Since November Bali’s southern regions have enjoyed a flow of domestic tourism. The streets of Ubud were transformed during the Christmas holiday period. From zero to something; the much-needed injection of funds into the economy is vital and provides a ray of hope. Let’s trust that 2021 is a brighter year, especially for those whose livelihoods are dependent upon tourism.
The Balinese are strong and resourceful. Enduring Dutch colonialism, the WWII Japanese occupation and the post-1945 national uprising and the political conflicts of the early 1950s. The 1963-64 eruptions of Mt. Agung, then famine, and the 1965-66 massacres. More volcanic blasts through 2017-18 and now the pandemic. Events of the past have offered some valuable lessons. The culture is resilient – the depth and wisdom of its philosophies provide a fascinating understanding of life and the universe.
During 2020 the Bali art scene has witnessed flourishing creativity along with positive infrastructure developments. The pandemic has excellerated the technological revolution and the digital art world increasingly provides opportunities to serve the local, national and international communities. As the market increasingly shifts online direct to the consumer transactions without the middle man appear to be the future of the art world. Many artists have reported good sales during the pandemic.
On a sadder note five highly influential characters within the Bali art scene have passed away during 2020. It is essential to honour these pioneers and their significant contributions. Early January we lost I Wayan Sika (1949-2020). To learn more about the visionary, painter, woodcarver, community leader, art provocateur, gallerist, curator, writer, teacher and mentor read my Jakarta Post tribute to Sika:
The flamboyant American pop artist Symon (1947 – 2020) has an extraordinary life story. He began living in Bali in 1978 and introduced screen printing to the island during the 1980s. Creative in many wonderful ways he was a pioneer in fashion design in Bali. His studio in Ubud, opened in the early 1980s was an iconic art landscape feature. In 2014, he moved to his North Bali studio Art Zoo at Alas Sari which is open to the public today. The following article by Philip Cornwell-Smith pays tribute to Symon:
Canadian expat Ubud resident David Trevelyan (1955-2020) was a pulsating dynamo of creativity. His advertising, education, writing, and art achievements distinguish him as one of the most significant Canadians to reside in Bali. He unexpectedly passed away on July 24, 2020, in Vernon, British Columbia. David connected deeply with people; his passion for life left a lasting impression. A gifted graphic artist, painter, and sculptor, he studied mask making and then excelled. His authentic creations drawing from native Canadian, African and Asian influences made 1990-2000 were exhibited abroad and purchased by collectors worldwide. His masks, sculptures and totems were on the cutting edge of international contemporary art totemic expression.
‘The Monster That Ate Ubud: A Path to Enlightenment for the Serious Dim Bulb’, a riotous and comical insight into the commercial spiritual development of Ubud David co-authored and illustrated with Newmi A. G. Newman IS an underground cult classic! Perhaps David’s most outstanding achievement was Logo/Art Therapy. The unique modality of art therapy he had been fine-tuning since 2016 was the combination and culmination of his creative life experiences. Academically endorsed by the Art Therapy Department of La Salle College Singapore his modality was integrated within La Salle’s curriculum. David facilitated workshops for international students and La Salle’s department head Dr Ron Lay.
The passing of I Wayan Bendi (1950-2020) on July 15 was another enormous loss to the Balinese art community. From an influential family lineage of the renowned Batuan School of Painting, his father, Wayan Taweng (1922-2004) learned directly from one of the original Balinese art innovators, Nyoman Ngendon (1906-1946). In the 1970s the second signature Batuan style evolved, pioneered by Made Budi. The crowded, miniature style fusing Balinese universalism into dynamic and captivating descriptive compositions became internationally renowned. Bendi became the leading practitioner of this extraordinary style.
On the 13 November 2020, I Made Wianta, one of Bali and Indonesia’s pioneering international contemporary artist was overcome by deteriorating health and passed away in Denpasar. A super-human, creative force in a class of his own, highly prolific Wianta’s creativity spanned the genres of drawing, painting, sculpture, installation, performance, poetry. His different periods of expression from1970s – 2000s were remarkable, his ‘Karangasem Period’ arguably the most distinct. To learn more, please read the Jakarta Post article written by journalist and cultural commentator I Wayan Juniarta:
Painting and sculpture originally functioned as sacred offerings from the community to the Balinese ancestors and gods. In recent centuries art began to be separated from the holy and developed into personal and commercial expressions. Daily cultural activities still create a huge demand for sacred art. Human endeavour and creativity transform into a mind-boggling array of fascinating objects. At the beginning of the pandemic, Facebook became the platform for a remarkable aspect of the culture.
