Monthly Archives: June 2020

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