is collapse several architectural traditions into Black—Hut, Black—Hut, includingJavanese architecture and the mandala – I am drawn to the latter because of its presence within traditions, and how it expresses cosmological and political ideas in one space. The mandala is present in both the installation and the Surakarta Royal Palace,” and he adds, “When I think about the centre of the Black—Hut, I think firstly of a sense of an anchor that is not present, yet which I yearn for. While the mandala-center is a concentration of cultural, historical and political power, it also points to the memory of my first home being located near to the Keraton – the universal centre according to local Javanese beliefs.”

“The spatial geometry of Singapore’s social housing seems to be conditioned upon a fragmented, staccato time that is regularly marked by interruptions. In the city, smooth and endless concrete surfaces become sound-tracked with the splintering of time,” stated Widjaja who’s solo exhibitions include, Black—Hut, a Singapore Biennale 2016 Affiliate Project at Institute of Contemporary Arts Singapore (2016), Path. 6 Unpacking my Library at Esplanade (Singapore 2014), and in 2019 Boedi Widjaja: Declaration Of, at Helwaser Gallery, his first exhibition in New York City.

To audiences exploring Widjaja’s work for the first time Black—Hut, Black—Hut, may seem indeed as an alien structure. So much so that they may be more comfortable to look, observe and enjoy it from various positions on the stairs, escalators and upper floors of the NGS, without the need for closer inspection.  To fully appreciate it however, one would benefit from observing and understanding his previous installation at APT in 2018 and recognise the two installations as a diptych.

Black—Hut, Black—Hut, 2019 Boedi Widjaja Image courtesy of Boedi Widjaja & 2019 Singapore Biennale #7

 

Black—Hut, Black—Hut is configured, says Widjaja, “to reference the gap between ground and land in the tropical and subtropical vernacular houses built on raised floors, such as the Javanese Joglo, the Queenslander, and the Malay houses. Ground is shorthand for me to speak about grounding, belonging, rootedness.” His APT installation in the Queensland Art Gallery referenced the ground level and a gap between an elevated structure, this installation is, however, a subterranean mirror of that work.

To assist curious observers gain a greater understanding of this NGS installation, they would benefit from video and audio explanations to gain insights into Widjaja’s ideas. For the inquiring minds, there is undoubtedly much to engage in, especially if they have the opportunity to meet and probe Widjaja or the biennale curators at the NGS.

For me, the work is visually and conceptually fascinating, especially as I have my interest in architecture and how structures and dwellings influence the human experience. On another level, this work entertains my ideas about my spiritual essence in relation to our physical world, and my fragmented feelings about belonging.

Black—Hut, Black—Hut, 2019 Boedi Widjaja Image courtesy of Boedi Widjaja & 2019 Singapore Biennale #4

 

Both beautiful and powerful, yet unusual in its physical and sonic presence, Black—Hut, Black—Hut is an intricate work charged with layers of meaning and focal points to experience its varying degrees of subtleties of intimacy and monumentality. The visual rhythms of the structure are exhilarating, and fascinating in their linear character from the inner repetitive mandala aspect to the external design.

While it’s inside installation’s ‘nerve centre’ we may fully appreciate the audio rhythms and their fragmented otherworldly heartbeat. Between the silence the sounds are indeed alien, yet at the same time from a comforting organic source. Widjaja’s abstraction of dwellings that have informed his life stand as a moment where the contemporary emerges providing a thought-provoking space for people to meet and converse.

Widjaja’s Black—Hut, Black—Hut captures an intimate essence of the modern human experience. Of a duality that touches on the present, future and past – and of a species disconnected and out of harmony with the tempo of universe and nature – lost and yearning for belonging, somewhere within time and space.

Black—Hut, Black—Hut, 2019 Boedi Widjaja Image courtesy of Boedi Widjaja & 2019 Singapore Biennale #4

 

 

Words: Richard Horstman

Images courtesy: Boedi Widjaja & 2019 Singapore Biennale and Richard Horstman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bridging traditions with the now through local and cross-cultural activities: Bentara Budaya Bali

BBB Kelas Kreatif with Architect Popo Danes Image courtesy of Bentara Budaya BaliBentara Budaya Bali Kelas Kreatif with leading Balinese architect Popo Danes Image courtesy of Bentara Budaya Bali

 

Bali is a unique meeting point between tradition and modernity. One of its distinctions is its fascinating culture that is, however, under increasing pressure from outside influences and the Indonesian nation-state. Sited in Sukawati, on the main link from Denpasar east to the regency of Karangasem Bentara Budaya Bali Cultural Center plays a vital role in informing the local population, and visitors, on creative and culturally matters, born both of domestic and foreign influences.

Currently at the crossroads of its cultural evolution, the Indonesian, and especially the Balinese people require an interface into the future, and the past. Bentara Budaya Bali (BBB) functions as a hub for not only the preservation of cultural, but also for the introduction of new ideas and forms of expression. It gives the local people the intellectual instruments to understand change, and thus not be overwhelmed by it.

Komponis Kini #5-A Tribute to Wayan Beratha bersama Gde Yudane dan Dewa Alit. Image courtesy of Bentara Budaya BaliKomponis Kini #5-A Tribute to Wayan Beratha with Gde Yudane and Dewa Alit. A performance held in 2019 in the outdoor theater of Bentara Budaya Bali.  Image courtesy of Bentara Budaya Bali

 

The Kompas Gramedia Group of Jakarta owns Bentara Budaya with core business enterprises in the information, communication and education. The largest media conglomerate in Indonesia, with 43 tabloids and magazine titles, it owns Kompas newspaper, the largest circulating printed media in Indonesia. Other interests include radio, television, publishing and Gramedia Bookstores. First opened in Jakarta in 1982 by Jakob Oetama, this cultural institution consists of a museum and an art gallery. Yet, its mission had since expanded to include venues in Yogyakarta, Solo and opening BBB in September 2009.

“As a public cultural space, the name Bentara Budaya means cultural messenger. Its existence is intended to build an atmosphere of creative social interaction, accommodating and representing national cultural vehicles, from various backgrounds and horizons,” says renowned writer and poet, Warih Witsatsana, the head of management and curation at BBB. One of the best-kept secrets on the island, BBB on average holds 85 events a year, even up to 100. It collaborates with various artists, communities, campuses, government agencies, cultural institutions of other countries to present cross-cultural activities, yet unfortunately, it remains under the radar of the tourist masses.