Colourful rice effigies appeared on social media. ‘Nasi Wong Wongan’ is a unique ritual offering made to protect the Balinese from natural negative forces and pandemics. Its contents include five different rice colours, with meat onions, ginger, and salt placed on a banana leaf within certain essential conditions. Each aspect of the offering is symbolic. These fascinating figures immediately captured my curiosity, and are yet another significant part of an incredibly creative and vibrant living culture.
Some impressions of the Bali art scene during the initial stages of the pandemic were captured in my article published in Singapore’s Plural Art Magazine:
A recent article highlighted positive developments in the Bali art infrastructure in the Mas area of Ubud, including Black Hand Gang, Bersama Space, Njana Tilem Museum & Titik Dua. The Ubud, Gianyar Regency is coming of age with these inclusions onto the landscape. Please follow the link to learn more:
Other venues on the landscape that attracted large audiences to exhibitions and events are Artotel Sanur, Rurung Gallery in Jimbaran, The Slow in Canggu, in Tabanan The Joshua District and in Uluwatu the recently opened Wishingwell. Arja Warawontu and his art vehicle Spacecraft held events in Denpasar, Sanur, Canggu, Mas and Ubud. Owning a physical space is a non-essential, being mobile and collaborating with the many established and new venues generates opportunities. Kita Art Friends were very active online presenting an of array masks designed by Balinese and Indonesian artists along with organising exhibitions in resorts in southern Bali. But a few of the collectives organising events include Sanggarasi, P.E.S.O.N.A & WILDSKIDS.
The 2020 CushCush Gallery (CCG) DenPasar program was a breakthrough in the Bali art infrastructure development. Since 2017 CCG’s annual event has identified distinct aspects of the local art scene, to emphasis them and create opportunities in how they may evolve. The outcome of their 2019 DenPasar program highlighted the need for more art and cultural writers and professional art management workers in Bali, as well as the importance of archiving the local arts+design scene. Facilitated by respected Balinese and Indonesian writers and art management figures, their series of offline and online writing workshops and art management webinars attracted a lot of attention and laid important ground for the local development of human resources and essential facets of a sustainable art ecosystem.
A contemporary artist must speak out! International Indonesian artist Ari Bayuaji divides his studio time between Bali and Canada. ‘Weaving the Ocean’ Ari’s ongoing social engagement project begun in 2019, its roots are, however deeper and reflect his life-long passion for nature and environment A landmark in Indonesian contemporary art, Ari with the aid of local fisherman collected discarded ropes from the shores and sea and with Sanur families out of work due to the pandemic up-cycled the nylon into beautiful artworks reflecting the colours of nature via traditional Balinese weaving techniques. The following video sponsored by the Indonesian Foreign Affairs Ministry will be sent to Indonesian embassies around the world to be used as promotional media:
Developments in Balinese cultural practices, especially in the tradition of ngulat (weaving techniques) have realized new and exciting potential in the hands of the next generation of Balinese youth. This has been spear-headed by art activist Putu Marmar Herayukti:
The thriving street and urban art movement has been taking large strides during 2020. One work a collaboration between Australian artist Yokii and emerging Balinese talent midas.kid in Umalas caught my eye:
One of the most significant events of 2020 is the culmination of a landmark six year research project ‘I Gusti Deblog: Master Seni Lukis Naturalis Dalam Medan Seni Rupa Denpasar, Bali’ by the Gurat Institute. Helmed by Balinese curator Wayan Seri Parta Yoga, and assisted by a team, including Dewa Gede Purwita and Made Susanta Dwitanaya, the Gurat Institute is an independent institution focusing on research and visual culture development programs. It’s programs seek to recognise and promote historical potential and Balinese cultural values within the context of contemporary culture.
