Category Archives: Indonesian Art History

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Putu Adi – emerging Balinese talent from the village of Keliki

'Gempa Bumi' 2015 Putu Adi Acrylic & ink on Paper, 33 x 18.5 cm Image Richard Horstman.    ‘Gempa Bumi’ 2015  –  Putu Adi Acrylic & ink on Paper, 33 x 18.5 cm 

 

Bali is a dynamic, ever-changing environment where the past and present intersect, and the East and West collide. Art and cultural expressions, the foundations of the island’s first tourism boom 1930 -1942, continue to evolve. Over recent decades however, they have played a secondary, minor role to resort and lifestyle tourism. 

Balinese painting traditions never remains static. The Classical religious paintings with origins dating back to the 13-16th century East Javanese Majapahit Empire, even today, undergo subtle changes as the artists add their specific developments within the strict framework of the two-dimensional narrative works. A new era of creativity is currently sweeping the island, and the millennials are contributing to the development of traditional village styles, or ‘schools’ of painting, namely Batuan and Keliki. These artists reinterpret the popular Balinese narratives and iconography with exciting new flair – a new renaissance in Balinese painting is underway.

One of the catalysts of this new creativity is the vision of the senior artists of the schools who have initiated new art collectives. The Baturulangun Artists Association established in Batuan in 2012 and the Werdi Jana Kerti Artists Association of the Keliki Kawan in 2011 – regeneration and style preservation is at the core of their missions. The recent achievements of emerging Batuan painters have received much attention, especially I Wayan Aris Sarmanta recipient of the 2018 TiTian Prize, awarded for innovative Balinese artistic talent. The regeneration of the Keliki School of Miniature Painting is also making headway.

The Chronology of Balinese Painting

The imagery of the Classical Balinese paintings first expanded into Bali late in the 13th century. During the 16th – 20th centuries the village of Kamasan, Klungkung, East Bali became the epicentre of the Classical style that flourished throughout the island with the royal family patrons and the key supporters. The 20th – century chronology of Balinese painting reveals innovations in the 1920s and the establishment of village styles in Batuan, Ubud and Sanur, occurring almost concurrently.

The Batuan and Ubud styles developed from specific influences, (most famous was the introduction of western painting techniques by Rudolf Bonnet (1895-1978) and Walter Spies (1895 – 1942) to the painters in Ubud and the birth of the Ubud School. The Batuan painters adopted a more sophisticated version of the traditional painting techniques into their works that feature depictions of local philosophies and narratives, often dark and frightening scenarios. The Batuan, Ubud and Sanur genres evolved quickly. They benefitted from new foreign patrons and the development of a new market for Balinese paintings and woodcarvings due to tourism. The Pita Maha Artists Association established in Ubud in 1936 oversaw the development of the village styles presenting the best works to the market along with organising exhibitions in Java and Europe.

After WWII and the dramatic decline in tourism, the art market diminished, and painters had to return to the agrarian economy to maintain sustainable incomes. Nonetheless, painting innovations occurred in Batuan with the second signature ‘crowded miniature’ style developing. The Pengosekan School was established, continuing the conventional Ubud style yet introducing their distinctive colour schemes and an array of art innovators evolved within the school. In the mid-1960s, the Young Artist’s Style developed in Penestanan through the teaching influences upon young local children by the Dutch colourist painter Arie Smit (1916-2016).

'Kang Cing Wi' 2016 Putu Adi 29 x 46 cm, Chinese ink and acrylic paint on paper. Image Richard Horstman‘Kang Cing Wi’ 2016 – Putu Adi Chinese ink and acrylic paint on paper, 29 x 46 cm

The 1970s was the next progressive era of Balinese painting, a period that also witnessed the second wave of international tourism that had a significant positive impact on the economy and the market for paintings and woodcarvings. The new stylistic developments were the Keliki Miniature School of Painting early in the decade and in 1977 the Pengosekan Flora and Fauna style evolved from the Dewa Batuan Community of Painters and Dewa Putu Sena and then later Ketut Ridi both excelled in this style.

The Keliki School of Miniature Painting

Keliki paintings depict on paper a plethora of imagery from romantic interpretations of the daily life activities in the island’s rural villages, to the beauty of the island’s flora and fauna, as well as Hindu myths and local folklore. The maximum size of the works is confined to 30 cm by 50 cm, yet some of the most refined works are captured within the size of 8cm by 8cm. Rich in gradation and extremely detailed, their incredible intricacy, sophistication and beauty are astounding. The style demands powerful and prolonged attention span and high levels of concentration from the artists.

The genre began in the early 1970s in the Keliki Kawan village, 25 minutes north of Ubud, with two artists I Ketut Sana (b.1952), and I Made Astawa (b.1953). Both were students of the grandson of Bali’s most well known modern artist I Gusti Nyoman Lempad (c1865-1978), while also learning from a master of another respected genre, Wayan Rajin of the Batuan School. Inspired by Lempad’s line techniques, the famous Ubud School of Painting and the crowded Batuan ‘signature’ style, Sana and Astawa reduced their compositions in size, and the Keliki School of Miniature Painting was born. Since 2013 the Werdi Jana Kerti Artist’s Association has exhibited annually at Ubud’s historic Museum Puri Lukisan allowing the emerging and senior artists to showcase their work. The community has over 75 members aged from 15-78 years, including women, while one-third of the artists are under 30 years of age.

The Balinese art of creating miniature pictures has a long history, being passed down over generations and dating back to the 9th century. The tiny images originate from the decorated manuscripts, processed on dried leaves and known as the lontars. Skilled artisans used a sharp writing instrument to score text and drawings, cultural information, upon pages measuring 30cm wide by 5cm high. Still in use today, the books reveal knowledge about holy scriptures, prominent rituals, family lineages, laws, medicine, arts, architecture, calendars, literature, and even the rules for cock-fighting.

I Putu Adi

'Kesenagan Ku Derita Ku' 2019 (My Pleasure is my Pain) 2019 - Putu Adi 66 x 46 cm. Image Richard Horstman‘Kesenagan Ku Derita Ku’ 2019 (My Pleasure is my Pain) 2019 – Putu Adi 66 x 46 cm. 

Twenty-one years old Putu Adi, (b. 1998, Keliki Kawan) represents the emerging talent who are competent in the Keliki techniques in a tradition where the master pupil relationship, often father and son/s, plays an essential role. The young artists reinterpret popular Balinese narratives, daily experiences and the island’s spirituality in exciting new ways introducing contemporary iconography along and dynamic colouration. Themes also address critical contemporary issues such as environmental degradation, rampant tourism development, corruption and greed.

Working in Chinese ink and acrylic paint, Adi learns from his father I Made Sutama (b.1977). “Adi is still young and needs time to discover his artistic voice,” said the highly regarded Sutama who is a self-taught artist. “It is important that he experiments with ideas and continues learning, even explore the style in a larger format.” Sutama, on the other hand, has matured and works according to principles and personal philosophies.  “My compositions reflect my spiritual life journey,” Sutama adds. “The Balinese calendar reveals auspicious days to begin and to work on paintings, while I practice certain rituals before starting compositions, and working each day.” Ni Wayan Telage, Adi’s mother, is also an accomplished painter, along with his cousin I Putu Kusuma, another emerging artist, who also lives in the same traditional family compound.

Adi’s themes range from the mythological to the personal, in layered works that mix traditional iconography with the contemporary while highlighting the dualistic nature of life. His colour varies from black ink to combinations of dazzling acrylic hues. ‘Gempa Bumi’ 2015, or Earth Quake is an acrylic on paper, 33 cm by 18.5 cm picture. The central character, large and rotund is the mythological demon Kala who sits upon Empas the turtle that carries the world on his back. Kala’s hair becomes the intricately entwined root system of a tree at the top of the composition in which sits the Hindu god Vishu, guarding the earth. At the bottom people are depicted in chaos falling from the earth.  “The giant upon Empas’ back symbolizes the strong foundation of the earth,” Adi states. “These foundations have begun collapsing, however due to humanity’s inability to protect the universe, and thereby earning the wrath of the gods – earthquakes and disasters.”

'Teknologi Penemuam Yang Membunuh' 2018 Putu Adi, Acrylic and ink on paper, 33 x 25.5 cm Image Richard Horstman‘Teknologi Penemuam Yang Membunuh’ 2018 – Putu Adi, Acrylic and ink on paper, 33 x 25.5 cm 

In ‘Teknologi Penemuam Yang Membunuh’ 2018, or ‘Technological Inventions that Kill’ Adi reveals his concern about modern technology and the threat it poses to his culture. “Everyone wants an easy and carefree life, and there are many modern inventions to facilitate human work – robots can replace people,” Adi explains. “I depict an array of people and creatures riding exhaust pipes symbolizing noise and pollution; some have light bulbs upon their heads, suggesting ideas and innovation.” Two god-like figures, part robotic, chant mantras of materialism into the ears of the central character, a rat in a crown dressed in a suit representing human greed. “The two gods symbolize ancestral traditions that have begun to disappear over time. “Mechanically beasts and demons are revealed throughout the setting, and chaos engulfs the earth.”