Pameran Apresiasi Perupa Muda Indonesia-Utusan Sosial-Kerja sama dengan Subdit Seni Rupa Kemdikbud RI Image courtesy of Bentara Budaya BaliExhibition  ‘Apresiasi Perupa Muda Indonesia-Utusan Sosial-Kerja’ in conjuction with  Subdit Seni Rupa Kemdikbud RI during 2019. Image courtesy of Bentara Budaya Bali

 

The full spectrum of Indonesian cultural activities, from traditional to modern Indonesian arts, exhibitions of fine arts such as paintings, sculptures and graphic arts, to even hosting performing arts, and concerts, book launches, poetry evenings, film screenings, workshops and classes, make up the core program of BBB events.  It regularly works with collectives as diverse as Keroncong Bali Lovers Community, (Keroncong is a fusion of Portuguese and Indonesian music, and students of the Udayana Science Club (USC), the Universitas Udayana, Denpasar. Now, the group of four Bentara centres have become one of the most important references for the activities and development of art and culture within Indonesia.

BBB accommodates and represents national cultural vehicles, from various backgrounds and horizons, which may be different and even experimental, yet unfortunately, have no place and are not suitable to be represented in other institutions or buildings. It also has a collection of artworks from the Indonesian maestros, including many Balinese classical paintings and works from “the golden years of Balinese painting” 1930 – 1945.

TERRITORIUM-NORWAY Collaborative Performance Image courtesy of Bentara Budaya Bali(1)‘TERRITORIUM-NORWAY’  a collaborative performance  featuring artists from Norway and Indonesia at Bentara Budaya Bali.  Image courtesy of Bentara Budaya Bali

 

RH:  Can you share a little about the educational platform of Bentara Budaya Bali?

WW: Balinese Culture may be said to be a meeting space for young people or artists of various backgrounds and fields so that there is a possibility for cross-border collaboration through the exchange of ideas. Also, through discussions that depart from knowledge, they have the opportunity to experience first hand a process, and this gives birth to understanding, learning by doing.

RH: We are in an era of rapid cultural change, why is Bentara Budaya Bali increasingly important for Balinese people?

 WW: As a public space, Bentara Budaya Bali is not only a place to meet and dialogue but also to accommodate various arts and cultural activities or other forms of creativity. The public sphere also plays a role in building community awareness, primarily through programs that depart from the traditions and values of local wisdom while linking it to the current socio-cultural conditions. Even though the world today is cross-border in the digital era, the public still needs a space to meet directly and personally to understand our “reality” today.  It is a prototype of a cultural laboratory in line with efforts to produce visionary ideas to allow us as a collective to move forward. Via the transfer of knowledge, we empower individuals and communities.

Exhibition Kelompok Seniman Batuan-IBU RUPA BATUAN Image coutesy of Bentara Budaya BaliExhibition ‘Ibu Rupa Batuan’ featuring Batuan artists from Kelompok Seniman Batuan. Image courtesy of Bentara Budaya Bali

 

“Bentara Budaya plays an enlightening role in Balinese cultural life,” says Bali historian and noted art critic Jean Couteau. “Its curatorial policy keeps an intelligent balance between the three layers of cultural life: firstly, the Balinese layer, seen beyond exoticism and toward cultural memory; second, the Indonesian layer, with the melting pot creativity of the national space and the need to transcend local identity; and finally the transnational layer, with all the problematics and creativity of contemporary life.”

For more information on activities and programmed events: https://www.facebook.com/bentarabudayabali09/

 

Words: Richard Horstman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Putu Adi – emerging Balinese talent from the village of Keliki

'Gempa Bumi' 2015 Putu Adi Acrylic & ink on Paper, 33 x 18.5 cm Image Richard Horstman.    ‘Gempa Bumi’ 2015  –  Putu Adi Acrylic & ink on Paper, 33 x 18.5 cm 

 

Bali is a dynamic, ever-changing environment where the past and present intersect, and the East and West collide. Art and cultural expressions, the foundations of the island’s first tourism boom 1930 -1942, continue to evolve. Over recent decades however, they have played a secondary, minor role to resort and lifestyle tourism. 

Balinese painting traditions never remains static. The Classical religious paintings with origins dating back to the 13-16th century East Javanese Majapahit Empire, even today, undergo subtle changes as the artists add their specific developments within the strict framework of the two-dimensional narrative works. A new era of creativity is currently sweeping the island, and the millennials are contributing to the development of traditional village styles, or ‘schools’ of painting, namely Batuan and Keliki. These artists reinterpret the popular Balinese narratives and iconography with exciting new flair – a new renaissance in Balinese painting is underway.

One of the catalysts of this new creativity is the vision of the senior artists of the schools who have initiated new art collectives. The Baturulangun Artists Association established in Batuan in 2012 and the Werdi Jana Kerti Artists Association of the Keliki Kawan in 2011 – regeneration and style preservation is at the core of their missions. The recent achievements of emerging Batuan painters have received much attention, especially I Wayan Aris Sarmanta recipient of the 2018 TiTian Prize, awarded for innovative Balinese artistic talent. The regeneration of the Keliki School of Miniature Painting is also making headway.

The Chronology of Balinese Painting

The imagery of the Classical Balinese paintings first expanded into Bali late in the 13th century. During the 16th – 20th centuries the village of Kamasan, Klungkung, East Bali became the epicentre of the Classical style that flourished throughout the island with the royal family patrons and the key supporters. The 20th – century chronology of Balinese painting reveals innovations in the 1920s and the establishment of village styles in Batuan, Ubud and Sanur, occurring almost concurrently.

The Batuan and Ubud styles developed from specific influences, (most famous was the introduction of western painting techniques by Rudolf Bonnet (1895-1978) and Walter Spies (1895 – 1942) to the painters in Ubud and the birth of the Ubud School. The Batuan painters adopted a more sophisticated version of the traditional painting techniques into their works that feature depictions of local philosophies and narratives, often dark and frightening scenarios. The Batuan, Ubud and Sanur genres evolved quickly. They benefitted from new foreign patrons and the development of a new market for Balinese paintings and woodcarvings due to tourism. The Pita Maha Artists Association established in Ubud in 1936 oversaw the development of the village styles presenting the best works to the market along with organising exhibitions in Java and Europe.

