Tiny eyes peer out from enigmatic, otherworldly creatures. Their contorted bodies, shimmering in colorful metallic hues, endowed with appendages that defy description. Fascinated, yet perplexed, I wonder what I am observing. Are these oddities types of oversized micro-organisms that dwell deep inside of me, or aliens from a distant galaxy?
I first discovered the fantastic paper mâché creations of contemporary Balinese artist Ida Bagus Punia Atmaja in Ubud in 2018. His eye-catching constellation of over one hundred vibrant mysteries suspended from nylon lines resonated with a distinct charm and aura. In its raw simplicity and uniqueness, his display was one of the most captivating and authentic installations I had seen in Bali for quite some time. The experience was calming and nurturing.
Ida Bagus Punia Atmaja: A CoVid-19 Solidarity Exhibition, an online presentation of forty-four artworks, began 28 April and continues through to 28 May 2020. An initiative of TiTian Art Space and the TiTian Bali Foundation, in Nyuh Kuning, Ubud, the E-catalogue of Punia’s works is available for download from the TiTian website.
“The CoVid-19 pandemic presented us with a dire and extreme situation. With the lockdown, the postponement of art and cultural events and the halt of domestic and international tourism the board of Yayasan TiTian Bali (TiTian Bali Foundation) were presented with an enormous challenge. How to remain relevant and make a contribution to the development of Balinese art during this unusual global crisis?” said Rio Riawan, the curator of TiTian Art Space, and the head of Research & Development of Yayasan TiTian Bali.
“Our response was to develop two new digital programs, art news and education for children away from school and staying home during the lockdown, and online exhibitions available to the public through our social media platforms and website,” he stated. “TiTian’s first solo online exhibition is a new format and a fundraiser to help reduce the impact of CoVid-19. 50% of the proceeds will be donated to the people of Bali affected by the island’s economic downturn.”
“In this period of great calamity and uncertainty it is important that artists continue to make valuable contributions to the development of society,” Rio stated, and continued, “Art is a welcome respite from our anxieties and the madness of this world.”
“Punia’s works involve a ritualistic, spiritual approach. He has his own way to talk about Bali, and his works bring positive messages to inspire humanity,” said Rio, “He creates artistic concepts and forms that are new. At the same time, sometimes, he is very critical, humorous, and even magical. In my opinion, this is a significant development in the way of thinking of a Balinese artist.”
“As a child, I loved the mysterious stories my grandmother told me before sleeping at night; I believed they were real. Later, some of these stories secretly came to life through my drawings,” said Ida Bagus Punia Atmaja, who was born in Jembrana, West Bali in 1979 and studied fine art at the Indonesian Art Institute (ISI), Yogyakarta in 1998. “I thought what I liked with regards to creative expressions, others liked also. I discovered, however, that my assumptions were wrong.”
“My ancient satellites to came to me like a vision in a dream while sleeping,” Punia said. “They are the response to my prayers I made in a temple in order to receive divine intervention to help assist my artistic journey and have led me in a new creative direction. They are a representation of taksu (sacred energy).”
“Paper was chosen as the material, despite having no relation to Balinese art traditions, because it was easily processed to form the exact texture what I wanted. How to disguise the impression of paper on the surface of the works is a process that I learned myself,” he said of working with paper mâché.
Ida Bagus Punia Atmaja was raised in an upper-caste Brahmin family, his father and grandfather are pendandas, Balinese high priests. Punia’s artwork is based upon his observations and understanding of the results of living in a traditional culture. He reinterprets this not by following traditions, yet by listening to his inner voice and creating distinct and innovative expressions that present a fresh direction in contemporary Balinese sculpture.
Punia’s collaboration with TiTian Art Space is his second solo exhibition, his first ‘Ekonom, Ekonomi, Ekonomis’ was held at Gedung GM, Jembrana in 2009. He was an invited artist in the most crucial Balinese exhibition of 2016, Merayakan Murni at Sudakara Art Space, Sanur, which celebrated the legacy of the iconic female Balinese artist I GAK Murniaishi (1966-2006). He was also a participant in the group show MAHARDIKA at TiTian Art Space, in October 2019.
The E-catalogue includes the images and details of Punia’s creations; fourteen ‘Extra Small’ works ranging in sizes from about 10 by 10 by 4cm, with a price of IDR 280,000, fourteen ‘Small’ works in sizes from 16 by 15 by 5 cm and are priced at IDR 700,000, five ‘Medium’ sculptures with dimensions ranging from 25 by 20 by 8cm with a price tag of IDR 1,400,000, six ‘Large’ works sized from 25 by 25 by 13cm and priced at IDR 2,800,000 and four ‘Extra-large’ pieces sized from 33 by 51 by 16cm upwards to 55 by 36 by16cm and are priced at IDR 4,200,000.
Ida Bagus Punia Atmaja: A CoVid-19 Solidarity Exhibition
Continues through until 28 May, 2020.
50% of the proceeds donated to the people of Bali affected by Covid19
Words: Richard Horstman
Images: Courtesy of TiTian Art Space