With the support of the Directorate General of Culture, Ministry of Cultural Education of the Republic of Indonesia through the Facilitation Program for the Cultural Sector, the Gurat Institute has traced the life journey of Deblog a pioneering 20th-century Balinese naturalist painter. Combining records from researchers, anthropologists and historians Gurat completed a book, documentary film and virtual exhibition. The book was launched 28 December 2020, while the film is to be released in 2021. This IS the first-ever thorough documentation on a Balinese artist from the perspective of the Balinese.
There are many foreign artists living in, or regularly visiting Bali. They may have very little public exposure to the local art scene because they do not exhibit on the island. Some focus purely on their international markets and target Jakarta and Singapore for regional exposure.
Following on from her success at the Biennale Jogja XV 2019 in Yogyakarta during the the final months of last year Citra Sasmita went on to consolidate her presence upon the regional art stage. Her solo exhibition ‘Ode to the Sun’ in January/February 2020 during Singapore Art Week at Yeo Workshop captured the attention of the large international audience. Citra’s most recent collaboration project is an installation ‘Tales of Nowhere’ for UOB Museum MACAN Children’s Art Space Commission. Citra imagines a kingdom of mythical animals, painted upon an eight-meter-long Kamasan Balinese canvas scroll available to be experienced online through the museum’s digitized content.
Digital Art is another genre that is thriving in Bali especially aided by the rapidly evolving technology. Many young Balinese are excelling within this style, one is Dewa Gede Raka Jana Nuraga (Instagram @rakajana). Having recently opened his digital illustration and design studio in Tampaksiring, Ginayar, Raka Jana has grown his own business while employing staff. Another young artist who has caught my eye is Degeha.
A return to Ubud of the Larasati Bali auctions was a highpoint in the market in December. Two works by iconic Balinese artists, Murni and Ida Bagus Poleng achieving new world record prices:
During the final months of 2020, there was an explosion of art events and activities in Bali. More and more hotels, restaurants and commercial public spaces are welcoming artists to exhibit or commission large-scale murals to decorate, add new life or create a welcoming atmosphere to holiday visitors and the art community. These activities have helped to breath new life into Bali as many look optimistically towards the new year. This is but a few of the exhibitions that opened during December:
‘Mirror Symphony through the Eyes of Wolf a Solo Painting Exhibition by Wolfgang Widmoser’at Galeri Zen1 Tuban opened 12 Dec 2020 and continues through 11 Jan 2021. Austrian painter Widmoser is the most technically advanced painter of the European classical style in Indonesia. He studied in Vienna under Ernst Fuchs from the Vienna School of Fantastic Realism, and also Salvador Dali.
‘Pameran Seni Rupa 12’ at Sika Gallery, Sanggingan, Ubud. 12 December 2020 – 14 January 2021. Twelve emerging, mid-career and senior artists from Bali exhibit works in a group exhibition that marks and welcomes a new era for the renown Sika Gallery. Artists exhibiting Moniarta, Andre Yoga, Wayan Suja, Devy Ferdianto, Agus Sumiantara, Agung ‘Agugn’ Prabowo, Npaaw, Made Djirna, Agus Supatra, Satria Nugraha, Dewa Made Johana & Ida Bagus Putu Purwa provided a strong show. Works by Made Johana, Sumiantara, Nugraha, Djirna and Npaaw are highlights, while the technical brilliance of Ferdianto confirms him as Indonesia’s foremost master printer.
‘Membentang Ruang’ a solo exhibition by the 2019 winner of the TiTian Prize, I Made Surya Subratha exceeded expectations. Open at Kulidan Space from 18 December 2020 until 8 January 2021, prior to the pandemic Surya was living and studying art at ISI Yogyakarta. While his technique and imagery are in development his wall hangings and installations wonderfully reflected his heritage, being strong contemporary representations of Balinese ceremonial clothes used within temples and shrines. Importantly, he responded well to the exhibition space, creating both a fun and engaging experience – his presentation was excellent.