After WWII and the dramatic decline in tourism, the art market diminished, and painters had to return to the agrarian economy to maintain sustainable incomes. Nonetheless, painting innovations occurred in Batuan with the second signature ‘crowded miniature’ style developing. The Pengosekan School was established, continuing the conventional Ubud style yet introducing their distinctive colour schemes and an array of art innovators evolved within the school. In the mid-1960s, the Young Artist’s Style developed in Penestanan through the teaching influences upon young local children by the Dutch colourist painter Arie Smit (1916-2016).

'Kang Cing Wi' 2016 Putu Adi 29 x 46 cm, Chinese ink and acrylic paint on paper. Image Richard Horstman‘Kang Cing Wi’ 2016 – Putu Adi Chinese ink and acrylic paint on paper, 29 x 46 cm

The 1970s was the next progressive era of Balinese painting, a period that also witnessed the second wave of international tourism that had a significant positive impact on the economy and the market for paintings and woodcarvings. The new stylistic developments were the Keliki Miniature School of Painting early in the decade and in 1977 the Pengosekan Flora and Fauna style evolved from the Dewa Batuan Community of Painters and Dewa Putu Sena and then later Ketut Ridi both excelled in this style.

The Keliki School of Miniature Painting

Keliki paintings depict on paper a plethora of imagery from romantic interpretations of the daily life activities in the island’s rural villages, to the beauty of the island’s flora and fauna, as well as Hindu myths and local folklore. The maximum size of the works is confined to 30 cm by 50 cm, yet some of the most refined works are captured within the size of 8cm by 8cm. Rich in gradation and extremely detailed, their incredible intricacy, sophistication and beauty are astounding. The style demands powerful and prolonged attention span and high levels of concentration from the artists.

The genre began in the early 1970s in the Keliki Kawan village, 25 minutes north of Ubud, with two artists I Ketut Sana (b.1952), and I Made Astawa (b.1953). Both were students of the grandson of Bali’s most well known modern artist I Gusti Nyoman Lempad (c1865-1978), while also learning from a master of another respected genre, Wayan Rajin of the Batuan School. Inspired by Lempad’s line techniques, the famous Ubud School of Painting and the crowded Batuan ‘signature’ style, Sana and Astawa reduced their compositions in size, and the Keliki School of Miniature Painting was born. Since 2013 the Werdi Jana Kerti Artist’s Association has exhibited annually at Ubud’s historic Museum Puri Lukisan allowing the emerging and senior artists to showcase their work. The community has over 75 members aged from 15-78 years, including women, while one-third of the artists are under 30 years of age.

The Balinese art of creating miniature pictures has a long history, being passed down over generations and dating back to the 9th century. The tiny images originate from the decorated manuscripts, processed on dried leaves and known as the lontars. Skilled artisans used a sharp writing instrument to score text and drawings, cultural information, upon pages measuring 30cm wide by 5cm high. Still in use today, the books reveal knowledge about holy scriptures, prominent rituals, family lineages, laws, medicine, arts, architecture, calendars, literature, and even the rules for cock-fighting.

I Putu Adi

'Kesenagan Ku Derita Ku' 2019 (My Pleasure is my Pain) 2019 - Putu Adi 66 x 46 cm. Image Richard Horstman‘Kesenagan Ku Derita Ku’ 2019 (My Pleasure is my Pain) 2019 – Putu Adi 66 x 46 cm. 

Twenty-one years old Putu Adi, (b. 1998, Keliki Kawan) represents the emerging talent who are competent in the Keliki techniques in a tradition where the master pupil relationship, often father and son/s, plays an essential role. The young artists reinterpret popular Balinese narratives, daily experiences and the island’s spirituality in exciting new ways introducing contemporary iconography along and dynamic colouration. Themes also address critical contemporary issues such as environmental degradation, rampant tourism development, corruption and greed.

Working in Chinese ink and acrylic paint, Adi learns from his father I Made Sutama (b.1977). “Adi is still young and needs time to discover his artistic voice,” said the highly regarded Sutama who is a self-taught artist. “It is important that he experiments with ideas and continues learning, even explore the style in a larger format.” Sutama, on the other hand, has matured and works according to principles and personal philosophies.  “My compositions reflect my spiritual life journey,” Sutama adds. “The Balinese calendar reveals auspicious days to begin and to work on paintings, while I practice certain rituals before starting compositions, and working each day.” Ni Wayan Telage, Adi’s mother, is also an accomplished painter, along with his cousin I Putu Kusuma, another emerging artist, who also lives in the same traditional family compound.

Adi’s themes range from the mythological to the personal, in layered works that mix traditional iconography with the contemporary while highlighting the dualistic nature of life. His colour varies from black ink to combinations of dazzling acrylic hues. ‘Gempa Bumi’ 2015, or Earth Quake is an acrylic on paper, 33 cm by 18.5 cm picture. The central character, large and rotund is the mythological demon Kala who sits upon Empas the turtle that carries the world on his back. Kala’s hair becomes the intricately entwined root system of a tree at the top of the composition in which sits the Hindu god Vishu, guarding the earth. At the bottom people are depicted in chaos falling from the earth.  “The giant upon Empas’ back symbolizes the strong foundation of the earth,” Adi states. “These foundations have begun collapsing, however due to humanity’s inability to protect the universe, and thereby earning the wrath of the gods – earthquakes and disasters.”

'Teknologi Penemuam Yang Membunuh' 2018 Putu Adi, Acrylic and ink on paper, 33 x 25.5 cm Image Richard Horstman‘Teknologi Penemuam Yang Membunuh’ 2018 – Putu Adi, Acrylic and ink on paper, 33 x 25.5 cm 

In ‘Teknologi Penemuam Yang Membunuh’ 2018, or ‘Technological Inventions that Kill’ Adi reveals his concern about modern technology and the threat it poses to his culture. “Everyone wants an easy and carefree life, and there are many modern inventions to facilitate human work – robots can replace people,” Adi explains. “I depict an array of people and creatures riding exhaust pipes symbolizing noise and pollution; some have light bulbs upon their heads, suggesting ideas and innovation.” Two god-like figures, part robotic, chant mantras of materialism into the ears of the central character, a rat in a crown dressed in a suit representing human greed. “The two gods symbolize ancestral traditions that have begun to disappear over time. “Mechanically beasts and demons are revealed throughout the setting, and chaos engulfs the earth.”