Adi’s most recent painting ‘Kesenagan Ku Derita Ku’, or ‘My Pleasure is my Pain’ is a vibrantly colourful 66 cm by 46 cm composition, larger than the conventional framework.  Depicting a fantastic scenario of youthful fantasies, both sexual and otherwise, the central figure, part human part robot, is a decrepit character overcome by the weight of materialistic ideals. Adi’s picture about duality, warning of the pitfalls of human greed has been entered in the 2020 TiTian Prize to be announced in Ubud in early February next year.

Does Balinese painting have a place in the 21st century society?

The new generation of Balinese painters remains faithful to their traditions and cultural philosophies and continue today, along with their seniors to create the Classical paintings for the Balinese ceremonies and rituals. They have now, however a greater awareness than their forefathers to the current challenges facing Bali and the global community. This awareness is transferred into their new paintings that indeed contemporary, with a fresh appeal to both young and old. The 21st – century digital global creative economy allows these works to reach broader international audiences.

The key fundamental is the narrative aspect of these works that are also at the core of the sacred Classical style. The Classical aesthetic language plays a vital role within Balinese society as a story-telling modality with high moral standards that function to encourage peace and harmony within the community. The virtues of the Classical paintings, the positive contributions to humanity and philosophical content have, unfortunately, gone unrecognized for many years within the context of world art.

Balinese paintings are a unique gift to the global society, they teach us good values and give insights into the dualistic nature of life and the divine order of the universe. They offer many ethical and philosophical lessons that can help to redirect society’s moral standards. I Putu Adi, along with his forefathers, remind us that humanity’s path forward requires us to adopt valuable time-honoured wisdom from the past.

 

 

 

Words & Images: Richard Horstman

 

Larasati October 2019 auction report – Balinese art market analysis

Lot # 739 “Berjamur Pakian” 2001 Dewa Putu Mokoh (1934 – 2010 Pengosekan) Acrylic on Canvas, 80 x 60 cm.

The market for Balinese paintings, often labelled ‘traditional’, is a small niche sector in comparison to the broader Indonesian modern and contemporary art market. While Indonesian collectors dominate it there is an upward trend of foreign buyers entering the market that is currently showing signs of growth.

In 2006 Larasati Auctioneers of Jakarta opened up an international forum for the trade of high- quality Balinese art. They began by presenting two auctions per year in Ubud specializing in Balinese paintings and have and helped revived a declining market. Works by some of the masters of the famous Pita Maha Artists Association established in Ubud in 1936; Ida Bagus Made Poleng, Gusti Nyoman Lempad, Anak Agung Gede Sobrat, Ida Bagus Made Nadera and Gusti Ketut Kobot are especially popular with collectors.

Balinese painting has many genres, beginning with the ancient, sacred narrative Classical style displayed in the temples and the houses of the aristocracy. These works are also referred to as Wayang paintings, their iconography and narratives being derived from the Wayang Kulit shadow puppet theatre. They came to be known as Kamasan paintings, from the village in Klungkung, East Bali that was the epicentre of Balinese art, 16th – 20th century.

Other genres evolved in the period 1920 – 1980 from the Classical style. The Batuan paintings developed its distinct visual features and techniques outside of the modern western influences accredited to Walter Spies (1895 – 1942) and Rudolf Bonnet (1895 – 1978) who were instrumental in the birth of the renowned Ubud School of Painting in the late 1920s. Other village styles, or schools developed, Sanur, Pengosekan, Young Artists, and Keliki, along with the woodcarvings from the village of Mas. The golden years of Balinese painting were 1930 – 1945, pre-WWII during an era that witnessed technical and stylistic innovations along with the first tourism boom on Bali. The second wave of tourism began in the 1970s, and the popularity of Balinese painting increased, especially after 1980 aligned with the national government’s policy of cultural tourism.

The critical reasons leading to Balinese art being underappreciated and undervalued has been due to its perception. It is often maligned and referred to as ‘tourist’ and folk art – a craft without a rightful place within Indonesian art history. Yet, on the contrary, some of the finest practitioners of Balinese painting, past and present, are from the Balinese high castes.  Ida Bagus Made Poleng (1915 – 1999) for example, is considered the most influential artist from the 20th – century, and is from the Brahmin high caste. While the most cherished living painter is Anak Agung Gede Anom Sukawati (b. 1966) who is also from the upper caste. Therefore, it is not an art form exclusive to ordinary people.

Balinese art was collected by the Dutch during the colonial occupation (1840 – 1950) and exhibited in anthropological museums of the Netherlands. It was not presented in the renowned art museums of Europe that would have endorsed the relevance and value of Balinese painting within the context of world art. It was, however, displayed within the anthropological museums with demeaning colonial narratives, referred to as art made by the primitive people of Bali.

The above mentioned scenario, however, has recently undergone significant change, and two of institutions with the most important collections of Balinese art have been rebranded – renamed Museums of World Culture (the Volkenkunde Leiden Museum, Lieden, the Netherlands and the World Museum Vienna, Weltmuseum Wien, Austria).  The Volkenkunde Leiden Museum recently began repurchasing Balinese paintings, six works by emerging Batuan artists Wayan Aris Sarmanta and Wayan Budiarta, and exhibited them in a ground breaking exhibition of art and culture “Welcome to Paradise” open May 2019. Importantly, from now on these institutions will present Balinese art free from the old narratives giving special curatorial attention to its significance. These factors will impact positively upon its perception and appreciation internationally, and importantly within Indonesia.

For the first time in its thirteen-year history, Larasati conducted their third auction in Ubud within the year. The recent Modern, Traditional and Contemporary Art Auction was held 12 October at the Larasati Art Space, Tebesaya Gallery, Ubud, Bali.  The painting featured on the cover of the Larasati catalogue incited the most enthusiastic bidding of the day. Lot 792, “Pandwa dalam Pengasingan” (Pandawa in Exile) 1969, by Ida Bagus Rai (1933 – 2007) realised IDR 160 million (hammer prices are quoted without buyers premium) dramatically increasing more than 500% from its estimated price of between IDR 25 – 30 million.  Another strong result was Lot 717 by Wayan Djudjul (1942 – 2008), “Suasana Pasar” (Market Atmosphere) with an estimated price of between IDR 28 – 38 million that sold for IDR 76 million, an increase of around 100%. A work by of one of the distinct innovators within the Ubud School, Dewa Putu Mokoh (1934 – 2010), Lot 739 “Jemur Pakian” (Drying Clothes) 2001 that had an estimated price of between IDR 15 – 18 million sold for IDR 22 million.

The sale, despite 30% of the lots being unsold, revealed the continuing demand for the signature works by the established masters of the Ubud School of Painting, with all significant works selling during the auction.  For example there were four paintings, Lot # 780 – 783 by Anak Agung Gede Raka Puja (1936 – 2016) in the sale. The two works in his older style of daily life village scenarios did not sell, while Lot # 782 & 783, “Mendirikan Menara Bade” (Erecting the Cremation Tower), highlighted on the back cover of the Larasati catalogue, and “Melasti Ke Sakenan”(Melasti Precession to Sakenen) both were sold at just under their estimated values of IDR 130 million and IDR 75 million, respectively.

Two paintings by Wayan Kayun (b. 1954) were offered, yet only Lot # 777, in the artist’s signature culturally themed style “Persiapan Ngaben” (Preparation for a Cremation) was purchased, hammered down at IDR 110 million. Works by the recently deceased master of the Batuan miniature style Ketut Murtika (1952 – 2019) Lot # 785 “Perang Tanding Arjuna Melawan Karna”( Arjuna’s Fight Against Karna) and Lot # 786 “Ramayana Scene”, both mythological narratives, were purchased within their estimated values, for IDR 15 million and IDR 18 million respectively.

Noteworthy factors are impacting on the recent development of Balinese art, a new foundation, and art collectives. TiTian Bali Art Foundation opened in Ubud in 2016 and is an artist incubator specializing in identifying, and nurturing emerging talent and introducing the best artists to the market. Exciting young talent is appearing in the village of Batuan, such as the fore mentioned Sarmanta and Budiarta, along with Pande I Made Dwi Artha and Gede Widyantara, and from Keliki village artists such as Putu Kusuma and Putu Adi. These genres are in exciting new eras of development, driven by well-organized art collectives, Baturlangun in Batuan and the Werdi Jana Kerti Artists Association in Keliki.

The Larasati auctions offer opportunities to purchase Balinese paintings much cheaper than from artist’s studios and galleries, along with many entry points into the market for first-time buyers and those beginners developing their collection on smaller budgets with as little as IDR 1 million. Larasati’s website provides sale data from past auctions, information, and access to online live bidding. The Balinese market is undervalued with strong potential and opportunities available to collectors with a long term view willing to buy and hold for at least 10 -15 years to wait for the market to mature for profit-making.

