Monthly Archives: January 2016

The Art of Drawing


Drawing is the basic fundamental of Balinese traditional painting.

From the flat two-dimensional Classical Wayang works derived from the East Javanese Majapahit Hindu Empire (1300-1850), to Balinese modern traditional art – the three-dimensional narratives that evolved in the 1930’s and  became internationally renown. Pencil and ink drawings upon paper, cloth or canvas shape visual elements into readable images allowing communication between the artist and observer.

Not only essential in traditional art making, yet also in the process of translating esoteric knowledge into practical use, rerajahan are an example of how sacred drawings are perfectly woven into everyday Balinese life. Sketches depicting calendar symbols, alchemic practices, medicinal remedies, sacred buildings, gods and demons – rerajahan help in the completion of describing the universal Balinese Hindu philosophy and man’s relationship to it.


Balinese Lontar

Of rerajahans many uses one is of protection, and in order to fulfill that function rerajahan are invested with energy and made on an auspicious day with specific offerings by a qualified practitioner. After the drawing process is finished they are endowed with magical power by the use of a sacred mantra.

Balinese sacred manuscripts, known as Lontar are also another cultural icon. Made from processed palm leaves, the lontars contain text and images and are inscribed with a special iron tool – pengerupak. The subjects that are dealt with in the lontar cover a variety of aspects of human life, such as history and genealogy, religion from the holy books, astrology and astronomy, homeopathy and healing, performing arts knowledge, epics and stories, and illustrations from the Wayang shadow puppet theater.

Garuda.LoisBatesonCollection.125Gusti Nyoman Lempad  –  “Garuda”  Lois Bateson Collection

Gusti Nyoman Lempad (1862-1978) is considered the first modern Balinese artist. Prior to the 1920’s Lempad was a renowned traditional architect – udagi, he was a skilled draftsman prior to adapting his sketching to art. He was a master sculptor of temple statues, masks, a maker of wayang puppets, and an expert in the making of cremation towers, sarcophagi and nagas. Post 1920’s, during Balinese art’s most revolutionary period (1930-1945), Lempad began drawing and became famous for his line drawings that were a futuristic adaptation of figures from the Wayang Kulit and  local myths.

Not only was Lempad responsible for a new style of Balinese art aesthetics which featured elongated and distorted figures in the later past of his life, he adopted a sense of space into his compositions that was new and invigorating. He carefully utilized empty areas of white paper in his works that emphasized the brilliance of his figurative line drawings, while the balance of composition then became essential. It was Lempad’s natural imaginative and innovative ability in expressing old stories anew, along with the strength of his flowing, pure and defined lines that was fresh and new and revolutionized Balinese art.

Gusti Nyoman Lempad, "Bagawan Darswami" Trantri Scene, Ink on paper, circa 1950s.Gusti Nyoman Lempad  –  “Bhagawan Darswami” Circa 1950’s

Cartoons first began to appear in numbers in 1920’s in Bali’s literary publications. In recent decades they have played a pivotal role in shaping the Balinese people’s opinion and position on various developments on their island, as seen on mass in local newspapers and magazines. The cartoon has become an integral and prominent part of the visual language of contemporary Bali as a method of communicating about culture, as well as for social and political satire. Despite being an increasingly valuable mode of social commentary cartoons are yet to be fully appreciated by the Indonesian collectors of fine art.

Amongst an enormous pool of talent two cartoonists have forged names for themselves both locally and overseas, Jango Paramartha and Putu Ebo, via their Bog-Bog Magazine.  Popular with locals and foreigners, it features satirical takes on the Balinese culture and of course, humorous slants on tourists.


