Author Archives: Richard Horstman

About Richard Horstman

In 1986, Richard Horstman (b. 1964 Melbourne, Australia) first visited Ubud, and then returned to Indonesia regularly, mainly to Sumatra, pursuing his passion for surfing. Richard’s interest in Asian cultures inspired him to travel throughout South East Asia, (Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar, the Philippines) as well as to Japan, Hong Kong and SW China. In the early 1990’s, he began to paint and make sculptures, and exhibited in local art shows on Phillip Island and sold works in galleries in Melbourne. In 2004 Richard began living permanently in Bali, currently he resides in Ubud. This began his exploration into spirituality, the local culture and the renowned international artists village. He visited the many museums and fine art galleries in the region, regularly attending exhibition openings, and art and cultural programs locally and internationally. Richard’s passion and appreciation for art inspired him to writing articles on art. Richard’s role is as a mediator between the public and the art world, to aid in the communication of art and its understanding by contributing articles to the media and by contributing to art projects and actively communicating with artists, curators, art collectives, art galleries and art spaces, along with art lovers, collectors and the public.

Art in a time of crisis: Indonesian artist Lee Man Fong’s ‘Bali Life’ invites reflection

‘Bali Life”Bali 1974 – Lee Man Fong, Oil on Canvas, 82 x 164cm

We are currently witnessing an escalation of human conflict, corruption, greed, neglect, war and global disasters. Art becomes increasingly vital in this era, when the apocalypse seems to be at our very doorstep.

Art educates and inspires, and prompts our imagination to assess things and circumstances in a new and alternative light. Art can destroy barriers that divide people and can identify serious issues that we must address, both individually and collectively. Art empowers us to see beyond that which may erode our growth and creative core.

Art provides a soothing and welcome respite from our anxieties, and now more than ever, its distinct qualities are valuable to society.

When we engage in art, our attention focuses inward, connecting us to our senses, body, and mind. The creativity and human endeavour within the work – its life force – contains an essence that charges our body, mind and soul, and we become nourished and revitalised. While absorbed within art, the outside world and its demands temporarily fade away.

The works’ energies reach out to us and capture our imagination with forces that are the most potent essences of our universe: creativity and love. Art communicates that there is much more to the world than the physical can provide.

Bali Life is a serene, timeless snapshot of a distinct traditional culture by Chinese-Indonesian artist Lee Man Fong. The painting resonates with the peace and harmony inherent in Balinese society that touches our hearts and souls. Bali Life points to aspects within the Balinese culture that are worthy of reflection, and is more significant now than ever before.

The painting describes humanity’s close relationship with nature and the divine through cooperation and sustainability. A Balinese shrine and the faint, yet powerfully atmospheric rendering in the top left link the visible elements of the picture with the omnipotent, unseen realms of Bali – suggesting that there is another vital force alive in our world.

Man Fong’s alluring composition in delicate tones invites us to imagine ourselves as part of this calming scenario and offers a retreat from our current collective malaise. In doing so it prompts us to reflect upon our lifestyle choices and the shortsighted guiding principles of modern culture.

What is occurring now throughout the world is perhaps a timely, natural recalibration, a way for Mother Nature to command our attention so that we can pause to take an in-depth assessment of our actions and question our individual and collective values. In doing so, we may discover that we have become disconnected from the traditional wisdom and the rhythms of nature – the robust, co-creative systems that have enabled our sustainability.

Solutions may be found, however, among the sacred philosophies of Balinese culture. Tri hita kirana, for example, which translates to “three causes/ways to wellbeing”, refers to the principles of living in harmony with God, with other people and with the natural environment.  

Born in 1913 in Guangzhou, China, Lee Man Fong started supporting his mother and nine siblings when his father died in 1930, producing  advertisements and paintings in Singapore. He moved to Jakarta in 1932, during a period of heightened political tension that stimulated a new direction in nationalism and Indonesian modern art.

In 1946, Man Fong’s solo exhibition came to the attention of Indonesia’s first president, Sukarno, an art lover and collector. In 1949, Man Fong was awarded the Malino scholarship from the Netherlands lieutenant-governor general and studied in Holland for three years.