Adi’s most recent painting ‘Kesenagan Ku Derita Ku’, or ‘My Pleasure is my Pain’ is a vibrantly colourful 66 cm by 46 cm composition, larger than the conventional framework.  Depicting a fantastic scenario of youthful fantasies, both sexual and otherwise, the central figure, part human part robot, is a decrepit character overcome by the weight of materialistic ideals. Adi’s picture about duality, warning of the pitfalls of human greed has been entered in the 2020 TiTian Prize to be announced in Ubud in early February next year.

Does Balinese painting have a place in the 21st century society?

The new generation of Balinese painters remains faithful to their traditions and cultural philosophies and continue today, along with their seniors to create the Classical paintings for the Balinese ceremonies and rituals. They have now, however a greater awareness than their forefathers to the current challenges facing Bali and the global community. This awareness is transferred into their new paintings that indeed contemporary, with a fresh appeal to both young and old. The 21st – century digital global creative economy allows these works to reach broader international audiences.

The key fundamental is the narrative aspect of these works that are also at the core of the sacred Classical style. The Classical aesthetic language plays a vital role within Balinese society as a story-telling modality with high moral standards that function to encourage peace and harmony within the community. The virtues of the Classical paintings, the positive contributions to humanity and philosophical content have, unfortunately, gone unrecognized for many years within the context of world art.

Balinese paintings are a unique gift to the global society, they teach us good values and give insights into the dualistic nature of life and the divine order of the universe. They offer many ethical and philosophical lessons that can help to redirect society’s moral standards. I Putu Adi, along with his forefathers, remind us that humanity’s path forward requires us to adopt valuable time-honoured wisdom from the past.

 

 

 

Words & Images: Richard Horstman

 

Larasati October 2019 auction report – Balinese art market analysis

Lot # 739 “Berjamur Pakian” 2001 Dewa Putu Mokoh (1934 – 2010 Pengosekan) Acrylic on Canvas, 80 x 60 cm.

The market for Balinese paintings, often labelled ‘traditional’, is a small niche sector in comparison to the broader Indonesian modern and contemporary art market. While Indonesian collectors dominate it there is an upward trend of foreign buyers entering the market that is currently showing signs of growth.

In 2006 Larasati Auctioneers of Jakarta opened up an international forum for the trade of high- quality Balinese art. They began by presenting two auctions per year in Ubud specializing in Balinese paintings and have and helped revived a declining market. Works by some of the masters of the famous Pita Maha Artists Association established in Ubud in 1936; Ida Bagus Made Poleng, Gusti Nyoman Lempad, Anak Agung Gede Sobrat, Ida Bagus Made Nadera and Gusti Ketut Kobot are especially popular with collectors.

Balinese painting has many genres, beginning with the ancient, sacred narrative Classical style displayed in the temples and the houses of the aristocracy. These works are also referred to as Wayang paintings, their iconography and narratives being derived from the Wayang Kulit shadow puppet theatre. They came to be known as Kamasan paintings, from the village in Klungkung, East Bali that was the epicentre of Balinese art, 16th – 20th century.

Other genres evolved in the period 1920 – 1980 from the Classical style. The Batuan paintings developed its distinct visual features and techniques outside of the modern western influences accredited to Walter Spies (1895 – 1942) and Rudolf Bonnet (1895 – 1978) who were instrumental in the birth of the renowned Ubud School of Painting in the late 1920s. Other village styles, or schools developed, Sanur, Pengosekan, Young Artists, and Keliki, along with the woodcarvings from the village of Mas. The golden years of Balinese painting were 1930 – 1945, pre-WWII during an era that witnessed technical and stylistic innovations along with the first tourism boom on Bali. The second wave of tourism began in the 1970s, and the popularity of Balinese painting increased, especially after 1980 aligned with the national government’s policy of cultural tourism.

The critical reasons leading to Balinese art being underappreciated and undervalued has been due to its perception. It is often maligned and referred to as ‘tourist’ and folk art – a craft without a rightful place within Indonesian art history. Yet, on the contrary, some of the finest practitioners of Balinese painting, past and present, are from the Balinese high castes.  Ida Bagus Made Poleng (1915 – 1999) for example, is considered the most influential artist from the 20th – century, and is from the Brahmin high caste. While the most cherished living painter is Anak Agung Gede Anom Sukawati (b. 1966) who is also from the upper caste. Therefore, it is not an art form exclusive to ordinary people.

Balinese art was collected by the Dutch during the colonial occupation (1840 – 1950) and exhibited in anthropological museums of the Netherlands. It was not presented in the renowned art museums of Europe that would have endorsed the relevance and value of Balinese painting within the context of world art. It was, however, displayed within the anthropological museums with demeaning colonial narratives, referred to as art made by the primitive people of Bali.

The above mentioned scenario, however, has recently undergone significant change, and two of institutions with the most important collections of Balinese art have been rebranded – renamed Museums of World Culture (the Volkenkunde Leiden Museum, Lieden, the Netherlands and the World Museum Vienna, Weltmuseum Wien, Austria).  The Volkenkunde Leiden Museum recently began repurchasing Balinese paintings, six works by emerging Batuan artists Wayan Aris Sarmanta and Wayan Budiarta, and exhibited them in a ground breaking exhibition of art and culture “Welcome to Paradise” open May 2019. Importantly, from now on these institutions will present Balinese art free from the old narratives giving special curatorial attention to its significance. These factors will impact positively upon its perception and appreciation internationally, and importantly within Indonesia.