This article was previous published on Art&Market.Net

https://www.artandmarket.net/analysis/2019/12/28/bali-art-infrastructure-2019

Words: Richard Horstman

Images Courtesy of Larasati Auctioneers

Previewing Larasati’s Upcoming 12 October 2019 Bali Sale

Lot # 791 "Bayu Satu Duta" Tjokorda Oka Gambir (1902 - 1975 Peliatan) Natural pigments on cloth, 162.5 x 150 cm. Image courtesy of Larasati AuctioneersLot # 791 ‘Bayu Satu Duta’ – Tjokorda Oka Gambir (1902 – 1975 Peliatan) Natural pigments on cloth, 162.5 x 150 cm

 

For the first time in its thirteen-year history, Larasati Auctioneers will conduct their third art auction in Ubud within the year. This is a positive sign indicating a growing market for Balinese art. “After being stagnant for some time, the market for Balinese art is beginning to show real signs of buoyancy. As a result, we have managed to secure a couple of significant properties from various art collectors. By holding this additional sale in Bali, we hope to amplify the current upward thrust for Balinese art,” said Daniel Komala, CEO of Larasati Auctioneers.

Ninety-two lots of fine art, works by renowned Balinese and foreign artists, including some of the masters of the historical Ubud School of Painting, will go under the hammer in the Modern, Traditional and Contemporary Art Auction 12 October from 2:30 pm, at the Larasati Art Space, Tebesaya Gallery, Ubud.

Lot #792 "Pandawa dalam Pengasian" Ida Bagus Rai (1933 - 2007 Padang Tegal, Ubud) Acrylic on Canvas, 165 x 110 cm. Image Courtesy of Larasati AuctioneersLot #792 ‘Pandawa dalam Pengasian’  – Ida Bagus Rai (1933 – 2007 Padang Tegal, Ubud) Acrylic on Canvas, 165 x 110 cm

 

Some of the art genres for sale include Balinese contemporary paintings, modern Indonesian paintings, works from the Batuan School of Painting, the colourful Young Artist style, photographs and one woodcarving. Larasati has secured works from prominent private collectors, one group of paintings will capture the attention of connoisseurs of Balinese art. The Ubud sale has artworks that will interest beginners buying for the first time, with limited budgets, intermediate collectors and the aficionados. There are groupings of paintings offered inspired by the influential foreigners on Bali, Walter Spies (1895 – 1942) Rudolf Bonnet (1895 – 1978) and Arie Smit (1916 – 2016).

German amateur photographer Gregor Krauser (1883-1960), a physician and anthropologist released the groundbreaking book Bali to European audiences in 1920. His photographs had a massive impact upon intellectuals disillusioned by the direction of western culture post WWI. Lot 715 & 716, both titled Bali Nude 1920, by Krauser, sized 17 x 25 cm and printed on sheetfed gravure have estimated prices of between Rp 2 – 3 million which offer excellent opportunities for buyers wishing to enter the market.

Lot 720 "Iringan Melasti" Made Sukadana. Image coutesy of Larasati AuctioneersLot # 720 ‘Iringan Melasti’  – Made Sukadana, Acrylic on Canvas 120 x 120 cm

 

Other works that offer good value if purchased within, or under their estimated prices for beginners are Lot 702 Lotus Pond a watercolour on paper by Paul Nagano, a long-time visitor to Bali, with an estimated price of between Rp. 5 – 7 million. Two works in the Young Artist style, Lot 768 Upacara Ngaben by Wayan Pugur which has an estimated worth of between Rp. 7 – 9million, Lot 772, by Nyoman Takja, Kehidupan Bali has an estimated price of between Rp. 5 – 7 million, and Lot 749, Bali Life by Ketut Kicen which comes an estimated price of between Rp. 6 – 11 million.

Good purchases for intermediate buyers wishing to grow their collection and with larger budgets include Lot 739, Jemur Pakian by Dewa Putu Mokoh (1934 – 2010) with an estimated value of between Rp. 15 – 17 million, a rare woodcarving by Wayan Gerudug (1905 – 1989), Lot 743 Ni Kesuna di Hutan (Dari cerita Ni Bawang dan Ni Kesuna) which comes with an estimated price of between Rp. 20 – 30 million, a distinct composition of glowing red sunset hues, Nelayan di Pantai, Lot 747 by Made Rasna which has an estimated price of between Rp. 20 – 30 million and Lot 767 Pura Dewi Sri by the founder of the Young Artists style Arie Smit, that comes with an estimated price of between Rp. 30 – 40 million.

Lot # 717 "Suasana Pasar" Wayan Djudjul (1942 - 2008 Ubud) Acrylic on Canvas, 85 x 55cm. Image Courtesy of Larasati Auctioneers.Lot # 717 ‘Suasana Pasar’ –  Wayan Djudjul (1942 – 2008 Ubud) Acrylic on Canvas, 85 x 55cm

 

The recent passing of Batuan painter Ketut Murtika (1952-2019) brings to the close the life and career of an extraordinary talent of the Batuan miniature format of painting and his two mythological themed works offer excellent buying for intermediate collectors. Lot 785 Perang Tanding Arjuna Melawan Kama has an estimated price of between Rp.15 – 18 million, and Lot 786 Ramayana Scene comes with an estimated value of between Rp.18 – 22 million.

Connoisseurs will be interested on the following Lot 791 Bayu Satu Duta by Tjokorda Oka Gambira (1902-1975) who was the senior teacher from the sangging (collective of skilled artists who made sacred traditional artworks and objects) of the Peliatan royal palace. The wayang style painting has an estimated value of between Rp. 48 – 58 million, and offers a rare opportunity to collect a picture by the influential princely artist.

Lot # 739 "Berjamur Pakian" 2001 Dewa Putu Mokoh (1934 - 2010 Pengosekan) Acrylic on Canvas, 80 x 60 cm. Image Courtesy of Larasati AuctioneersLot # 739 ‘Berjamur Pakian’ – 2001 Dewa Putu Mokoh (1934 – 2010 Pengosekan) Acrylic on Canvas, 80 x 60 cm

 

Ketut Budiana (b. 1959 Padang Tegal, Ubud) is recognized as one of the maestros of Balinese painting; the multi-talented creative is responsible for inventing his signature style within the conventions of the Ubud School of Painting. His visual language depicts the universe consistently in a state of transition featuring an array of characters from the divine to the demonic. Lot 784 Mythical Scene has an estimated price of between Rp. 80 – 110 million.

Two rare and delightful paintings are Lot 720 Iringan Melasti by Made Sukadana (1962-2004) that comes with an estimated price of between Rp. 55 – 65 million, and the beautiful colour composition of a mythological scene, Lot 792 Pandawa Dalam Pengasingan by Ida Bagus Rai (1933-2007 Ubud) that has an estimated value of between Rp. 25 – 35 million.

Lot # 782 "Mendirikan Menara Bade" 1983 Anak Agung Gede Raka Pudja (1932 - 2016, Padang Tegal, Ubud), Acrylic on Canvas, 114 - 79 cm. Image Courtesy of Larasati AuctioneersLot # 782 ‘Mendirikan Menara Bade’ 1983 –  Anak Agung Gede Raka Pudja (1932 – 2016, Padang Tegal, Ubud), Acrylic on Canvas, 114 – 79 cm

 

Four paintings on offer by Anak Agung Gede Raka Pudja (1932 – 2016 Padang Tegal, Ubud) from the Ubud School of Painting will also attract the attention of the connoisseurs. Lot 782 Mendirikan Menara Bade 1983, a detailed and visually potent description of the erection of Balinese traditional cremation tower comes with an estimated price of between Rp.150 – 200 million, and Lot 783 Melasti ke Sakenan,  a dynamic composition depicting an ocean side religious procession comes with an estimated value of between Rp. 90 – 120 million. Lot 780 & 781 paintings of subdued colour schemes both have estimated prices of between Rp. 50 – 70 million. Lot 776, Cerita dari Hutan highlights the technical abilities of Nyoman Kayun (b. 1954 Peliatan) and has an estimated price of between Rp. 50 – 70 million.

Other well known artists in the sale include Willem Gerard Hofker (1902 – 1981), Ida Bagus Nadera (1915 – 1998), Ketut Regig (1919 – 2002), Ketut Gelgel, Awiki, Dullah (1919 – 1996 and Soedibio (1912 – 1981).

Lot 786 "Ramayana Scene" Ketut Murtika. Image courtesy of Larasati AuctioneersLot # 786 ‘Ramayana Scene’ –  Ketut Murtika, Acrylic on Canvas, 60 x 80 cm

 

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.

Lot 784 "Mythical Scene" Ketut Budiana. Image coutesy of Larasati Auctioneers    Lot # 784 ‘Mythical Scene’ –  Ketut Budiana, Acrylic on Canvas, 50 x 80 cm

 

Open to the public at the Larasati Art Space in the Tebesaya Gallery the auction starts at 2:30 pm Saturday 12 October, while viewing begins from 11am Thursday. The online catalogue, complete with a guide for prospective buyers is available at: www.larasati.com

 

Viewing:

Thursday         10 October   11am – 7.30pm

Friday              11 October     11am – 7.30pm

Saturday         12 October     11am – 1pm

 

Auction: Saturday 12 October, from 2:30 pm

 

Larasati Bali Art Space at Tebesaya Gallery

Jalan Jatayu, Banjar Tebesaya, Peliatan,

Ubud, Gianyar Bali, Indonesia

 

Words: Richard Horstman

Images Courtesy: Larasati Auctioneers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posthumous tribute to Balinese artist Sukari a highlight of Jogja Art Weeks

"Dialog" 2005 - Nyoman Sukari, 150 x 250cm, oil on canvas. Image Richard Horstman                                   Dialog, 2000 – Nyoman Sukari

 

Balinese Hindu ritual is a fascinating and potent fundamental of a distinct traditional culture that, through its philosophies seeks to embrace a universal sense of harmony between all people, the environment and the divine. It incorporates a belief system that places equal emphasis on both the physical and non-physical aspects of the world and the dualistic nature of life.