He went on to hold successful exhibitions in the Netherlands and in Paris, France, and in 1961 was appointed the presidential painter and curator. Bali Life was created in 1974 and has an enduring essence that pulsates almost tangibly from the canvas to the viewer that makes the painting even more relevant today.

Lee Man Fong died on April 3, 1988, his life and his passion for art an inspirational story of triumph over adversity.

“Locked down” on the Paradise island Bali?

Jalan Raya Ubud, the main street of Ubud empty of tourists 10 may 2020. Image Richard Horstman

When the Visa-on-Arrival into Bali was suspended 20 March at Denpasar airport, this confirmed how serious the Indonesian authorities considered the threat of Covid19 to health and safety of the island’s inhabitants. Seemingly, after weeks of speculation, they took severe measures which have destroyed the tourism economy and impacted on the Balinese, Indonesian and expatriate inhabitants totalling around 4 million people. While many world governments were slow to respond, the Balinese authorities too received criticism for their perceived complacency.

The Corona news is confronting. It is meant to be. We live in the digital media age, and the Internet has, for some, become an extension of their nervous systems. Our primary information sources, Google, Facebook and YouTube we relentlessly consume. These surveillance capitalism giants, along with some of their information, however, requires close scrutiny for its validity and questionable intentions.

‘Balinese Street Dancer’ 2020 – by Australian artist and Bali resident Yokii on display at Nyaman Gallery, Seminyak. 180 x 170 cm, Mixed media on canvas. Image Richard Horstman

Living here in ‘paradise’, exposed to news of this global assault, I experienced collective along with my personal fears. Deep inside, however, dwelled another feeling, of peace and stability. I followed the rules set out by the local administration, and subjected myself to self-isolation, to, as so many world leaders said, “save lives”. I read an array reports and articles, and watched many YouTube videos and documentaries on the complex topic. And I pondered. The global economy was plummeting; people worldwide were dying or losing their jobs, and some were fighting in the isles of the supermarkets over toilet paper. Yes, some of the videos I saw and reports I read were fanciful. Others, however, resonated deeply with my intuition.

After a few weeks of hibernation, I made a decision I had to venture out to see the world, beyond going to the shops for food. I first checked with my landlord, the word from the authorities was, “lebih bagus kalo…”, best if you, for example, stay at home. But there were no orders to do so.  The Balinese of course had to go to the markets, temples, agricultural fields and care for their families. The schools have been closed for more than a month.

‘Catatan Sejarah’ 2020 Wayan Bawa Antara, 70cm x70cm, acrylic on canvas. Image W. Bawa Antara

I travelled on my motorbike to the mountains and the sea. I was lucky to enjoy the ocean at Sanur before the beaches were totally closed to public 3 May. At Kuta and Seminyak the beaches have been off-limits all April, and there have been reports of arrests of disobedient foreigners. I made sure when in public places to wear a mask and to respect social distancing. Many Balinese, however, were not “locked down”, were neither wearing masks or social distancing. I also started visiting a few friends to learn of their take on this extreme human experience.

Social media was abuzz with the “lockdown” output of the Balinese, Indonesian and local ex-pat artists. It appeared as if the Balinese were enjoying this ‘isolation’, the tourist market, however, has gone. While some are smartphone savvy and are selling their work through Instagram, this is a minority. Few Balinese appeared to be making art of note. Made Aji Aswino not at the AB BC Building in Nusa Dua organising the next ‘Bali Masters’ exhibition made breakthroughs with his ‘ego’ sketches, while senior icon Nyoman Erawan posted a superb digital work. The majority of the works of masked faces or spikey green viruses were far from impressive or inspiring. A painting by Wayan Bawa Antara of a Balinese high priest in seeming passive confrontation with a devilish red virus, however, did catch my eye.