Bog Bog Magazine

Wayan Sadha (1949-2014) is one Balinese cartoonist, however whose work has placed him in a class of his own. Made popular during the 1990’s with his stint in the Bali Post newspaper’s English Corner, followed by regular contributions to magazines Sadha’s narratives expose the plight of the poor in this increasingly marginalized society. A bedroom scene depicts an unsatisfied woman complaining to her lover about his lack of virility, while through a hole in the wall an onlooker sniggers and on the floor a dog chews on discarded underwear.   Sadha’s works accentuate the mundane while revealing the other side of Balinese kampung (village) life. They are rich in detail, often vulgar, yet always speak of the truth.


Cartoon by Wayan Sadha


One of Indonesia’s finest realism painter’s Chusin Setiadikara (b. 1949 Bandung West Java) resides in Denpasar. His study of two children Boys, 2013 exhibited in May 2013 at the National Gallery of Jakarta is noteworthy for his use of the cross hatching sketching technique, a method rarely utilized by artists, to define his subjects.    Acute sensitivity and precision is revealed – the subtle lines in charcoal that build the subject’s form are patterned in beautiful symmetrical harmony.

Chusin, amongst others, honors the art of drawing and strives to explore its greater potential.

"Boys" Chusin Setiadikara, Drawing with charcoal and acrylic on canvas, 2013, 200x250cm

“Boys” – Chusin Setiadikara

“My Name is Wayang”

"Dewa Amral" Lugi Lugiono 2011“Dewa Amral”  2011  –  Lugi Lugiono

One of the most endearing features of Javanese culture is the Wayang Kulit shadow puppet theatre. My first experience of a performance was filled with awe and delight, and to this today I remain fascinated by this art form.

A cast of curious mythical characters: gods and demons, kings and soldiers, villains and heroes come to life behind a large white screen, the shadows figures the focus of our attention. Accompanied by a traditional ensemble, the dalang, or puppeteer is the master of ceremonies and the manipulator of the figures and creator of their voices. The characters bring to life ancient tales from the sacred Hindu +Buddhist texts, along with localized stories, old and new. The drama, tragedy, humour and suspense keep audiences entertained for hours on end.

“As a child I was obsessed with the Wayang Kulit,” says Javanese painter Lugiono. “I watched the performances day and night. I recalled many times when I struggled to keep me eyes open, then I fell asleep, only to wake later and continuing watching.” Born in Yogyakarta, the cultural capital of Java in 1953, three years after the formation of the Republic of Indonesia, and before television access for the masses, “Wayang performances along with comics, were central to children’s visual world, especially mine,” Lugiono adds.

"Dewi Sri" Lugi Lugiono, Wood Cut print on Paper 1985“Dewi Sri” 1985 Wood Cut Print on Paper  –  Lugi Lugiono

A highly responsive form of social commentary and criticism, emphasizing local issues of both interest and concern the Wayang theatre’s origins come from India and China. Absorbing various religious and socio political influences in the narratives and forms the Wayang has been evolving in Indonesia since India’s initial presence about 2000 years ago. Long before the Wayang Kulit shadow puppet theatre, however, Wayang Berber, in which the narratives were painted on long scrolls and then slowly rolled out in front of the audience, was predominant.

“My Name is Wayang” brings together two Javanese artists, Lugi Lugiono and Bambang Adi Pramono in an exhibition of paintings and sculpture at Rumah Topeng dan Wayang Setiadarma in Mas, Ubud, open from 19 December 2015 – 15 January 2016. Setiadarma boasts an extraordinary collection of wayang puppets and traditional masks housed in beautiful Javanese traditional teak wood buildings, and the exhibition pavilion at Setiadarma is the perfect venue to display this body of work. The colour and warmth of the raw timber grain walls, ceilings and floor, along with the architectural aesthetics compliment and highlight the works; the visitor is granted an authentic Javanese cultural experience.