In the compelling finale to the opening ceremony of Trajectory: Posthumous Solo Exhibition of I Nyoman Sukari, 26 July 2019 at Taman Budaya Yogyakarta (TBY), Yogyakarta, a display of ceremonial ritual set a unique and electrifying atmosphere that continued throughout the evening. Ni Nyoman Aryaningsih, the widow of the late and renowned painter, accompanied by a gamelan ensemble and a traditional flute, sang the Bramara Ngisep Sari mantra. In this sacred practice, that included a special dance performance by Aryaningsih and family members, the presentation of offerings and incense, Sukari’s spirit was called to return from the heavens to the earthly plane in order to witness the exhibition.

Audience at TBY during Sukari opening - Image Richard HorstmanThe audience at TBY during the opening of Trajectory: Posthumous Solo Exhibition of I Nyoman Sukari.

 

One hundred and thirty-eight of Sukari’s works, 50 oil paintings, 13 pen drawings on canvas, 29 watercolour and acrylics on paper, 35 pencil sketches on paper and 11 mixed media works on carton from the private collections of Dr Oei Hong Djien, Lin Che Wei, and Aryaningsih went on display at TBY. This monumental and practically designed presentation, which included a timeline of significant data and photos set over 50 meters of wall space, took Sarasvati Art Management three years to organize. It is held in conjunction with Jogja Art Weeks (JAW) – a two-month-long program of exhibitions and events conducted throughout Central Java in support of Indonesia’s leading contemporary art festival ArtJog MMXIX Common Space, open 24 July – 24 August at Jogja National Museum.

Beginning from his school days SMSR (1986-1990) until his final years of creativity in 2009, the collaboration between Sarasvati Art Management, OHD Museum, the Sanggar Dewata Indonesia (SDI) art collective, and Aryaningsih, features works spanning Sukari’s entire, award-winning career. It is set out chronologically from his school years to art college at the Indonesian Art Institute (ISI) Yogyakarta, the art collective Spirit ‘90 era, his career peak in 2002 – 2003, his solo exhibition in Gajah Gallery Singapore, and then the final stages of his career in 2008 – 2009.

Nyoman Sukari self portrait in ink on paper circa? Image Richard Horstman                        Self-portrait, ink on paper by Nyoman Sukari

 

Symbolically layered with meaning, and loaded with atmospheric energy, Sukari’s paintings are a meeting point between the sekala and niskala – the physical and non-physical worlds according to the Balinese philosophies. Curated by Suwarno Wisetrotomo and Gede Arya Sucitra, lecturers at ISI Yogyakarta, where Sukari was an outstanding student, Trajectory highlights the three defining creative periods of his career.

“In considering and understanding the creativity and philosophy in Sukari’s paintings it is necessary to know who he was, where he came from, and what his social-cultural environment was. What his cultural experience was, why he painted, and what he painted,” writes Arya Sucitra in the exhibition catalogue. The seventh of nine children, born 6 July 1968 in the remote village of Ngis, Manggis, Karangasem, East Bali, Sukari grew up to become accomplished in traditional music playing gamelan, and the suling flute, as well as dancing, singing. Traditional Balinese wisdom and values were the foundations of how he lived his life within his family, community, and artistic contexts.

Sukari Saat Melukis                       Nyoman Sukari at work in his Yogyakarta studio

 

“Sukari created works that departed from the traditional arts of his forefathers with a ‘new’ technical approach – expressionism, freeing himself from the details, yet still being able to place the mystical atmosphere within his works,” continues Arya Sucitra. “Working in Yogya, where he lived and studied from 1991 – 1995, gave him the opportunity to reread and explore the space between tradition and modernity, between the old and the new, and between those who were close to the niskala.”

A character of many contradictions Sukari had the distinction of having a sold out show at the Spirit ‘90 exhibition at Purna Budaya Yogyakarta when he was a student at ISI Yogyakarta. In a rare artistic journey, at the beginning of his career his works were priced highly, then at the end of his career, due to lack of market popularity, his works were priced low. A visionary and versatile artist, along with being a crucial art provocateur, and art community leader, during the exhibitions of the collective Spirit ‘90 in 1994 & 1995 Sukari’s paintings were partly responsible for the Indonesian art market boom beginning at the campus level. The artist chose to, however, distance himself from the chaos of the boom that continued on until 2000. At times he refused to sell his works to art collectors.

"Orang Gila" 2000 - Nyoman Sukari, 150 x 200 cm, oil on cnvas. Image Richard Horstman                               Orang Gila, 2000 – Nyoman Sukari

 

Highly expressive with dynamic brushstrokes, Sukari’s oil paintings are powerful insights from the darker angels of his psyche. Black and greys, golden browns, touches of white and red to achieve dramatic contrasts, his compositions are often a collision of imagery and non-descript forms. Many of his works feature menacing eyes and faces gazing out from swirling masses of energy. Immediately confronting, these works are not for the faint-hearted.

Sukari’s narratives vary from the cultural, mythological and the surreal, to his reflections upon Indonesia’s social and political upheaval during the finale of President Suharto’s New Order Regime, observations and contemplations about life, mortality, and his spirituality. Just a few of his awards include the 1993 ISI Yogyakarta best painting, the 1994 Affandi Adi Karya Art Award for best painting, and in 2000 the Lempad Prize from Sanggar Dewata Indonesia (SDI).

Exhibition co-curator Gede Arya Sucitra discussing Sukari's pen on canvas compositions - Image Richard HorstmanExhibition cocurator Arya Sucitra during a discussion about the watercolour paintings of Nyoman Sukari

 

While Trajectory’s content is dominated by darker themes Sukari’s ‘lighter’ sensibilities come to the fore within his works on paper in watercolour, ink and acrylics. His sketches and watercolours on paper and canvas have never been publically exhibited. A few small ink compositions feature minimalistic imagery that appears floating upon the white expanses of paper – here we embrace the gentler essence of the painter.

“The final years of Sukari’s career were his most contemplative and philosophical,” states Arya Sucitra. “His Niskala Drawing Series 2008 – 2009, featuring complex compositions in pen on canvas are an important aesthetic landmark emphasizing his spiritual journey while revealing an undeniable pull for him to become a holy man or priest.”

The works feature forms rendered in horizontal and vertical structures that create distinct relationships with the upper and lower supernatural worlds, along with his own magical iconography derived from the sacred rerajahan symbols, and his ideas about his spiritual responsibilities. Perhaps his finest masterpiece is Menunggu Cuaca, 2008, a stark composition depicting a fisherman waiting for fine weather so that he may return to the ocean. In this symbolic reflection upon patience, Sukari’s reveals his intuitive musings about the closing episode of his life.

Pen sketch on paper by Nyoman Sukari, circa 2008-2009. Image Richard Horstman               Pen drawing on paper, circa 2008 – 2009 by Nyoman Sukari

 

Sukari passed away 12 May 2010 in Bali after battling with a two-year illness. He leaves behind an inspiring legacy underlining his commitment to his family, culture, creative life purpose and building community through the power of art. Trajectory: Posthumous Solo Exhibition of I Nyoman Sukari, which continues through 12 August at TBY, honours one of the true, late masters of Balinese art.

"Trunyan Series" 2007 - Nyoman Sukari. Image Richard Horstman                         Truyan Series, 2007 – Nyoman Sukari

 

"Menunggu Cuaca" 2008 - Nyoman Sukari, 145 x 200cm, oil on canvas. Image Richard Horstman                          Menunggu Cuaca, 2008 – Nyoman Sukari

 

Detail of watercolour composition on paper by Nyoman Sukari , circa 2008 - 2009 - Image Richard Horstman        Detail of watercolour composition on paper, 2007 – Nyoman Sukari

 

"Mantan Pemburu" 2009 - Nyoman Sukari, acrylic on canvas. Image Richard Horstman                          Mantan Pemburu, 2009 – Nyoman Sukari

 

Words & Images: Richard Horstman

 

 

Genevieve Couteau: the French female virtuoso that Bali art historians failed to cite

Huile sur toile le théâtre d'ombres 130-97 encadre                                 Painting by Genevieve Couteau

 

Volumes have been written about the foreign artists who have visited, lived and worked on the island of Bali during the first half of the 20th century. Walter Spies, Rudolf Bonnet and Theo Meier are celebrated icons, while Hofker, Covarrubias and La Mayeur are all praised for their special talents. These artists, however, are all male.

French female artist Genevieve Couteau first visited Bali in 1968 and was immediately fascinated by the island’s lush tropical environment and the rich culture, and immediately set forth exploring and reinterpreting the beauty she perceived. Returning briefly four years later, and again in 1975 when she resided in Ubud for 6 months, she made several other sojourns up until 1984. Even though Couteau’s creativity was phenomenal and she was the only European female artist to visit Bali, she is one important person the art historians have failed to cite.