Gunung Agung Meletus Kecil’ 2008 – Gusti Agung Wiranata, 80 x 60 cm, Oil on canvas. Image Gusti Agung Wiranata

Gusti Agung Wiranata, the Ubud School traditional painter of stunning landscapes, the style pioneered by the famous German Ubud ex-pat Walter Spies (1895-1942), began his Facebook ‘Gallery art Home’ posting three works a day for five consecutive days from 28 April. “Don’t let the corona shock get the best of you, enjoy the art at home”, his post read, and continues, “On the last day of the event, we’ll be handing over the baton to 1-5 other artists to take on the challenge!”  #GalleryartHome

I learned the ARMA museum in Ubud was open. I visited and was delighted to find the charismatic founder Agung Rai watering the garden with a pair of secateurs in his hand. Balinese artist Wayan Donal and Japanese artist Kamon Komatsu were, meanwhile, working on beautiful compositions. I was curious to hear of Pak Agung’s opinion of the catastrophe which had reduced tourism numbers to zero, and of course, the possible impact upon Balinese art.

‘Ego Sketch’ 5 May 2020 – Made Aji Aswino Digital image created on IPad. Image courtesy Made Aswino Aji

“The Balinese are resilient. We have endured many ups and downs. The art and the artists themselves, never-the-less continue. Art is life to the Balinese, and their creative practices are cohesive and in harmony with nature. In Bali, there is an endless source of inspiration.” Pak Agung said, and stated, “Its circumstances like these when the most innovative artists make real breakthroughs.”

A few ex-pat artists report that they are still receiving commissions. Well-known English painter of bamboo, shimmering landscapes and trees, Neal Adams in Ubud said, “During this period of uncertainty, it is not easy to be positive or focused. I have, however, found that continuing with my work regardless, has paid off.  I have received some new sales over the internet from clients stating that even though times are hard, they can still bless each other with respect and support.” Adams noted, “It’s important now for artists to be realistic with their prices.”

‘Jati’ 2020 – Neal Adams, mixed media on canvas 140 x 100 cm. Image Richard Horstman

“Of course, Covid19 has impacted upon my activity and career,” said leading Balinese female artist Ni Nyoman Sani. My exhibitions are rescheduled, and the opening dates are unknown. My focus has been on how to create while having more time at home, connecting deeply with my inner self. I have returned to painting still life compositions of fruit upon dark backgrounds. This time and space have forced me to concentrate and to be more patient.” The works are symbolic, Sani said. “The dark background represents this current gloomy period. To survive, we must stay at home, be patient, consume healthy foods, and pray.”

The pandemic has stalled and halted exhibitions and programs throughout Bali. How will the Bali art infrastructure endure this crisis, continue to grow and make a positive impact?  All of the fine art galleries and art spaces are closed, some are open by appointment. All museums are closed, except for ARMA.  An online presence will play an essential role in keeping their artists and brands in the public’s eye.

‘Rajah Wong-wongan Penolak Bala COVID-19’ 2020 – Nyoman Erawan, 29cm x 21cm, Ink on paper. Image Nyoman Erawan

Rio Riawan, the curator of TiTian Art Space, Ubud and the head of R&D of Yayasan TiTian Bali, has spearheaded two new online programs, a children’s newsletter and an exhibition. “In the newsletters we feature world-class artists Picasso and Balinese modernist, I Gusti Nyoman Lempad, to inspire children’s creativity while being at home,” Rio said. “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 to be donated to marginalized people of Bali.” ‘Ida Bagus Punia Atmaja: A CoVid-19 Solidarity Exhibition’ presents dynamic paper-mâché alien forms inspired by Punia’s divine visions.

The Tony Raka Art Gallery, in Ubud began an artist in residency program in January 2020 with leading Indonesian female contemporary artist Arahmaiani. Since the “lockdown” they have continued with the residency. “The gallery will provide the space for various post-pandemic community activities, presentations, discussions, workshops, exhibitions and performances, for BERSAMA, Arahmaiani’s interdisciplinary art project,” said Tony Raka. “Involving Balinese contemporary and traditional artists and local environmental and socio-cultural activists interacting with the public, BERSAMA, which has evolved over two years, seeks to discover alternative and creative solutions especially to the environmental problems we are facing.”

‘Satelit purba / Ancient satellite’, # 41 2013 – Ida Bagus Punia Atmaja, Mixed Media, 33x51x16cm. Image courtesy TiTian Art Space

“We’re lucky to have clients who have previously visited our gallery, liked something and have purchased artworks online after the shutdown took place,” said Melvine Amar, French curator and founder of Nyaman Gallery, a vibrant creative space in Seminyak. “It’s a shame to see the gallery without people enjoying our artist’s beautiful works. Art needs to be experienced in person, but we understand we have to protect our community.”