For the first time in its thirteen-year history, Larasati conducted their third auction in Ubud within the year. The recent Modern, Traditional and Contemporary Art Auction was held 12 October at the Larasati Art Space, Tebesaya Gallery, Ubud, Bali.  The painting featured on the cover of the Larasati catalogue incited the most enthusiastic bidding of the day. Lot 792, “Pandwa dalam Pengasingan” (Pandawa in Exile) 1969, by Ida Bagus Rai (1933 – 2007) realised IDR 160 million (hammer prices are quoted without buyers premium) dramatically increasing more than 500% from its estimated price of between IDR 25 – 30 million.  Another strong result was Lot 717 by Wayan Djudjul (1942 – 2008), “Suasana Pasar” (Market Atmosphere) with an estimated price of between IDR 28 – 38 million that sold for IDR 76 million, an increase of around 100%. A work by of one of the distinct innovators within the Ubud School, Dewa Putu Mokoh (1934 – 2010), Lot 739 “Jemur Pakian” (Drying Clothes) 2001 that had an estimated price of between IDR 15 – 18 million sold for IDR 22 million.

The sale, despite 30% of the lots being unsold, revealed the continuing demand for the signature works by the established masters of the Ubud School of Painting, with all significant works selling during the auction.  For example there were four paintings, Lot # 780 – 783 by Anak Agung Gede Raka Puja (1936 – 2016) in the sale. The two works in his older style of daily life village scenarios did not sell, while Lot # 782 & 783, “Mendirikan Menara Bade” (Erecting the Cremation Tower), highlighted on the back cover of the Larasati catalogue, and “Melasti Ke Sakenan”(Melasti Precession to Sakenen) both were sold at just under their estimated values of IDR 130 million and IDR 75 million, respectively.

Two paintings by Wayan Kayun (b. 1954) were offered, yet only Lot # 777, in the artist’s signature culturally themed style “Persiapan Ngaben” (Preparation for a Cremation) was purchased, hammered down at IDR 110 million. Works by the recently deceased master of the Batuan miniature style Ketut Murtika (1952 – 2019) Lot # 785 “Perang Tanding Arjuna Melawan Karna”( Arjuna’s Fight Against Karna) and Lot # 786 “Ramayana Scene”, both mythological narratives, were purchased within their estimated values, for IDR 15 million and IDR 18 million respectively.

Noteworthy factors are impacting on the recent development of Balinese art, a new foundation, and art collectives. TiTian Bali Art Foundation opened in Ubud in 2016 and is an artist incubator specializing in identifying, and nurturing emerging talent and introducing the best artists to the market. Exciting young talent is appearing in the village of Batuan, such as the fore mentioned Sarmanta and Budiarta, along with Pande I Made Dwi Artha and Gede Widyantara, and from Keliki village artists such as Putu Kusuma and Putu Adi. These genres are in exciting new eras of development, driven by well-organized art collectives, Baturlangun in Batuan and the Werdi Jana Kerti Artists Association in Keliki.

The Larasati auctions offer opportunities to purchase Balinese paintings much cheaper than from artist’s studios and galleries, along with many entry points into the market for first-time buyers and those beginners developing their collection on smaller budgets with as little as IDR 1 million. Larasati’s website provides sale data from past auctions, information, and access to online live bidding. The Balinese market is undervalued with strong potential and opportunities available to collectors with a long term view willing to buy and hold for at least 10 -15 years to wait for the market to mature for profit-making.

This article was previous published on Art&Market.Net

https://www.artandmarket.net/analysis/2019/12/28/bali-art-infrastructure-2019

Words: Richard Horstman

Images Courtesy of Larasati Auctioneers

Overview of the Bali art infrastructure 2019

‘Mahardika’ the group exhibition, featured installation ‘Freedom of Expression’ 2019 by Kadek Kusuma Yatra 200 x 200cm Video installation, open 19 October – 1 December 2019 at TiTian Art Space Nyuh Kuning, Ubud

Overshadowed by the creative hubs of Java, Bandung, Jakarta and Yogyakarta, Bali is often disregarded by international art lovers and this may be due to the tourism-led commodification of art and culture.  However, in the past six years, there has been significant development in the fascinating and distinct Bali art infrastructure.

Bali was not immune to the dramatic decline that occurred after 2008 with the crash of the Indonesian modern and contemporary art markets. The immediate signs of the downturn were the closure of leading contemporary art galleries Gaya in Ubud, and Kendra in Seminyak. Activities at other notable galleries Tony Raka in Ubud and, BIASA ArtSpace in Seminyak wound down as well. Only galleries financially supported by profitable hotels, namely  Komaneka in Ubud, Santrian in Sanur and Ganesha in Jimbaran maintained their exhibition schedules.

During the post-boom period, the established art institutions Museum Puri Lukisan, Neka Art Museum, ARMA and Bentara Budaya Bali continued with consistent programmes. The museum exhibitions were mostly dedicated to the Ubud, Batuan, Keliki and Pengosekan traditional Schools of painting, while representing an array of artists in group and solo shows, including Ketut Madra, Wayan Darlun and Made Astawa. Significant developments in the contemporary art infrastructure occurred with the opening of artist-driven initiatives Luden House in Ubud in 2009, Cata Odata Art Space in Ubud in 2014, and Ketemu Project Space in Batubulan in 2015. 

The large white bamboo installation ‘Not For Sale’ set in rice fields north of Ubud by Balinese landowner, social activist, and artists Gede Sayur and friends, quickly became a unique landmark.  Committed to art with a social and environmental conscience, Sayur founded Luden as an art space and gallery. ‘Not For Sale’ evolved in 2010 in response to the alarming rate of Balinese agricultural land being sold for development and grew to become a social movement. Cata Odata focused their cross-disciplinary programmes towards emerging artists from East Java and Bali, while Ketemu’s model has a strong regional focus on programmes including artists and curators. Their July 2016 group exhibition at Sudakara Art Space, Sanur “Merayakan Murni”(Celebrating Murni), a tribute to the iconic Balinese woman artist IGAK Murniasih (1966-2006), was one of the most anticipated events that year. These initiatives provided a much-needed impetus for the art community.

Developments within the traditional art world were the formation of new collectives Baturlangun in Batuan village and the Werdi Jana Kerti Artists Association in Keliki. Strong leadership dedicated to regeneration of the styles has led to exciting new talent emerging from both of these villages in recent years such as Wayan Aris Sarmanta and Wayan Budiarta from Batuan and Putu Kusuma and Putu Adi from Keliki. Baturlangun’s first exhibition at ARMA in 2012 featured works by emerging, established, and senior artists, including women. Since 2006 Larasati Auctioneers has established an international forum for the trade of high-quality Balinese art, providing strong support in developing the market.  Two yearly auctions are held in Ubud, which expanded to three sales in 2019.