Balinese priest sketch by Geneieve Couteau                       Sketch of Balinese Priest by Genevieve Couteau

 

Art inspired by post-war Universalism represents the period 1945 -1970. Its ideology is underpinned by a rejection of reality and nationalism – the type of patriotism that prevailed in Europe, the UK and America during the 1930s – 1940s. It emphasized a greater worldview with a focus upon understanding people from other cultures. Asians were seen as offering other, mysterious access to the spiritual realms. It was not the “exotic difference” that mattered – it was the exploring of different types of universal endeavour. The art genre idealized “the other”, while surpassing the prejudices.

Born in Paris in 1924 Couteau was a star graduate from Beaux Arts, the Art College of Nantes-Métropole with a national and international reputation. Her outstanding talent was quickly recognized by the art establishment when she won the Prix Lafont Noir et Blanc (Lafont Black and White Award) in 1952 with her captivating drawings in the surrealism style. She became a noted figure of the Paris art scene aged in her mid thirties.

"Barong Landung" - Geneieve Couteau                                 Barong Landung – Genevieve Couteau

 

It was in the Southeast Asia, however, where Couteau’s creativity ultimately bloomed. Her opportunity arose to travel and experience the treasures of the East first visiting Laos in 1968 during the Vietnam War upon the invitation of the neutralist Prime Minister of the time.

Later that year she ventured to Bali. Both countries had a major impact upon Couteau, the vivid colours and light, the overwhelming sense of the spiritual, and the gentle natured people.

Couteau’s ouvre developed from pencil, charcoal and pastel sketches to oil paintings in subtle colours, or in her dynamic, fauvism inspired palate. Her compositions progressed, some into complex, futuristic works of the universal totality of nature revealing the sparkling cosmos, men and women depicted in harmony, and stunning landscapes with backgrounds of flowing patterns, similar to exotic textiles and batiks. Abstract and surreal elements were always key to the strength of her larger compositional works.

Geneieve Couteau (1925 - 2013)                                         Genevieve Couteau

 

Couteau’s depictions of the Balinese, especially the woman challenged the stereotypes, presenting distinct messages without an agenda. Her woman’s worldview resonated with humanism, was non-sexual, while understanding and accepting dissimilarities and highlighting equality of identity. Couteau reconfigured the visual narrative regarding women who are often misinterpreted or unacknowledged. Her feminine approach never exploited the beauty of a woman’s body.

Her painterly responses to Bali’s potent, unseen worlds are indeed intriguing. What prevailed was her unrivalled ability to capture the ‘spiritual’. Couteau’s magical scenarios and figurations glow with an unusual, yet distinct atmosphere – her otherworldly creatures often gaze out from the canvas with mysterious, shamanic eyes. Some of her impressions of Balinese characters stand alone within a historical descriptive context. In “The Old Lempad” depicting the famous architect and modern art master I Gusti Nyoman Lempad (1862? – 1978), he appears as an alien-like figure, in an after life manifestation. Her portrait of the extraordinary young painter Made Sukada (1945-1982) depicts a face beaming with love, intelligence and light, his glowing eyes reveal the presence of a wise and old soul.

Balinese woman and child - Geneieve Couteau                       Balinese Woman and Child – Genevieve Couteau

 

Attuning with the metaphysical forces and pure potential her work stylistically evolved – transcending into the mystical. Her depictions, real and imagined, of Bali life in her fresh and fascinating manner distinguished her from the acclaimed painters who preceded her, along with her peers, defining her as one of the most outstanding expatriate artists on Bali.

Couteau exhibited extensively from 1960 – 2000, in Italy, France, Germany, Greece, Switzerland, Vietnam, New York and Bali. Her talents extended to writing books and theatre, designing and making sets and costumes for performances. In a tribute to the visionary artist who passed away in Paris in 2013, seventy of Couteau’s works were displayed at the National Gallery of Indonesia, in Jakarta, early in 2018.

Geneieve Couteau                                Painting by Genevieve Couteau

 

Entitled “The Orient and Beyond” her exhibition was a collaboration with Institut Francais Indonesia. Couteau’s works are collected by museums in Paris, Lyon, Berlin, Venice, Bulgaria and one of her beautiful Bali inspired paintings is on permanent exhibition in Ubud at the Agung Rai Museum of Art (ARMA).

Sketch by Geneieve Couteau                             Sketch by Genevieve Couteau

 

Painting by Geneieve Couteau

 

Oil on canvas painting by Geneieve Couteau                                      Paintings by Genevieve Couteau

 

 

Words:     Richard Horstman

Images:   Courtesy of Jean Couteau

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“BALINESE MASTERS” exhibition presents significant insights into the development of Balinese painting

"Essence of Void' 2019 - Wayan Sika, image Richard Horstman                           Essence of Void, 2019 – Wayan Sika

 

Balinese Masters: Aesthetic DNA Trajectories of Balinese Visual Art, an ongoing presentation in Bali of installations, paintings, sculptures, drawings and objects by thirty-four Balinese artists and communities has opened to the delight, as well as the scrutiny of many in the Bali and Indonesian art worlds.

The highly anticipated exhibition, open 25 May at the AB•BC (Art Bali•Bali Collection) Building, Nusa Dua, is the first of a landmark three part annual exhibition series that endevours to define the historical developement of the Balinese visual arts. The AB•BC Building, a purpose built, international standard presentation space established by BEKRAF, the Indonesian Agency of Creative Economy, was opened in October 2018 after two years of planning.

"Mother's Earth's Love" 2018 - Ketut Budiana. Image Richard Horstman                             Mother Earth’s Love, 2018 – Ketut Budiana

 

Balinese art was one of the key Indonesian cultural icons promoted to the global market during the Suharto’s government 1970s development of mass tourism. It’s unique historical and artisitic distinctions have been, however, overshadowed by its commodification which began in the 1930s during the first wave of foreign tourists to visit the island. Balinese art has remained largely unappreciated, while being maligned as tourist, ‘folk art’.

The importance of presenting an international standard exhibition to a global and local audience in Bali, explaining the distinct development and essence of Balinese art can not be overstated. The enormous task bestowed upon respected curator Rifky Effendy from Bandung, West Java, is to capture this as a type of chronological reading so it may be easily comprehended.

"Wajah Wajah Mengambang" 2019 - Made Djirna Photo Richard Horstman                    Wajah Wajan Mengambang, 2019 – Made Djirna

 

Effendy’s curatorial text states: “Through this exhibition we can highlight various aesthetic and artistic achievements of Balinese artists, both [those] who are still residing on the island and those who live outside it. It is an attempt to examine and narrate the practice of creating fine arts in Bali without subscribing to those conventional methods based on categorization, paradigm, art history, or any other ‘constraining’ means.”

An essential communative facet of this exhibition is the accompanying wall texts written by local and international academics, collectors, curators and experts presented along side some of the works explaining certain stylistic developments, along with the impact of influenual art collectives, individuals and events. The significance of studying the paintings along with reading these texts must be emphasized as a guide to help in the understanding of such an enormous and distinctive art history.

"Cili Uang Kepeng" 1995 - I Nyoman Tusan, image R. Horstman                         Cili Uang Kepeng, 1995 – Nyoman Tusan

 

One of the great challenges faced by Effendy, who has been assisted by renowned scholars, experts and artists Agung Rai, Jean Couteau, Hardiman Adiwinata, Edmondo Zanolini, I Made Aswino Aji , Satya Cipta, I Wayan Sujana Sukl and Soemantri Widagdo, was to access master artworks from the definitive 1930 – 1945 era of the influential Pitamaha artist’s collective, and earlier Classical works, from institutions and private art collections. The enormous time and energy required to do this therefore deemed it impossible to begin this three part series at the chronological start of its development. Balinese Masters: Aesthetic DNA Trajectories of Balinese Visual Art, begins its visual description from 1950.

Excellent examples of how Balinese art has evolved aesthetically post 1950s may be seen in Mother Earth’s Love, 2018 by Ketut Budiana who took Balinese painting on his own innovative path by transforming the philosphies behind the Balinese religious and folk tale narratives into a unique visual language. All forms depicted within this gold and Chinese ink on canvas composition are in a continual the process of change – transfroming from the ether into the tiniest of vapors which eventually changes into denser physical matter (Budiana’s figures) and then completes the eternal cycle and returns back into the invisible.

"Cosmic Energy" 2019 - Wayan Karja Image Richard Horstman                          Cosmic Energy, 2019 – Wayan Karja

 

The second signature style of the most critically acclaimed genre of Balinese painting – the Batuan School – is featured in the works by Made Budi and Wayan Bendi. The original style which developed in the 1930s relatively free of outside influences. It involved religious and folk tale themes and others close to the heart and mind of the people’s daily life. Often dark and frigntening, including magic, power and ritual, they were expressed in black ink tones on paper. The Miniaturist School of the 1970s was created by the artists Jata, Rajin and Murtika, Budi’s modern themes, under the influence of American photographer Leonard lueras, introduced beach scenes and surfing.

Bendi went further and introduced politics and his enormous Untitled, 2013 stretches nearly ten meters wide, a composition encompassing a universal perspective, reflecting a modern, bustling Bali with the multi ethnic and religious peoples, of tourists, and the transfromational technologies, side-by-side with scenes of traditional Bali.