“Our artists are hard at work with ongoing projects, continuing to bring art to the world in other ways. The hardest part is not being able to support our artists as much as before, but our team are positive, working hard, and constantly coming up with new ways to enhance our website and social media presence.”

‘My Banana’ 2020 – Ni Nyoman Sani, Oil on canvas, 40 x 50 cm. Image courtesy Nyoman Sani

Bali street art maverick and owner of ALLCAPS store and gallery in Canggu Julien Thorax reports that the Bali street art community celebrated via Instagram an event for Earth Day 2020, 22 April. “The global – paint at home – mural festival featured 800 artists from 60 countries and received enormous international attention helping raise awareness of the importance of Earth Day 2020. Our contribution to the happening, curated by SeawAlls, featured eight local artists painting murals themed around the day on walls at ALLCAPS.”

Visiting the once pulsating tourist mecca of Ubud now a surreal experience, with nearly shops, restaurants, bars and hotels closed. The streets are quiet, and at night the hub is a ghost town. There is, however, a large expatriate community in the area keeping some businesses open, and importantly providing work for the Balinese.  Many public campaigns have begun on the island, some initiated by foreigners, to raise money to provide necessities to the marginalized. The local authorities are doing their best to enforce all to wear face mask to help prevent the spread of the virus, while the international media, along with many pundits, speculate about herd immunity on Bali. Why has the island of the Gods seemingly had so few people being affected by Covid19? Perhaps it is because of the local and global impact of Balinese prayers and ceremonies?

Information stating people must wear face masks in the village of Lodtunduh, Ubud. Image Richard Horstman

Let’s remain positive during this extraordinary period, be creative and dream big dreams. Please believe in a brighter outcome than what many politicians are preaching, and be prepared to do what we can to help our fellow man.

This article was published earlier in 2020 on http://www.pluralartmag.com

Words: Richard Horstman

TiTian Art Foundation online exhibition supports Balinese marginalised by Covid19

‘Satelit purba / Ancient satellite’, # 41 2013 – Ida Bagus Punia Atmaja, Mixed Media, 33x51x16cm.

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.

‘Satelit purba / Ancient satellite #44’, 2013 – Ida Bagus Punia Atmaja, Mixed Media, 55x35x16 cm

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.

Detail of ‘Satelit purba / Ancient satellite #42’, 2013 – Ida Bagus Punia Atmaja, Mixed Media.

“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.”

‘Satelit purba / Ancient satellite #16’, 2013 – Ida Bagus Punia Atmaja, Mixed Media, 28x23x7.5 cm.

“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).”

Ida Gus Punia Atmaja and his creations, 2013 Image courtesy Ida Bagus Punia Atmaja

“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.

‘Satelit purba / Ancient satellite’ #42, 2013 – Ida Bagus Punia Atmaja, Mixed Media, 35x57x23cm.

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

www.titianartspace.com

instagram.com/titianartspace/

@titianartspace

https://www.facebook.com/TiTianArtSpace/

Words: Richard Horstman

Images: Courtesy of TiTian Art Space

Indonesian mental health activist & artist Hana Madness talks about her COVID-19 lockdown experience

‘Beautiful Kaos’ 2018 – Hana Madness

The Indonesian government’s reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic during recent months has determined the lives of millions of people. City dwellers throughout the country, and especially in Jakarta are experiencing enforced lockdowns and isolation. “Stay at home and save lives” has become the mantra that many have adopted. 

Meanwhile, in the international media, the restrictions are being questioned. Medical experts are publicly stating that the actions, along with the continual wearing of face masks, impact negatively upon people’s physical and mental well-being. On 18 May, an American county court judge in Oregon declared the states stay-at-home orders unconstitutional.

‘Siko Family’ – Hana Madness

Loneliness and isolation are a constant for those suffering from mental disabilities, and the strict lockdown measures only impound upon this situation. Many other people, too, are being mentally challenged during the pandemic which has forced the community to readdress the issue of mental health – highly stigmatized within Indonesian society.  Hana Madness, a Jakarta-based mental health activist and contemporary artist speaks to the Jakarta Post about her experience.