‘Kayu’ a new alternative platform for Indonesian and international contemporary art, opened in 2014, at Rumah Topeng Dan Wayang Setia Dharma (House of Masks & Puppets), in Mas, Ubud. Curated by Ubud based Italian artist Marco Cassani, ‘Kayu’ is an exhibition series that is a part of a global initiative by Lucie Fontaine for the exchange of information and knowledge between the global art world.

The opening of Art Bali 2019 “Speculative Memories” was highlighted by a fashion parade by the Fashion Council of Western Australia (FCWA) which annually holds the Perth Fashion Festival (PFF)

One of the most significant inclusions in the infrastructure TiTian Art Space, after three years in Jalan Bisma, this October moved to larger, more accessible premises in Nyuh Kunning, Ubud. An artist incubator nurturing emerging talent to become art entrepreneurs, it was established by the TiTian Bali Foundation and the vision of Balinese art and entrepreneurial expert Soemantri Widagdo.  The annual TiTian Prize, with sections for children and adult, has quickly attracted the island’s finest talent to participate, propelling the winners Nyoman Arisana and Wayan Aris Sarmanta, into the national spotlight. The recent exhibition “Mahardika” 19 October – 1 December featured works by Wayan Sadu, Nyoman Bratayasa and Kadek Kusuma Yasa.

Bali’s rapidly evolving street art movement is transforming the streets of urban and rural Bali. Swiss urban art enthusiast Julien Thorax opened the gallery and art supplies shop in Canggu, ALLCAPS Store, in 2015. A vibrant sub-culture of social media savvy millennials, and national and international street artists now thrive in the Canggu – Berawa Beach area.

An exhibition highlight of 2019 ‘Drawing Bali Today’ 10 October – 10 November at Sika Gallery, Ubud revealed developments within the context of Balinese technical painting by emerging and mid-career artists. Such developments have been a response to the ‘Neo Pitimaha’ art movement, established in 2013 by art provocateurs Gede Mahendra Yasa and Kemal Ezedine, who have been hosting events and exhibitions in Bali and Java from 2016. The movement reinterprets Balinese traditional technical painting from a contemporary art perspective – retaining the principles involved with the techniques and methods.  By opening this to new viewpoints they awakened a new spirit and introduced a fresh model of possibilities into Balinese art. Ezedine has recently been proactive with exhibitions with some of the core members of the movement, while his “Drawing Lab”, continues on with the Neo Pitamaha ideals influencing the mindset of young Balinese painters.

In just as few years CushCush Gallery, a dynamic and highly active multi-disciplinary platform open in July 2016 in Denpasar and founded by Suriawati Qiu and Jindee Chua, has become the most vital addition to the infrastructure, next to TiTian. An art and design hub dedicated to supporting the many local and international creatives and communities in and around the city, the breadth of their annual DenPasar event, which began in 2017, is always fresh and inspiring.

Artists pose with their works during the opening of during the opening of “Art Exhibition by Children Sanggar Bares – There is no Truth only HONESTY” 12 – 31 October 2019 at the Nyana Tilem Museum, in Mas. Image courtesy Soemantri Widagdo

An international standard exhibition space and contemporary art exhibition has finally arrived in Bali. The major drive for both initiatives that opened late 2018, however, comes from Java. ART • BALI, the exhibition this year in its second edition, and the purpose-built AB • BC Building in Nusa Dua, funded by BEKRAF the Agency for Creative Economy Indonesia, are exciting developments of a global art calibre upon the art landscape. 

Heri Pemad Management from Yogyakarta introduced their ‘ArtJog’ model, highlighting Indonesian contemporary artists with invited internationals. The annual ‘Bali Masters’ exhibition was first held in March 2019; its second edition is due early 2020. External direction over locally based management, and Javanese curators, however, may not be the best mode of capitalizing on Bali’s distinct artistic character and presenting it on the international stage. ‘Balinese Masters: Aesthetic DNA Trajectories of Balinese Visual Art’ featured an array of strong work, the show suffered, however, from confusing curatorial objectives, beginning with a puzzling title, and then including too much work without the benefit of a practical chronological order allowing it to be easily read and understood by the audience.

Tony Raka Art Gallery now merges tribal art with the contemporary, along with the ‘Art Lounge’ activated a few years ago. The venue has recently grown to include the ‘Creative Space’, an expansive event facility at the rear of his gallery. Open 2016 Nyaman Gallery in Seminyak has quickly made its mark, while evolving to include workshop facilities. Uma Seminyak, a new display space open 2017 highlights emerging Balinese and Indonesian contemporary artists and designers.  BIASA ArtSpace has revamped its vision with the new BIASACube, an exhibition space within their Kerobokan boutique open early 2018, and another space BIASA Ubud opened late last year, next door to their boutique in Sanggingan. 

Government support for modern and contemporary art is entering a new era. Gurat Art Project, an arm of the research and curatorial initiative Garut Institute, with the aid of the Badung Regency Administration, has been presenting events now since 2017. The 2019 five-year appointment of artist Dr Wayan Kun Adnyana as the Director of the Cultural Office of Provincial Bali has had an immediate impact ‘Bali Megarupa’ (10 October – 10 November) which featured 103 artists exhibiting at ARMA, Museum Puri Lukisan, Neka Art Museum and Bentara Budaya Bali Cultural Center. “Bali Megarupa” will continue annually for five years with the intention of becoming a yearly long-term fixture on the Bali art calendar consolidated by Provincial law.

‘Ancient Memories’ 2019 – Joel Singer, digital montages from an ongoing series by Singer, some of which were on display at the Tony Raka Art Gallery, Mas, Ubud

2019 closed with two more significant additions to the Bali art infrastructure – Ubud Diary a new gallery opened 30 November with a group exhibition of Ubud School paintings and a book launch “Ubud Diary: Celebrating the Ubud School of Painting – the Diversity of the Visual Language”. Ubud Diary’s mission is to create a new awareness to the historically significant, yet declining Ubud School. BATU Art Space, a Space For Contemporary Art Collection and Research at the House of Masks & Puppets in Mas, Ubud opened 7 December highlighted by “Manifesto” an exhibition by leading Australian artist Sally Smart.