"Gugusan Energi Alam Batin 6.14.4.019" 2019 - Putu Wirantawan - photo Richard Horstman       Gugusan Energi Alam Batin 6.14.4.019, 2019 – Putu Wirantawan

 

The poineer of Balinese painting within the modern western framework was I Nyoman Tusan (1933-2002) who was the first to study modern art (1945-1962) at Institute of Technology in Bandung (ITB), West Java and later in Belguim. Cili Uang Kepeng,1995 by the intellectual, lecturer and official typifies his modern approach to Balinese ritual objects. I Nyoman Gunarsa (1949 – 2017) also made important contributions to the modern expressions of Balinese icongraphy taking the static and rigid wayang figurations of the Classical paintings and transforming them into dynamic forms with his modern action style of painting. Unfortunately, his displayed works are not his strongest.

Contemporary art sensibilities mixed with Balinese philosophies, symbols and incongraphy when landmark works were made in the 1970s by the pioneers of the Sanggar Dewata Indonesia (SDI) collective – Made Wianta, Nyoman Erawan and Made Djirna, works from this era were not included, but more recent works are. A complete alternative in the exhibitions aesthetics is Djirna’s commanding installaion of more than two thousand pumice stone carved faces Wajah Wajha Mengambang, 2019 which takes observers into different experiential dimensions. Others recent artists that should be mentioned for their achievements within the development of aesthetics are Gede Mahendra Yasa and Putu Wirantawan. Gugusan Energi Alam Batin 6.14.4.019, 2019, is a fascinating and eye-catching installation of pencil and pen sketches by Wirantawan.

"Aktifas Kehidupan" 1984 Made Budi                         Aktifas Kehidupan, 1984 – Made Budi

 

Balinese painting from the Classical and the new more westernized styles that appeared in the 1930s (the Batuan, Ubud and Sanur Schools being the foremost) is characterized by its story-telling function with the aesthetic features of a graphic-drawing based style of art with the space of the canvas fully occupied with the layering of patternations. The big shift away from this that occurred has been to a modern, non-narrative, non-patterned color based abstract style of painting where abstraction represents Hindu symbolism.

The powerful and beautiful mixed media works by Wayan Sika, one an installation of nine paintings The Essence of the Void, 2019 measuring 600 x 360 cms, and the smaller No Ego, 2019, along with two magnificent pulsating compositions by Wayan Karja, both titled Cosmic Energy, 2019, are very important inclusions and highlight the important shift that has not been clearly underlined in the exhibition. The title of the exhibition may be somewhat of a misnomer, and one may wonder what is the criteria that determines how the participants have been selected, especially some of the younger artists and the art communities. Due to the vast scope of content the presentation would benefit from, upon entry, instructions on how to read the exhibition.

"School of (pre) Raphael, 2018 - Gede Mahendra Yasa Image R. Horstman                     School of (Pre) Raphael, 2018 – Gede Mahendra Yasa

 

Balinese Masters: Aesthetic DNA Trajectories of Balinese Visual Art is a beauitful presentation celebrating this fascinating art form that opens the door to the next eaggerley awaited 2020 exhibition. Continuing through until 14 July 2019, it is essential viewing for those who wish to know more.

Balinese Classical paintings by, from left Mungku Muriati, Mangku Mura, Mangku Kondra & Mangku Nyoman Kondra. Image Richard Horstman‘New’ Balinese Classical paintings by, from left Mungku Muriati, Mangku Mura & Mangku Nyoman Kondra.

 

 

Balinese Masters : Aesthetic DNA Trajectories of Balinese Visual Art

Open daily 11 AM  –  9 PM

AB•BC (Art Bali • Bali Collection) Building

Nusa Dua, Bali

 

Words: Richard Horstman

Images: Richard Horstman & courtesy of HPM, Bali

 

 

 

 

 

Bali’s GWK Statue completed after almost three decades

Image courtesy PT. Siluet Nyoman Nuarta

The epic tale of the Garuda Wisnu statue at the Garuda Wisnu Kencana (GWK) Cultural Park in Jimbaran, South Bali will soon reach its finale. In a monumental saga that stretches back to its conceptualisation in 1989, including the on and off progress of its construction, the sculptures creator, Balinese artist Nyoman Nuarta, has confirmed the project will be completed in early August.

“By the 4th of August this extraordinary combination of art, technology and science will be complete,” Nuarta recently announced. “This nation will have a new cultural icon, that, despite taking more than 28 years, and without help from the Indonesian governement, showes that private sector can contribute greatly to the nation and state. It is a special gift to celebrate the nation’s Independence Day on the 17 August, 2018,” added Indonesia’s most celebrated sculptor.

GWK Image courtesy PT. Siluet Nyoman Nuarta

Originally scheduled for completion in March 2019, in mid 2017 Nuarta was given a new deadline by the Indonesian government. The statue, which is the second tallest in the world, must be finished before October 2018 when IMF and World Bank delegates converge on Bali for their annual meetings to be held 8 -14 October. As a part of their itinerary a dinner will be held for the delegates at the GWK Festival Park, a vast field surrounded by limestone cliffs, within the sprawling 60-hectare cultural park.

In April a special ceremony officiated by the Governor of Bali, Mangku Pastika celebrated the installation of the statue’s 529th module, the Mahkota Dewa Wisnu – the 3.5-ton crown of Wisnu that is covered with gold-platted mosaics. A total of 754 modules of the statues outer skin, made of copper and brass sheeting, each weighing on average 800 kilograms, complete the installation.

Photo courtey PT. Siluet Nyoman Nuarta

The project has occupied as many as 120 experienced wielders working on site to re-assemble the modules before they are lifted up by two cranes and bolted onto the outer steel frame of the statue by workers who specialize in high altitude construction. “During the initial stages of the statues design there was no available technique to enlarge the difficult and complicated three-dimensional forms, nor was there any computer software that could do this,” Nuarta said. “Therefore, I had to find the solution to the problem. Finally, in 1991 we found a theory, and along with the birth of Autocad software we could move forward.”

Rigorous scientific integrity testing has been undertaken on all the construction materials and the statue itself, even taking earthquake resistance into account with the pedestal being able to withstand up to 8 on the Richter scale. Wind tunnel tests have indicated the statue, the largest in Indonesia, could withstand winds speeds of up to 259 nautical miles per hour.

side elevation GWK statue - image courtesy PT. Siluet Nyoman Nuarta

Standing 121 meters at the top of the Ungasan ridge, 271 meters above sea level and with a wingspan of 64 meters, the skin surface area of the statue reaches two and a half hectares or 25,000 m2, during the evening the statue will be a unique feature of the cultural park with its special lighting arrangement that was built-in Singapore. The statue will sit on a pedestal, or building base, which will function as a restaurant serving up to 500 people. There will also be a museum and a viewing gallery that will allow panoramic vistas of the rest of South Bali.

“The target is to attract 6,000 tourists per day,” Nuarta said, then continued. “Hopefully, Garuda Wisnu Kencana will serve as a reminder to Indonesians and the international audience, throughout this divisive period about our cultural roots as a tolerant and multicultural nation.”

Image Courtesy of PT. Siluet Nyoman Nuarta

 

Words: Richard Horstman

Images courtesy: PT. Siluet Nyoman Nuarta

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paradise lost & new frontiers: Gede Mahendra Yasa’s landmark investigation into Balinese painting

"Tamiang" GMY 2011Tamiang, 2011, 150 x 200cm – Gede Mahendra Yasa. Exhibited in “Post Bali”

 

After the fall of President Suharto and the New Order Regime in 1998 Indonesian artists enjoyed new liberties, and their art became increasingly social and political in content. Representing a new generation of the Balinese avant-garde, Gede Mahendra Yasa was inspired by the freedoms of the post refromasi era, and dared to investigate his Balinese roots like no other artist had previously attempted – he questioned the popular ‘narratives’, along with the status quo. What transpired at the beginning of the new millenium has evolved into an ongoing project – a unique, yet essential, exploration into Balinese painting.

Born in 1967 in the island’s former capital of Singaraja, Mahendra Yasa grew up within a ‘multi-cultural’ environment where the Balinese Hindu’s had the freedom to choose a more open interpretation of cultural life. They were not subjected to the religious and cultural structures that were ‘imposed’ within the Gianyar regency during the 20th century, while it was being honed into a pro-Dutch colonial model of a ‘living cultural museum’ to stimulate tourism.

"Priest" GMY 2011Priest, 2011, 150 x 200cm – Gede Mahendra Yasa. Exhibited in “Post Bali”

 

Mahendra Yasa studied architecture and mechanical engineering in Surabaya, East Java from 1986 to 1988, yet he discovered this to be too limiting, being more attracted to the expressive freedoms of painting. He then began his autodidact journey, and an intensive learning into the history and discourses of Western painting.  Between 1998-2002 he formally studied at the Indonesian Art Institute (ISI) Denpasar where he analyzed his practical and theoretical Balinese art knowledge.