“As someone living with mental disabilities, extraordinary times like now are even harder for me. Many of my projects, such as discussions, seminars, and exhibitions are being postponed,” said Hana who was diagnosed with Bipolar type 1 disorder in 2013. “Seeing so much negative news on the mainstream media of social isolation, fear of contagion, and the loss of family members has compounded the distress caused by my loss of income and employment. Many things aggravate the condition of someone who is vulnerable and can reduce their creativity.”

Hana Madness at work in her apartment in Jakarta during the lockdown

“Initially I felt inferior because I saw lot of my artist friends on social media that were able to maintain their productivity. But I realized I am different and know exactly what my capabilities are and convinced myself that it is okay to keep going slowly. I know I’m not alone – the whole world is feeling this.”

In response to her situation Hana, who was one of ten women voted by Herworld Magazine as ‘Women of the Year, 2019’ for their various roles and achievements, stated, “I have focused more on restoring my condition by continuing my healthy diet, maintaining good communication with friends and family, and filtering all the information I receive, and not swallowing it raw.”

‘Mural Senci’ 2019 – Hana Madness

Painting has played a defining role in Hana’s life during the past decade, helping her to cope with her situation, which impacted dramatically upon her home and school environments. Immediately eye-catching, her vibrant pictures feature an array of playful characters that address the audience directly. “I love playing with colour and different expressions, transforming my doodles into meaningful works that represent strong human characteristics. Talking about mental health is not always about sadness or something scary,” Hana said. “Bright, and even funny, my characters are spontaneous interpretations of all of my feelings and the different emotional waves within me.”

Born in 1992 in an economically marginalized area of Jakarta, raised in a religious family, Hana remembers a childhood with few opportunities, frequent adverse events, and of loneliness. During her Junior High School years with difficulties socializing and sleeping her psychotic symptoms, including depression, hallucinations, extreme mood swings and self-harm, increased, eventually leading to suicide attempts.

‘In a good mood’ 2017 – Hana Madness

“My turning point came in 2012,” Hana said. “After another traumatic relapse. I said to myself, “OK, I give up, God has created me differently.” I had to make peace with myself, even though I knew it was so hard. Thus, began my process of self-acceptance.” Hana began to experience a turn-around in her fortunes. Later that year she gave her first speech during a seminar about mental health, ‘DISABILITY, ART THERAPIES, AND THE STREET ART CONNECTION’. A prominent Indonesian newspaper interviewed her, the story receiving national exposure. Hana and her family, however, were embarrassed at first, believing it was taboo to share such information.

“Slowly, we realized that sharing my struggles and experience was positive as it made a huge impact on other people who are still struggling with their mental health conditions. Not only for the survivors but also their families and caregivers as well. This positivity inspired me to continue my activism,” Hana stated.  “I am proud and empowered because I can share and voice concerns about mental health issues using art as a weapon. This issue is no longer about me as this also represents many others out there who still struggle and are unable to voice themselves in the private and public spheres.”

‘Flower’ 2019 – Hana Madness

During the past five years Hana has be exhibiting extensively and contributed to various projects raising awareness to mental health issues. 2019 was a busy year, some of her shows include ‘Exaggerate Everything Exhibition’ November 2019 – February 2020 at BACKLIT Gallery, Nottingham, UK, ‘Take Over St Helens Festival’ December 2019, St Helen’s UK, and her solo exhibition ‘Suddenly Monster’ December 7, 2019 at Ganara x Artsphere, Senayan, Jakarta.

As an activist, she has given lectures and participated in events in Jakarta, Bali and the UK. Hana has made over 20 national and international TV appearances, including panel discussions, along with lecturing at Indonesian universities, including International Youth Day Celebration 2014 Seminar ‘Mental Health Matters’ at Mercubuana University, Jakarta.

‘Welcome to my universe’ 2019 – Hana Madness

“There is nothing wrong with people with mental health disabilities. What is wrong is how society reacts to and treat us, and this often makes the situation worse. I believe, with proper treatments, people’s destructive behaviour can be minimized, their life expectancy increased, and they can go on to make valuable contributions to society.”