"Harjuna Mencari Cinta" Bambang Adi Promono“Harjuna Mencari Cinta” 2015 Mixed Media  –  Bambang Adi Promono

Featuring over seventy works, paintings in mixed media and oil upon canvas and carpet surfaces, hard board and wood cut graphic prints, along with sculptures in mixed media, artificial marble, aluminium and wood; colour and form come to life via the creative prowess of the two artists who where once class mates studying fine art in Yogyakarta. Lugiono studied at the High School of Fine Arts (SSRI) Yogyakarta 1971-74 and then at the Institute of Fine Arts (STSRI-ASRI) Yogakarta, 1974-1976. He currently lives and works in Bekasi, Jakarta. At the age of 22 his talent was already apparent, being awarded the “Affandi Prize” for visual art at ASRI Yogyakarta in 1975, while recently, 2007, the winner of the Asian Fellowship at the 14th Annual Freeman Foundation, VSC, Johnson, USA. In 2013 Lugiono was selected in Indonesia’s largest art prize, the UOB Painting of the Year in Jakarta.

Adi Pramono (b. 1955, Sidoarjo, East Java) on the other hand lives and works in Bali. A well known, and award-winning sculptor, he studied at STSRI-ASRI Yogyakarta in 1976 while also giving lectures on sculptor from 1983-90 at the Indonesian Institute of Art ISI Yogyakarta. Nowadays he regularly teaches sculpture classes in various mediums to local and foreign students at his Kayu Gallery Studio 15 minutes south of Ubud, Bali.

"Dewi Sembadra Menanti Cinta" Bambang Adi Pramono 2015“Dewi Sembadra Menanti Cinta” 2015 Mixed Media – Bambang Adi Promono

Despite numerous works by Adi Pramono, made over recent years, make no reference to the exhibition’s theme, what they do reveal is the artist’s array of expressive styles employing multiple forms of media. “Balance” 2015 is an aesthetically beautiful and flowing abstract form forged from local Suwar wood. Wood grain rhythms compliment curving forms while revealing the artists eye for harmony. Adi Promono’s approach to many of the Wayang characters he recreates is to gift them with modern stylized sensibilities. “Harjuna Mencari Cinta” is defined by its striking pointed nose, as is “Dewi Sembadra Menanti Cinta” yet the form is complimented with a golden face, vibrant red lips and glowing white breasts.

Lugiono retrospective exhibition includes paintings dating from1983 and hard board cuts printed on canvas going back to 1975. A gifted colourist, his works are his ability to construct equally as powerful compositions. The enormous 180 x 270 cm oil on canvas painting “Semar Onthok-Onthok” 2015, centrally positioned on the wall at the rear of the pavilion is the highlight of the show. Dynamic colours bring to life a milieu of forms and scenery that flow and intertwine together creating a vibrant composition in which Semar, regarded by some as the most sacred figure in the Wayang set, is the central character.

"The Legend" Lugi Lugiono, 2009“The Legend” 2009 Oil on Canvas  –  Lugi Lugiono

Petruk is one of the four Punokawan (clowns), together with Semar (the leader/father figure), Bagong, and Gareng. They are portrayed living together as a harmonious family within the Wayang andprovide comic relief, but also serve to speak to the audience and convey ideas of the dalang, including social criticism. “The Legend” 2009, features Petruk, complete with a Spiderman costume flying over central Jakarta restoring a sense of national pride to Java’s mega city.

Not only is the artist adept at constructing large and complex compositions with ease, he is also a brilliant colourist. In “Wuku Kulawu Bathara Sadana” 2007, Lugiono strips the composition down to its core structural elements to highlight figure and form, yet it is his choice of vibrant colour that speaks volumes.   Again colour is the feature in “Wuku Kuruwelut” 2013, contrasting black and gold against one another, along with measured areas of white, creating an aesthetically pleasing and powerful work. Lugiono’s array of graphic art on display again reveals his immense skill. Be it in adopting geometrical shapes to create compositions of perfect balance such as “Kinari-Kinari” 1981, or simply in the power of juxtaposing black against white backgrounds in order highlight the strength of his compositions.