Komaneka Gallery’s art luncheons at Koman’s resorts in Ubud and coastal Gianyar have proved popular with people wishing for a relaxed and fun art experience over a long lunch. Some of the exhibiting artists during these events held in the latter half of the year include Ketut Suwidiarta, Made Palguna, Putu Bonz, Wayan Suja, Wayan Sudarna Putra, Kenyem & Wayan Wirawan. ‘Remembering Made Wianta’ at the gallery of Komaneka, Keramas Beach Resort 20 December 2020 was a special event coinciding with Wianta’s 71st birthday. The invitation only showcase mixed never-before-seen paintings along with Koman’s personal collection paying homage to the great Balinese artist.
‘NUMITIS – FROM SCARCITY TO ABUNDANCE’ opened 23 December 2020 – 24 January 2021 at BijiWorld Jalan Raya Mas. The Bali TiTian Foundation group exhibition features the work of Anduk, Bijal, Made Wahyu Senyadi, Gus Punia, I.B Suryantara, Pimen, Putu Edy Asmara & Rio Saren. Following is the curatorial text written by Soemantri Widagdo:
NUMITIS – the Sanskrit word for renewal or reincarnation is a fitting theme as society faces and recovers from the natural disaster of the worldwide COVID pandemic. 2020 was the year of awakening and clarity…a growing understanding that for humanity to continue, it needs to shift from SCARCITY to ABUNDANCE; from FEAR to TRUST; from TAKING it all, to GIVING it all; from the INSECURITY about what is missing to GRATITUDE for all the BLESSINGS that we often take for granted. Adoption of the abundance principle will allow humanity to reinvent itself, for each of us to transform the world through our fullest potential to love, to share, to collaborate and to bring greater meaning to our short lives in this transitory world. This exhibition is the culmination of the collaborative efforts of the TiTian Bali Foundation, our emerging artists, and Biji World. Let’s begin the new chapter of humanity with the spirit of abundance! Only then may we enter the Golden Age of Humanity.
An exposition by individual artists and group collaborations, Sipp Setiap Saat opened 24 December 2020 at Santrian Gallery, Sanur. Curated by the Gurat Institiute, the exhibition included installations positioned in the grounds of the Griya Santrian Hotel. On the adjacent beachfront more installations fused the space utilized by Nyoman Erawan. His midday beach performance ‘Parisuda Bumi’, punctuating the event’s opening. The inauguration was held on 28 December and the exhibition continues through 25 January 2021.
Over the past few decades Erawan’s performances have helped distinguish him as a contemporary artist in a class of his own. His combination of contemporary expressions responding to the immediate environment along with Balinese ritual infuse his performances with visual and invisible energetic potency- ‘Parisuda Bumi’ did not disappoint.
The Pamarisudha Bumi ritual is conducted yearly in Bali to coincide with Sasih kaenem (the Balinese calendar). It is believed that every sasih kaenem is the beginning of the transition season. This is where disasters begin, such as extreme weather and disease outbreaks against plants, animals and humans. Erawan combined art and local wisdom in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Sipp Setiap Saat exhibition was highlighted by strong graphic art, much of it from students of UNDIKSA University, Singaraja. The diversity of illustrations on the lontar leaves was noteworthy. (lontar scripts are an old Balinese system of recording cultural knowledge from literature to sacred narratives & symbols, recipes, systems of law, etc.)
Family lineage and the passing down through the generations of knowledge and techniques has been an essential part of Balinese art. development. Bayak & Family installation ‘B-Pop Culture & Historic Seneak Peek Family Collaboration 2020’ reinforced the creative potential and potency of art within the collective and how it functions to unite the family, beyond cultural practices serving as a grounding refuge and anti-Covid confusion medicine. The family theme continued with works by father and son duo Nyoman Erawan and Putu Sastra Wibawa. Both have taken Balinese abstract contemporary art upon separate trajectories.
The Kuta Sunrise Art Project 2021 is a unique venture into the public art led by Balinese sculptor Ketut Putra Yasa. Having supported the local art scene over recent years with sponsorship, organization and large-scale projects, Putra Yasa is an active participant behind-the-scenes in the success of the Gurat Institute. Of note is the 2019 Berawa Beach Festival that, along with an array of art and cultural events, featured an enormous bamboo installation of an octopus erected on Berawa Beach.