Bali is generally considered to be exotic, and is stuck in a past cultural era. Balinese art is perceived as secondary, as a craft, and not as a legitimate part of Indonesian modern art history. These issues have arisen due to the dense bias of ethnography and anthropology (orientalist in nature) in determining the understanding of Bali, especially during 1920’s – 1930’s within the ‘golden age’ of Balinese development when Balinese traditional art was shaped as a colonial political tool – and this frustrates Mahendra Yasa.  An atheist, Mahendra Yasa was an avid detractor of the local culture, and took a critical stance to the art practices in Bali. This compelled him to continuously investigate and then seek out new frontiers in Balinese painting, in a career long pursuit into its thematic and aesthetic distinctions.

7 Magnficent Masterpieces #1, 2011, 200x150cm Newspaper Collage chinese ink on canvas7 Magnificent Masterpieces #1, 2011, 200 x 150cm, Newspaper Collage & Chinese Ink on Canvas – Gede Mahendra Yasa. Exhibited in “Post Bali”

 

“My entry point is from the contemporary, but using the traditional identity of painting,” he once said. In Post Bali, his landmark 2014 exhibition at ROH Projects, Jakarta, Mahendra Yasa adopted a unique methodology to other Indonesian contemporary artists, driven by his powerful intellect, and an obsession with painting, he delved into local Balinese issues from a western conceptual art perspective. Painting for the artist is not only about the object – it can function as a philosophical and analytical tool.

Post Bali combined an array of western and Balinese painting styles through which Mahendra Yasa revealed his investigation of the complexities of Balinese painting. He utilized various appropriations in his works that have been internationally recognized as modern or contemporary art masterpieces. The exhibition unfolded with photo-realism paintings from 2010 depicting scenarios of Balinese life. It continued via the acclaimed traditional Batuan narrative style of painting, with miniature photo realistic characters as the code through which he explained key parts of Balinese, Indonesian and Western art techniques and history. Within these works he also explored traditional techniques of making canvases, and Chinese ink painting.

7 Magnificent Masterpieces #2, 2012 Acrylic on canvas 200x150cm7 Magnificent Masterpieces #2, 2012, 200x150cm, Acrylic on Canvas – Gede Mahendra Yasa. Exhibited in “Post Bali”

 

Contemporary Art in Paradise Lost, Mahendra Yasa’s enormous 75 x 300 cm epic which included multiple scenes in the one work, taking the artist over a year to complete, was juxtaposed against his dual panel Pollock-esque abstract expressionist works. Post Bali explored three distinct realizations of Bali through different painting styles and ‘tests’ to what extent it is able to interact with materials and ideas familiar to contemporary art. The exhibition can be read as a chronological progression of his work and represents the start of a project that has now become much larger and more complex in nature. Post Bali has defined Mahendra Yasa as one of the few, truly important Balinese contemporary artists, while confirming his position within Indonesian art history.

"Silver Acrylic Paint on Face #2" GMY 2012 Silver Acrylic Paint on Face, #2, 2012 –  Gede Mahendra Yasa (self-portrait)

 

In early June 2018 the following interview was conducted by Richard Horstman and Gede Mahendra Yasa.

 

RH: Since early 2000 you have been driven by the need to question the popular ‘narratives’ and the status quo within Balinese art.

Why did you begin doing this?

GMY: In 2001, only 3 years after reformation and the fall of the new order regime, Indonesian artist enjoyed new freedoms, and political art came to the fore. For a few decades Sanggar Dewata Indonesia (SDI), Bali’s oldest and most influential collective which began in 1970, held power over the art scene. For me, however, they represented the new order regime, with much of their approach to art continuing on from the Dutch colonial methods. I was determined to change the game here in Bali.

The-Death-of-Gatotkaca. 1500x200. 2013The Death of Gatotkaca, 2014, 150 x 200cm – Gede Mahendra Yasa. Exhibited in “Post Bali”

 

RH: As an art provocateur it was essential to ask important questions in order to be able to move forward, as well as to inspire others to be more analytical and critical. Within the sphere of Indonesian and Balinese art, however, there is no culture of criticism, and such an approach is seen as confrontational. You had to move ‘out of the comfort of your studio’ and into the public forum to be heard.  Was this difficult to do?

GMY: Yes, at the beginning it was very difficult. But slowly the art public accepted my criticism.

RH: The formation of collectives has played an important role, while helping you in the exploration of your ideas. (This first began with the Klinik Seni Taxu. The young artists of Taxu reacted to the institutionalized “authority” over Indonesian art which prevailed during in the 1990’s – 2000. They were driven to promote the development of a Balinese art outside the traditional parameters of Balinese religion and culture and were active between 2001-06 releasing publications and exhibiting. In 2001, as students at the Indonesian Art Institute (ISI) Denpasar, the Taxu group received funding from ISI to hold an art event they titled, Mendobrak Hegemoni (Shattering the Hegemony).

"Paradise Lost" GMY Chinese Ink on Kamasan Canvas 2014

Paradise Lost #2, 2014, Chinese Ink on Kamasan Canvas – Gede Mahendra Yasa

 

What occurred was a protest featuring abusive comments in various languages about the commercialization of art. They attacked copies of major artists works and produced effigies of the artists as mummies, posters proclaimed ‘art is dead’. The event shocked both the singled out artists, and the ISI authorities during an era when the pressures of the New Order Regime were still heavy. The protest was of national significance because Bali had become a key site for the formation of ideas about Indonesian art).

Can you explain why the Taxu group came about and what were their aims?

GMY: Bali has traditions like the banjar system of communal organization. I learned from the influence of the foreign artist during the 1930’s – 1940’s (Spies and Bonnet) and Nyoman Ngendon from Batuan, and in wider context from the first Indonesian community based artist groups (PERSAGI & LEKRA). I understood that organizing groups, following in the tradition of making “schools” of artists was a more strategic and quicker way to achieve goals. This belief pushed me to find artistic idioms for the groups to function as a“glue” (Social realism for Klinik Seni Taxu, and abstraction for Nu-Abstract, his latest collective which began in 2017).

"Between Me,You and the Bedpost #2 Mahendra YasaBetween Me, You and the Bedpost #1. 2014, 100 x 163cm – Gede Mahendra Yasa, Exhibited in “Post Bali”

 

RH: More recently the Neo-Pitamaha has been formed. Can you share more about this collective?

GMY: The origins of the Neo-Pitamaha began after my 2011 solo exhibition in Milan, Italy because of problems with my “identity” as a Balinese painter. I began to think a lot about my artistic roots, and then started to explore Balinese painting (focussing on painting from the last century – the Classical style referred to as Kamasan, and the Batuan traditional style). I believed that the Classical and traditional styles had come to a dead-end. And then I challenged myself to contemporize what the academic artists (especially the Yogyakarta Indonesian Art Institute (ISI) alumni) thought was impossible. And I proved them wrong! In 2013 I “assembled” a new group to push this idea further.

RH: Can you share please the ideas behind your series of paintings made between 2012 – 2018 which began with 7 Magnificent Masterpieces #1 & #2, and continues on with Origen’s Gambit?

"Contemporary Art in Paradise Lost" 2012-2014, 300x75 cmContemporary Art in Paradise Lost, 2014, 75 x 300cm – Gede Mahendra Yasa. Exhibited in “Post Bali”

 

GMY: I wanted to contemporize the Batuan painting style emphasizing the full compositions, with no empty spaces. Complete with the dualities and horror, the dense and decorative style – very Balinese. Unlike the Dutch miniatures such as Brueghel, Bosch, for example, who use the linear perspective. I use the bird eye’s view perspective, like the Batuan artists. I then realised that the series could be used for telling stories about art history (Balinese, Indonesian and global art history). My inspirations came from the American painter Mark Tansey, and also the comic genres, such as Marvel and DC Comics, and how they make alternative universes. I wanted to mimic their method to create my own universe – an art history universe.

Remember this miniature epic series has taken 6 years to develop, so many things have happened. This is on going, and in the near future, in the third phase of this series I plan my approach to be more a linguistic or semiotic exploration. I will “illustrate” a lot of “ideas” about imagery, icons, logos and symbols. Here, I have been influenced by Xu Bing a main land Chinese painter.

"Yasa Perburuan Rusa" GMY 2014                        Yasa Perburuan Rusa, 2014 – Gede Mahendra Yasa

 

RH: You have a long and ongoing relationship with abstract painting. In 2017 you formed the collective NU-abstract to explore further Balinese abstraction and the collective will be exhibiting at NADI Gallery in Jakarta in early July. Do you find exploring your feelings within this genre is the perfect creative pursuit while other concepts need certain periods of time to fully develop and to be successfully executed and expressed? Does this help you to achieve a type of ‘balance’?

GMY: Yes, I need to balance my other painting series as they demand too much logic. There is, however, another reason. I formed the NU-abstract group because there are some Islamic fundamentalist art groups (Rumah Warna, Khat, Khilafah art networks) in Yogyakarta, and Hijrah in Bandung, who want to use non-figurative painting as a tool to forbid the making of imagery of “living creatures”. They twist modern abstraction for their own political benefits while intercepting the potentiality of this new Indonesian art trend. I want to stop their ideas of controlling and polluting the Indonesian art world.