This article was first published:

https://www.artandmarket.net/analysis/2019/12/28/bali-art-infrastructure-2019

Words and Images, unless specified: Richard Horstman

Sign: Darma Yuda’s Poignant Hyperrealism investigation into duality

‘Adu Jotos’ 2009 – Anak Agung Gede Darma Yuda, Oil on Canvas, 120x270cm

Art is a personal experience; its impact on every individual is never the same. When I attend an exhibition, I can be driven by my own innate needs – to engage with fresh visual stimulus to satisfy the hunger and to feed the space between my ears. This wanting can sometimes hinder my ability to be objective and to appreciate an artist’s contribution based on his or her experience and skills.

Visiting exhibitions in Bali can often seem like a repetitious experience. When I attend an opening, my intuitive impulse is that much appears familiar, and like I have seen it before. I observe, and ‘recognize’ much of the work, and other than the social interaction of the evening, I can leave feeling mostly uninspired.

‘1 $ 2 Rangdas’ – 2015 Anak Agung Darma Yuda 190×130 cm

It is therefore refreshing to visit an exhibition that has a quality that lingers, and that beckons you to return. Sign a solo exhibition by hyperrealist Balinese painter Anak Agung Gde Darma Yuda which opened on 15 November at the Agung Rai Museum of Art, (ARMA), is one of those rare shows. The show presents, fifteen oil on canvas works ranging from medium to large and imposing in size. Delving into themes of identity, social politics and duality, these are not a hastily produced bunch of pictures, but rather the outcome of Darma Yuda’s dedication spanning ten years.

The Instagram exhibition-marketing image of his painting 1 $ 2 Rangda was alluring – I was compelled to attend. Arriving late on the evening, I ventured into the open ARMA water garden pavilion, feeling tired after a long day, I lounged on a large wooden sofa next to a friend and we engaged in some light banter, while I gazed out upon Darma Yuda’s offerings, positioned on the wall about eight meters away. In nearly an hour and a half, I didn’t move, I sat and observed, others stopped by and said hello.

‘Sign’ by Anak Agung Gede Darma Yuda 15 November – 31 December at ARMA Ubud Bali.

The expansive ARMA pavilion allowed me the complete freedom to indulge without sensing any confining limits of the physical space. My experience of observing and feeling the work was unhindered – my receptive abilities fully enhanced. The varying imagery of Indrya 2009, 130 x 180 cm (3 panels), for example, enabled me to traverse between two aesthetic and cerebral worlds, that of the abstract and the hyperreal.

Darma Yuda’s ‘real’ world delivered confronting content, boarding on the violent. The middle panel depicts a red finger poked in an ear with a blue Indonesian 50,000 Rupiah note piercing the lobe. A hand with full spread fingers conceals an older woman’s red-brownish face on the right panel, the gap between the thumb and forefinger exposes an eye — humanity, and life force are projected out. The left panel features a hand cupping a face, palm positioned on the forehead with fingers pointing down. The lips are coloured crimson blood red. Darma Yuda’s selection of colour is a potent aesthetic tool. In Indrya, contrasting skin tones of beige, red, brown and blue create immediate visual tension while emphasizing an eerie duality. The structural features, such as bones, veins and fingernails define the human vehicle. The hyper-detailed skin textures and the wrinkled outer layer that conceal the body reveal the unsympathetic passage of time. 

‘Indrya’ 2009 – Anak Agung Gde Darma Yuda, Oil on Canvas 130×150 cm (3 panels)

“I’m interested in this realism technique because it is very effective for me to convey my thoughts about things and objects that are very close to my character and daily life,” said Darma Yuda who was born 1977 in Silakarang, Gianyar, and received his art education at the STSI secondary college in Denpasar.

During my observation of Indrya, I find myself oscillating between different mental states. I am sometimes temporarily ‘lost’ in the imagery, my mind quiet in subconscious musing. I might then switch to engage on the conscious level, as I scrutinize the work. Then I go off again, experiencing my thoughts in the deepest levels. When required I find myself flicking into social mode, enjoying light discussion with others. AS the conversation carries on, I might detach myself once again, become introverted and return to the world of art. in experiencing this flurry of emotion, I am reminded of the essential functional value of art — it grants us respite from our busy, sometimes demanding lives, and support us and nourishes in beautiful and unexpected ways. 

“I deliberately create technical optical games within my compositions to encourage observation from afar or near,” the artist said.

Punyaku!!’ 2008 – Anak Agung Gede Darma Yuda 120 x 270 cm

He explained. “Social issues in life arise all the time. Sometimes, however, we only hear from one point of view, giving rise to reactions that are excessive, deviating from the core of the problem. Sometimes we never find the right solution to a problem. As individuals, we have to filter out what is worth listening to, seeing or talking about. This also functions as self-criticism teaching us to be wise in responding to issues. This is what I address in Indrya.”

Darma Yuda’s close-up exploration of the human hand is for a sound reason. The hand holds the power to administer and execute many acts and expressions of our behaviour. Hands are depicted pulling, punching, concealing, threading, embracing, and revealing acts of both kindness and the adverse, throughout his body of work. Hyperrealism was a popular trend within Indonesian contemporary painting about a decade ago. In Bali one could think of the technical mastery of I Gusti Nengah Sura Ardana from Denpasar and his pictures of elderly folk often marginalized within Balinese society. Darma Yuda is also technically proficient, his themes, however, delve much deeper than Sura Ardana’s.

‘Unity’ 2010 – Anak Agung Darma Yuda , Oil on Canvas, 110 x 175cm

1 $ 2 Rangda, 2015, is rendered in dark and gloomy tones. Darma Yuda depicts a grey hand clutching a rolled American dollar note, from both the top and bottom of the bill protrudes the head of the wicked witch Rangda from the mythical Balinese Calonarang tale. Adorning the wrist is a prayer bead bracelet, while the hand is positioned akin to how a Balinese Hindu priest would clutch a ceremonial bell. The small finger detached is pointing up and outward; the tip is coloured red. “In taking a stand, when we are faced with many choices, sometimes when we behave in the grey,” said the artist who has been exhibiting extensively in Bali and Java since 1995. “We need to have a strong and firm attitude to achieve our goals; that’s why I rendered the little finger red.”