As a modality of self-healing and a potent distraction from lockdown boredom art-making is accessible to young and old alike – there are no rules  – it’s limited only by the imagination.  “I believe that art can be an alternative way to recover our mental states in difficult times. It can produce creativity in responding to various pressures,” Hana adds.  “Everyone in society responds differently in difficult situations like today. Keeping the lines of communication open is essential. Taking care of myself, friends and family along with art-making helps me deal with stress. Assisting others to cope with their stress makes our community much stronger.”

‘They found us in peace’ 2019 – Hana Madness

Instagram: @hanamadness

Website: https://hanamadness.art/

Words: Richard Horstman

Images courtesy: Hana Madness

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

‘White Monkey’ 2019 – Wayan Arnata

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.

‘Barong Nike’ 2013 – Wayan Arnata

“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. 

‘Sang Pemburu’ 2019 – 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.

‘Footprints’ 2017 – 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’ 2016 – 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.

‘Bali Modre’ – Wayan Arnata
Media Exploration Yarn on Wood 2020 – Wayan Arnata
Pengikuti Setia’ 2019 – Wayan Arnata

Follow Wayan Arnata on Instagram:    #studiodelodrurung     @w_arnata

Words: Richard Horstman

Images: Richard Horstman & Wayan Arnata

Previewing Larasati’s February 2020 ‘Traditional, Modern & Contemporary Art’ Auction in Ubud, Bali

‘Bali, Desa Sorga’ 1969 – Ida Bagus Made Nadera

Larasati Auctioneers of Jakarta in 2020 conduct their fourteenth consecutive year of presenting high-quality Balinese art for sale to the international market through its Ubud auctions. The upcoming 8 February sale ‘Traditional, Modern and Contemporary Art’ at the Larasati Art Space at Tebesaya Gallery features eighty-one lots in an array of painting styles. Good buys are available for collectors with small to large budgets, the sale will attract the attention of connoisseurs of Balinese painting, along with intermediate and beginner collectors. For those able to make purchases near or below the estimated prices, excellent value buying opportunities are available.

Genres for sale are the miniature Keliki style, Indo-European paintings, Batuan and Ubud schools, paintings inspired by the influential foreigners on Bali Rudolf Bonnet (1895-1978) and Walter Spies (1895-1942), modern and contemporary paintings and works by noted 20th – century pioneers of Balinese painting.  Sought names include Willem Gerard Hofker, Rudolf Bonnet, Rusli, Arie Smit, Antonio Blanco, Ida Bagus Made Poleng, Ida Bagus Made Togog, Ida Bagus Made Nadera, Dewa Putu Mokoh, Nyoman Gunarsa, Wayan Djudjul, Nyoman Kayun, Dede Edi Supria and Agung Mangu Putra. Open to the public, viewing begins Thursday 6th February from 11 am.

‘Cili – cili’ 1977 – Nyoman Meja

Wayan Diana (b. 1977 Batuan) comes from a distinct lineage of the renowned Batuan School of Painting, his father Wayan Tewang (1922 – 2004) was a student of the innovator/entrepreneur Nyoman Ngendon (1906 – 1946). Lot 749 Cerita Trantri, 2016 is an unusual, yet a beautiful, visually rhythmic picture of an old folk tale depicting a cow herder and his cattle and comes with an estimated price of between IDR 7 – 9 million. The Last Supper, 2019 by Diana’s older brother Ketut Sadia (b.1966 Batuan), Lot 748, is an exciting adaptation of the Christian religious narrative featuring Balinese Hindu characters and has an estimated price of between IDR 7 – 9 million.

Three paintings available, Lots 777, 778 & 779 are by the most highly prized artist of the historic Ubud School of Painting, Ida Bagus Made Poleng (1915 – 1999 Tebesaya). Lot 779 is one of two paintings of particular interest to the connoisseurs of Balinese painting. Harvesting by Ida Bagus Made Poleng (1915 – 1999 Tebesaya, Ubud) is a 77 by 62 cm acrylic on canvas picture of a rice harvest that has an estimated price of between IDR 600 – 800 million. Lot 774 Mengarak Bade bythe highly respected painter from the Brahmin family of Batuan, Ida Bagus Made Togog (1913 – 1989) is a glorious, pulsating 81 by 130 cm acrylic on canvas depiction of a royal funeral parade that comes with an estimated value of between IDR 250 – 350 million.