Lugi Lugiono "Semar Onthok Onthok" 180x270cm, 2015“Semar Onthok Onthok” 2015 Mixed Media  –  Lugi Lugiono

On display are also a number of Lugiono’s landscape works that feature compositions of beautiful flowers and trees. These are some of the more commercial works he creates to sustain his life as an artist, yet his passion is creating his beloved Wayang characters.

“My Name is Wayang” is both a heart warming and entertaining exhibition, revealing the talent of two fine arts while highlighting a medium that has become the essence of Javanese culture, within its great tradition of story telling and literature.

"Dewa Ruci" Lugi Lugiono 2011“Dewa Ruci”  2011  –  Lugi Lugiono

"Balance" Bambang Adi Pramono

“Balance”  –  Bambang Adi Promono

Lugi Lugiono "Anngret Hutan" 2000“Anggret Hutan”  2000  –  Lugio Lugiono

DSCF4336“Nyanyian Pagi” 1981 Wood Cut Print on Paper  –  Lugi Lugiono







The Power of Art

Made Wianta, 2008, 'Happineess sashes' oil on canvas, 300x450cm Made Wianta – “Happiness Sashes”

What is it about art that gives it a unique and enduring quality that at times we can undeniably feel?

Works of art from days long gone, such as the ancient Australian aboriginal rock paintings or the genius of the great Renaissance painters, to the recent modern and contemporary masterpieces, all have a capacity to enthrall researchers, critics and the masses alike.

Somehow works of art appear as fresh and vital now as in the era, or very day they were created. Throughout history few creative disciplines have captured the imagination and hearts of the people as has the fine arts.

Agung Mangu Putra, 2010, 'ibu Pertiwi', oil on canvas, 180x160cm copyAgung Mangu Putra – “Ibu Pertiwi” (Mother Earth)

Why is this so?

The best artists have a sensitivity that is in harmony with the creative order of the universe.  Theirs is a very personal and intimate world in which they have the courage to follow their inner voice that guides, and sets them free.  Artists are channels for unseen powers that manifest physical form.  It is this invisible energy that they transfer onto their canvas or into their mediums of choice.   This, along with the skills and concentration required to complete their work not only fascinates us yet has an enormous impact on our conscious and subconscious minds.

Why do we become so captivated by art?

When we engage in art our attention focuses inward and the outside world and its requirements temporarily fade away and have to wait.  While we are in the process of investigation the works’ energies reach out to us and capture our imagination with a unique life of its own.

'Silence' - Ari Bayuaji, 2014 - Image A. BayuajiAri Bayuaji – “Silence”

The creativity, concentration and human endeavor within the artwork – the life force – contains an essence that charges our body, mind and soul, and we become nourished and revitalized.  This life force is of the most potent essence of our universe – that of imagination and love. It communicates that there is much more to the world than the physical can provide.

Art is derived from a pure and magical inner space that puts into motion our energies and ideas.  This is an incredible authentic force that has the potential to create something new.  And in the act of creation, for example, applying paint onto canvas, the medium, as well as the facilitator, are changed forever.

Art is a metaphor for life. We live in a powerful world in which each and every moment offers as an opportunity to be creative. Creativity represents the very nature of life itself, while art making responds to a part of the infinite self that we have yet to explore.  Rejoicing in the resilience of the human spirit, art is a celebration of life.

'Introspeksi Diri', Wayan Arnata, Mixed Media, Variable Dimensions, 2015. Image courtesy Arnata.Wayan Arnata – “Introspeksi Diri” (Self Introspection)

In this modern era when we are a witness to the escalating global environmental vandalism, corruption, greed, human neglect and war, art becomes increasingly essential.   It empowers us to see beyond that which may erode our positive growth and creative core.  Art contains an eternal beauty that heals and inspires, and shines a light on what is truly of importance to us.

Filippo Sciascia 'Crown Size" 145 x 130 cm Oil And Gesso On Canvas 2014. Image courtsey of the artist.Filippo Sciascia  –  “Crown Size”