‘Pandora Paradise’ is a large-scale interactive public art installation made from fibreglass and Perspex situated at Ground Zero at Puputan Square central Depensar. On the evening of 26 December 2020 readings by renowned local poets and a spontaneous performance by Kita Poleng’s Jasmine Okubo captivated a large Sunday audience. The installation is the first in a series which will continue during 2021 and feature works in key central public locations in the capital cities of each of the nine regencies throughout Bali. The project’s objectives are to introduce and educate people to the benefits of public contemporary art and how it serves to encourage opened minded lateral thinking.
Street art in Bali has a distinct history that includes a strong social platform and was pioneered by Komunitas Pojok in Denpasar in 2000. Following on from Pojok came Djamur Komunitas who celebrated their 13th anniversary with the exhibition ‘Pieces for Friends’ which open 27 December 2020. Their annual December event, this year was held at the new Art. J. House in Abiansemal, Badung. The evening’s entertainment featured live music, performances, tattooing, mural painting and an exhibition of contemporary works included emerging Balinese artists Npaaw, Kuncir and Cube.
The 21st-century has been a turning point in modern global development. The associated disruption of unsustainable models confirms that the long await large-scale economic and social change is underway. 2020, however, is the benchmark and is the dawning of a new age of personal and collective transformation. Over 260 million people populate the world’s largest and culturally rich archipelago, Indonesia – more than half are under twenty-five years of age. A new era of youth culture is on the rise and will soon come of age, and Bali is the creative epicentre. During the past century, the Balinese people have graciously welcomed foreigners to their island. A blend of Hindu-Buddhist religious beliefs with old-world animism and ancestor worship, the Balinese culture has proved resilient to both colonialism and globalisation.
Bali has attracted intellectuals, artists, seekers and the curious by the millions. Art and culture were the initial attractions that began the island’s tourism nearly a century ago. The distinctions of Balinese painting and woodcarving proved extremely popular, and these works of art found new homes around the world. More than the idyllic tropical getaway and the distinct culture, ‘The Island of the Gods’ is a nurturing atmosphere for relaxation, creativity and self-transformation that during the post-pandemic era will only become more vital to the international community. At the heart of Bali’s sacred traditions and universal philosophies is a specific process – the eternal cycle of birth, growth, decay and renewal.
Over the past decade, there has been significant expansion within the Bali art and creative infrastructure. Balinese painting has entered a new progressive era, new collectives within the historical schools of painting have helped inspire new generations of emerging talent. The proliferation of artist-driven ventures has helped define contemporary Bali. These new art and creative spaces have complimented the existing infrastructure supporting renewed creative diversification. Cushcush Gallery in Denpasar, TiTian Art Space in Ubud and Allcapsstore in Canggu are just a few of the ventures which have had an enormous impact, introducing new and exciting programs into the Bali scene.
During 2020 new venues have opened strengthening the art infrastructure. New collectives are organizing events showcasing emerging talent that had previously struggled to find physical display venues. This development has enabled new opportunities for experimentation, engagement and collaboration for not only the Balinese traditional and contemporary artists, yet also within the growing multi-cultural national and international artists that visit and reside on the island. The dynamic 21st-century digital creative economy empowers these creatives actors with new and potent vitality.
Bali’s thriving national and international creative community is unifying the islands diverse youth sub-cultures. Guided by a strong sense of personal and collective enquiry, this generation is socially and environmentally aware. This vital and conscious energy has increased the potential for social happenings while enhancing the collective sense of creative urgency. This generation is the avant-garde who are committed to positive change. This rising ‘movement’ along with the burgeoning art and creative infrastructure is the recipe for an extraordinary future.
The Balinese are gifted with exceptionally creative DNA, and globalisation has opened them to vast and exciting new horizons. At the same time, the potential for cross-cultural/global pollination is phenomenal. We are on the cusp of a revolutionary era of opportunity and innovation. The new decade will open a gateway into a new sphere of contemporary art, design and creativity on Bali.
*The Bali art scene is enormous, with many levels, layers and art genres. What I have covered here is just glimpse. Instagram allows access to the many artists and happenings around the island. You can be on the pulse of the art and cultural events schedule by following Instagram: @senidibali & @baliartsroad
Words by Richard Horstman, unless stated otherwise.
Images by Richard Horstman, unless stated otherwise.