‘Wajah-wajah’ 2001 Agung Mangu Putra

For buyers with a mid-range budget of between IDR 10 – 100 million wishing to build upon the collection, the following works may be of interest. Lot 732 Memetik Bunga by renowned woman painter Ni Gusti Agung Galuh (b.1968 Denpasar) is beautiful late afternoon 80 by 60 cm acrylic on canvas landscape depiction featuring a lady picking flowers that has an estimated value of between IDR 40 – 50 million. The flamboyant Spanish-Filipino maestro Antonio Blanco (1911-1999) moved to Bali and married the Balinese dancer Ni Ronji in 1953 and became a popular figure in Ubud when it was still a sleepy artists village. Lot 717 Fantasy with gong: Ode to Michael Jackson by Blanco comes with provenance from a private collector in the UK and is a 99 by 58 cm (including frame) mixed media on paper work, attached with artist’s label of authenticity and description about the painting on the back that has an estimated price of between IDR 75 – 95 million.

‘Harvesting’ – Ida Bagus Made Poleng

Other good values buys available, especially if purchased within the estimates are, the beautiful Lot 707 Pementasan Calonarang by Ida Bagus Made Togog depicting the iconic Barong  Rangda confrontation in the Calonarang performance which has an estimated price of between IDR 18 – 25 million. Nyoman Meja (b. 1950 Taman, Ubud) is a highly respected practitioner of the Ubud School of Painting. Lot 709 Cili-cili 1977, is an exceptionally detailed 98 by 40 cm acrylic on canvas picture of the ceremonial goddess constructed from old Chinese coins, kepeng that comes with an estimated value of IDR 20 – 30 million.

Explicit depictions of sexual encounters are never deemed offensive or to be pornographic by the Balinese. On the other hand, they help explain about the nature of life and male and female interaction, Lot 770, Kamasutra 1989 by Wayan Rajin (1945 – 2001 Batuan) is explicit yet humorous 38 by 38 cm ink on paper drawing with an estimated value of between IDR 17 – 25 million. The distinct paintings of iconic Balinese female artist I GAK Murniasih (1966 – 2006) continually again national and international popularity, tow of these are available, Musim Semi 2003, and Kasih Sayang 2003, both have estimated values of between IDR 80 – 110 million.

‘Musim Semi’ – I Gusti Ayu Kadek Murniasih (Murni)

Potential buyers bidding over the phone, absentee bidders or real-time Internet bidders who are unable to attend the previews days or auction are advised to contact Larasati and enquire about the colour reproduction accuracy of the images contained within the online catalogue to ensure that what they wish to purchase can be realistically appraised.  The absence of reference to the condition of a lot in the catalogue description does not imply that the lot is free from faults or imperfections, therefore condition reports of the works, outlining the paintings current state and whether it has repairs or over painting, are available upon request.

Provenance, the historical data of the works previous owner/s is also important and is provided. An information guide including before the auction, during the auction and after the auction details, including conditions of business, the bidding process, payment, storage and insurance, and shipping of the work is also available. A buyer’s premium is payable by the buyer of each lot at rate of 22% of the hammer price of the lot.

Open to the public at the Larasati Art Space, Tebesaya Gallery the auction starts at 2:30 pm Saturday 8 February. The online catalogue, complete with a guide for prospective buyers is available at: www.larasati.com

‘Kamasutra’ 1989 – Wayan Rajin

Viewing:
6 February 11 am – 7.30 pm
7 February 11 am – 7.30 pm
8 February 11 am – 2 pm

Auction:

8 February 2:30 pm

Larasati Bali Art Space
at Tebesaya Gallery
Jl. Jatayu, Banjar Tebesaya
Peliatan, Ubud, Gianyar
Bali 80571, Indonesia

www.larasati.com

Words: Richard Horstman

Images: Courtesy of Larasati

‘Fantasy with gong/ Ode to Michael Jackson’ – Antonio Blanco

‘The Last Supper’ 2019 – Ketut Sadia

‘Scene from Ramayana’ – Dewa Nyoman Leper

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.

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“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