"Yasa Spiral Frame" GMY 2014                              Yasa Spiral Frame, 2014 – Gede Mahendra Yasa

 

Mahendra Yasa along with Neo-Pitamaha co-founder Kemal Ezedine set out to strategically impact upon the Indonesian contemporary art world in 2016 by participating in high level exhibitions and art fairs in Bandung, Jakarta and Yogyakarta. Their presence was especially visible during the two international art fairs, Art Stage Jakarta 2016 and 2016 Bazaar Art Jakarta that attracted large national and foreign audiences.

The Neo-Pitamaha have taken their name from the legendary 1936 artists association established in Ubud during a revolutionary period when traditional art was being modernized for the new and expanding international market – the Pitamaha’s oversaw the successful development of this new genre of art that helped communicate the Balinese culture around the world. The Pitamaha was formed by the prince of Ubud Tjokorda Agung Sukawati, Bali’s modern master Gusti Nyoman Lempad, and the expat foreign artists Walter Spies, and Rudolf Bonnet.

"BipolarDemons" GMY 2017, 200x160Bipolar Demons, 2107, 200 x 150cm – Gede Mahendra Yasa. From the NU-abstract series and exhibited in the group exhibition “Celebrating Indonesian Portraiture” at OHD Museum Magelang, Central Java, continuing through until 8 October 2018.

 

With their ideology deeply rooted in the historical development of Balinese art during the past century, and with a new discourse about Balinese art the Neo-Pitamaha reinterpreted this art form from a contemporary art perspective – retaining the principles involved with the techniques and methods. By opening this to new viewpoints they awakened a new spirit and introduced a fresh model of possibilities into Balinese art.

 

After Paradise Lost 2014-2016In May 2016 at Christie’s Hong Kong Asian Contemporary Art Day Sale “After Paradise Lost” (2014) by Gede Mahendra Yasa sold for HKD 1,240,000 (USD 158,000), well above the estimated price of between HKD 350,000 (USD 44,500) – HKD 500,000 (USD 63,500).

 

Origen's Gambit" GMYAt Christie’s Hong Kong Asian Contemporary Art Day Sale November 2017, Gede Mahendra Yasa’s painting “Origen’s Gambit” (2016-2017) realised HKD 1,750,000 (USD 220,000), selling well above the estimated price of HKD 380,000 (USD48,000) – HKD 550,000 (USD70,000).

 

Gede Mahendra Yasa’s painting After Paradise Lost has been selected as one of the 15 finalists in the Signature Art Prize. The award, which is presented every three years, is organized by the Singapore Art Museum and sponsored by the Asia-Pacific Breweries Foundation. The winner will be announced at an award ceremony on June 29, and the works are currently on exhibit from May 25 to Sept. 2 at the National Museum of Singapore.

 

 

 

Words: Richard Horstman

Images: Coutesy of IndoArtNow, Gede Mahendra Yasa & Richard Horstman

Bruce Carpenter: presenting Indonesian art & culture to the world

BruceC-2a                                                          Bruce Carpenter

 

A lust for life and adventure, along with a generous dose of savvy have propelled New York City born and bred Bruce W. Carpenter around the planet.

The son of a young American soldier who returned from WWII with an upper class English bride, Carpenter found himself torn between the idealism and glory of old Britain and the cosmopolitan metropolis of his birth. In the end, the creative cauldron that was NYC in the 60s & 70s would be the winner.

“I found my sanctuary in the great museums and then seminal art scene of the “City” where I was introduced to the Underground Art Scene and the Beat Poets. This would lead on to the first happenings, the precursor of installations, in Soho lofts, Andy Warhol’s Factory, experimental theatre and film,” says Carpenter, who eventually channelled his creativity into filmmaking. Carpenter was also an eyewitness and full-blown inductee into the Woodstock Generation, having attended the concert, and the Age of Aquarius. He played in a Blues band and was a member of several theatre groups.

Lempad_cvr_300dpiLempad of Bali: the illuminating lineCarpenter, Darling, Hinzler, McGowan, Vickers, Widagdo

The election of Richard Nixon and the resurgence of the conservative right, along with the death of a brother who served during the Vietnam War, precipitated a leap across the Atlantic Ocean to the city of Amsterdam where idyllic hippie dreams were still raging on. After experiencing one long and miserable Northern European winter, Carpenter succumbed to exotic tales of the mystic East recited by a new breed of young travellers.

In 1974 he sold his camera and bought a one-way ticket to Bangkok. During the next 18 months he would explore the east crisscrossing the Malay Peninsula and Indonesia starting in Sumatra. Together with the Swiss artist-photographer, Charles Junod, they would scout out wild destinations and create surreal installations that they photographed. These would tour Europe in an exhibition of surreal photography sponsored by the Canon Gallery.

When Carpenter arrived on the island paradise of Bali, Kuta was no more than a small village set in coconut groves adjacent to the beach. “There was a handful of homestays with a cast of international bohemian suffers and roaming hippies as the guests,” he recounts. The two most dangerous moving objects were falling coconuts and the deer-like Balinese cow.

sovarrubias-sketchesMiguel Covarrubias Sketches: Bali – Shanghai – Adriana Williams & Bruce W Carpenter

For the next decade Carpenter led a nomadic lifestyle with regular visits to Bali. In the early 1980s, after meeting Dr. Stanley Kripper, he began organizing cultural tours under the auspices of the Institute of Noetic Sciences in Sausalito. These specialized in visits to traditional healers and religious figures and would end with a book on traditional Balinese healing co-authored with Krippner and Dr. Denny Thong the head of Bali’s mental hospital in Bangli.

In 1985 Carpenter settled in Ubud and began working on a series of research and art projects usually tied with the art, history and culture of Indonesia. As his reputation grew he was invited to author and co-author a growing number of books. In 1993 he gained wide attention as the author of Willem G. Hofker, Painter of Bali (1993), the first major book on an expatriate artist on Bali. Several other books on expatriate artists soon followed including the acclaimed, W.O.J. Nieuwenkamp, the First European Artist in Bali (1997).

“Often in life, its not what you know, but who you know,” says Carpenter. Through a serious of discussions with key figures in the hotel industry in Bali Carpenter was to be granted a wonderful opportunity after he convinced the management of the Four Seasons Resort in Jimbaran that luxury hotels were the natural heirs of the mantle once held by the royal palaces as patrons of the arts. The result was the opening of the Ganesha Gallery, the first dedicated art gallery on the premises of a hotel in 1992. This was hailed as an excellent cultural bridge between the guests and Indonesian modern and traditional art.

9789814068154-us          Emilio Ambron: An Italian Artist in Bali – Bruce W. Carpenter

Initially the resort attracted wealthy and sophisticated international clientele and with the charismatic Carpenter as the figurehead of Ganesha and his sharp eye for art, the timing was perfect and it became an immediate success.

For a 15-year period the gallery held 12 exhibitions a year, an unheard of phenomenon in Indonesian art, confirming it as the fine art gallery in Bali. In its heyday well-heeled guests and local collectors purchased quantities of art, however over the years as the profile of the guests changed, along with events such as the Gulf War, 9/11 and the Bali bombings, and its market gradually faded. This experience for Carpenter gifted him with enormous experience and knowledge, along with connections and an international reputation.

In the meanwhile Carpenter would also begin publishing a series of books on the traditional arts of Indonesia, including Mentawai Art, Batak Sculpture, Nias Sculpture and two books on traditional jewellery. “I am a firm believer that expatriates should contribute to the country they live in. I was blessed with a deep knowledge and appreciation of Indonesian arts and culture which is fast disappearing and I have taken it upon myself to try to record as much of it as possible.

4mpXadWmpPcjnmClhQXP          W.O.J Nieuwenkamp: First European Artist in Bali – Bruce W. Carpenter

In all, Carpenter has written and co-authored over twenty books and scores of articles on Indonesian art, culture and history. However, with the recent release of the book Lempad of Bali – The illuminating Line, the first fully comprehensive study on the master of Balinese traditional artist, Gusti Nyoman Lempad (1862-1978), on the 20th September 2014 at Museum Puri Lukisan, he admits, “this has by far been the most challenging project I have engaged in in my life.”

“As the book concept and project manager my list of tasks was unprecedented. I had to oversee interactions with over forty institutions and collectors in eight different countries, each with different requirements, along with dealing with six authors, one of whom is dead!” Carpenter says. “Our endeavour was to include the broadest range of Lempad’s works available in the book, therefore the detective work required was unbeknown to us and consequentially enormous.” The beautiful volume of over 424 pages is the culmination of more than six years work for the team of dedicated and respected academics and professionals.

“Bali deserves to have world class art exhibitions, books and events to create more interest in its immense and unique culture,” Carpenter states.

“I am dedicated to the publication of illustrated books on the traditional arts of Indonesia which have disappeared or are disappearing. We honor the past by recording its brilliance. I also feel it is important to urge young Indonesians to do the same. It is ironic that westerners play such a critical role in the studies of Indonesian art. This should change.”

Opinionated and articulate Carpenter counts many, including the rich and famous, as friends. A father of two he cuts both a dashing and unusual figure. His trailblazing journey through life is rich in colourful tales that are steeped in the exotic, mysterious and dynamic.

127446                                 Indonesian Tribal Art – Bruce W. Carpenter

 

Words: Richard Horstman