Adu Jotos 2009 is possibly Darma’s Yuda’s most potent work. Translating as ‘fistfight’, it describes the collision of two fists thrust from opposing directions, colliding with a red rubber ball. While the smaller fist to the left is coloured white, the larger, to the right is black. The background colour is also red, yet of a darker shade helping to emphasize the enormous impact of the two conflicting forces. The negative shapes of the three focal objects set against the background, come through has distinct visual elements of the picture. It is perfectly balanced composition – less is more. It highlights dualism within the human plight, and this Darma Yuda says, “Is a conflict of passion that never ends.”

‘Dark or Bright’ 2009 – Anak Agung Gede Darma Yuda, Oil on Canvas 104 x 144cm

If you are visiting Ubud, Bali during December Darma Yuda’s Sign is a fascinating, confronting and an eye-catching show, it continues through until 31 December 2019. I returned twice after the opening evening to attempt to satisfy my own curiosity and to see what else I could discover within the paintings and inside myself. 

Back Sign, White Sign, Red Sign’ 2019 – Anak Agung Darma Yuda 90 x 60 cm (3 panels)

Sign – Anak Agung Gede Darma Yuda

15 November – 31 December 2019

ARMA Museum
Jalan Raya Pengosekan Ubud, Bali Indonesia
Phone: (62 361) 976 659

Open 9am – 5pm daily.

Words & Images: Richard Horstman

This article was first published in Plural Art Magazine in Singapore December 2019:

Traditional practices fuse with contemporary ideas in Wayan Arnata’s beautiful fibrous artworks

‘Balance’ 2014 – Wayan Arnata, mixed yarn and acrylic paint.

Balinese artist Wayan Arnata first came to my attention in June 2013 in the landmark exhibition ‘Irony in Paradise’ by the collective Sanggar Dewata Indonesia (SDI) at the Agung Rai Museum of Art (ARMA) in Ubud, Bali.  ‘Nike Barong’ 2013, Arnata’s mixed media reflection upon the changing nature of the Balinese identity depicted the iconic Balinese ceremonial lion character, the Barong, wearing Nike shoes. While the theme of the work was not unusual, it was the 3-dimensional aesthetics along with the work’s technical aspects that caught my eye.

Arnata adopts the practice of Ngodi, a traditional decorative technique using natural fibers applied to Balinese cremation sarcophagi into his compositions applied directly onto conventional canvases along with acrylic paints. While he also creates installations his works include an array of media such as timber, bamboo, wire, styrofoam, grades of yarn (natural and synthetic fibres used for knitting and weaving), stove wick and hessian. Natural fibres have distinct cultural references in Indonesia due to the rich heritage of indigenous textiles throughout the archipelago.

‘Foot Prints’ 2017 – Wayan Arnata 2017 UOB Painting of the Year Indonesia Bronze Award

“My technical approach is influenced by my childhood memories of my grandfather, a sangging, master of the various techniques involved with Balinese traditional ritual and ceremony,” said Arnata who was born in Sukawati, Gianyar in 1973. “I was fascinated by the creative activities my grandfather did as ‘gotong royong’ in service to the community. The finished works were beautiful yet required great patience and skill layering line upon line of fibres into the works.”

In 1995 Arnata began experimenting with an array of fibrous media and from 1993 – 1996 he studied and graduated in Fine Arts at Indonesian Institute of Art (ISI), in Yogyakarta.  Living outside of his village traditions and island home in Yogyakarta introduced him to new cultures and ideas that helped inspire his unorthodox style of artistic expression, which is a meeting of traditional practices with contemporary art ideas. Arnata had previously worked in dynamic palettes of oil and acrylic in the painting genre of abstract expressionism. 

Wayan Arnata

Arnata’s work has evolved since 2013 becoming increasingly visually complex and technically demanding, while involving more in-depth thematic explorations, especially into self-identity. ‘Integrity’ is his first solo exhibition held in 2015 and featured twenty-four creations, including one installation, in a body of work produced over three years. His fascinating array of visual languages combining diverse media revealed his openness to push the potential boundaries of materiality. Some of Arnata’s compositions appeared to swirl and intertwine, expanding outwards in dazzling rhythmic patterns akin to the visual style of traditional Balinese painting.

In Jakarta in October 2017 Arnata’s ‘Foot Prints’, one of more than 500 contemporary artworks submitted in the 2017 UOB Painting of the Year Indonesia competition was endorsed by the Indonesian art establishment. Arnata received one of the highest accolades in the Indonesian art world, the UOB Painting of the Year Indonesia Bronze Award. UOB Indonesia identifies artistic talents and provides them with opportunities to hone their skills and showcase their works to a wider community.  Arnata’s multi-coloured picture features non-descript imagery along with human footprints and is characterized by the horizontal threads of fibre emphasising the passages of time. The varying footprint sizes define the human journey from the child to the adult.

‘White Moneky’ 2019 Wayan Arnata

“The work is themed upon the processes I encounter in life, the process of making the artwork, and the processes within the journey of life. The footprints are symbolic and explain my search for identity,” the artist said and continued. “As a Balinese, there are many processes to be endured within the cycle of life. For example, the traditional Balinese calendar only allows me to work on my art for 15 – 20 days the rest of the month requires me to attend to the customs and traditions at the heart of my culture.”

“I regard the thread as a metaphor for a span of time. It is a line connecting a one period with the next. The philosophy behind my work is the exploration of time and space between tradition and modernity. What I see, do and feel; my day-to-day experiences concerning my social life within traditional society is an ongoing inspiration for my work.”

‘Introspeksi Diri’, 2015 – Wayan Arnata

Arnata is currently working on a body of work that he will exhibit within the next few years. His new compositions, admits the artist, are becoming more expressive and abstraction in style. The new works feature characters and themes related to the Wayang shadow puppet theatre, a philosophical cornerstone of the Balinese Hindu culture. ‘White Monkey’ 2019 is Arnata’s depiction of the Hindu monkey god Hanuman. From within the colourful visual matrix, Hanuman appears with mouth wide-open enormous exposing fangs, his white fur seemingly brushed by the wind. Arnata perfectly emphasizes the dynamic and powerful being one of the central characters of the epic Ramayana.

‘Barong Nike’, 2013 – Wayan Arnata

Follow Wayan Arnata on Instagram:    #studiodelodrurung     @w_arnata

Words: Richard Horstman

Images: Richard Horstman