Category Archives: National Gallery Singapore

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Indonesian artist Boedi Widjaja’s subterranean sonic temple a highlight of the Singapore Biennale 2019

Black—Hut, Black—Hut, 2019 Boedi Widjaja Image courtesy of Boedi Widjaja & 2019 Singapore Biennale #5Black—Hut, Black—Hut, 2019 – Boedi Widjaja exhibited at the National Gallery of Singapore in the Singapore Biennale 2019. Image courtesy of Boedi Widjaja & 2019 Singapore Biennale

 

Boedi Widjaja is an artist with one foot positioned in two similar, yet disparate worlds. Born in 1975 and raised by Chinese Indonesian parents in Surakarta, Central Java,  from the age of nine he has lived in Singapore. Since 2012 he has practised full-time as a multi-disciplinary contemporary artist. Widjaja’s art intersects graphic design, architectural and fine art principles while including performance and explorations and interactions with alternative cultures.

Black—Hut, Black—Hut, Widjaja’s ideas about home and the complexities of belonging in a transient world initially came to life through a distinct dream about five years ago. In his vision, he saw one of the pioneers of modern architecture Charles-Édouard Jeanneret  (1887-19650), also know as Le Corbusier, exploring and contemplating his ideas about building, dwellings and being.

Widjaja’s architectural-sound proto-structure has evolved through three individual installations. Black—Hut was first commissioned and presented at the Institute of Contemporary Arts Singapore in 2016, as a Singapore Biennale Affiliate Project. The second and third installations – both titled Black—Hut, Black—Hut – were co-commissioned by the Queensland Art Gallery & Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA) and the Singapore Art Museum. Conceived as a diptych of site-specific proto-structures across space and time, the second installation of the Black—Hut series was presented at the 9th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art in 2018 and the third, in the 6th Singapore Biennale in 2019.

Black—Hut, Black—Hut, 2019 Boedi Widjaja Image courtesy of Boedi Widjaja & 2019 Singapore Biennale

 

Black—Hut, Black—Hut is on display at the National Gallery of Singapore (NGS) from 22 November 2019 through 22 March 2020. Entitled Every Step in the Right Direction, the Singapore Biennale 2019 presents 150 works by 77 artists and art collectives from 36 countries and territories displayed at the National Gallery Singapore (NGS), Gillman Barracks, Lasalle College of the Arts and other various historic locations and public spaces. Helmed by artistic director Patrick Flores, the biennale seeks to address questions and ideas of how humanity can approach the past, present and future, looking to create a pathway to brighter and more harmonic times ahead.

Memories and impressions of the Surakarta Royal Palace located close to his childhood home and the sounds of the traditional Javanese gamelan floating gracefully upon the late afternoon breeze are encoded upon Widjaja’s psyche. They ignite a wonderful sense of nostalgia that has helped inspired his installation. “Three years ago I discovered an online library of recordings of a 100-year old gamelan – Gamelan Kjai Paridjata – that was acquired from the Surakarta Palace,” explained the artist who to avoid the racial tensions under President Suharto’s New Order regime (1965-1998) his parents sent him to Singapore, where he has since resided apart from his family.

”I then rearranged the 131 recordings within a matrix and displaced and inverted each sound out of its original position to generate the sequential pulse-like sounds ‘Datum’ (the musical piece in the installation),” he said. “The sounds are alien yet somehow feel at home. Perhaps I’ve grown to be familiar with there distorted, displaced qualities.”

Black—Hut, Black—Hut, 2019 Boedi Widjaja Image courtesy of Boedi Widjaja & 2019 Singapore Biennale #2

 

Black—Hut, Black—Hut is positioned on a flight of stairs leading from the ground floor down to the basement in NGS’ Coleman courtyard. It exists in the space between the two physical levels of the historic building reflecting the deep-seated and ongoing theme at the core of Widjaja’s artworks – of the diaspora, isolation, of the complexities of hybridity and the bridging of multiple cultures, along with his relationship with the physical surrounds where he intuitively feels grounded and at home.

Widjaja coordinates the linear planes of the steps into the vertical cladding of the structure, a continuation of the horizontal line aspect so that it appears grounded into the gallery as one harmonic and unified form. The striking exterior cocoons an inner sanctum, the imagined centre of Black—Hut, Black—Hut. From this unusual space ‘Datum’ radiates a distinct, yet strangely assuring atmospheric sound.

A salt-infused black concrete membrane upon the surface of the steps and the roof of the structure introduces an ecosystem to the installation.  This encourages efflorescence crystallisation blooms as the material ‘sweats’ in the tropical climate of Singapore. “When I started to think about concrete, the material triggered memories of my transition from Surakarta to Singapore. From a less urbanised environment to a very urbanised city in SE Asia,” said Widjaja who in 2000 received his Bachelor of Architecture from the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, while as young adulthood he explored his creativity via graphic design.

Black—Hut, Black—Hut, 2019 Boedi Widjaja Image courtesy of Boedi Widjaja & 2019 Singapore Biennale #6

 

“When I first came to Singapore in 1984, the constructed landscape was very different from that in Surakarta. I was in awe of the row upon row of public flats, large-scale mass housing structures, with ordered recto linear geometry and the repetition of elements that were very different, all built in concrete. This visual memory has seeped into my design ideas.”

“In responding to the NGS site, a transitory space used for human movement, I was drawn to the basement as it is a new addition to the historic building. When we think about what transpires below the ground, the context becomes interesting with the NGS role in the historization of SE Asian art. So much of the history that goes beyond the 200 years of Raffles belongs underground within an archeological state,” adds Widjaja who in his relatively short career has exhibited in some highly prestigious events representing Singapore in the Live Art program of the Diaspora Pavilion at the 57th Venice Biennale (2017); Jerusalem Biennale (2017); ‘From East to the Barbican’ at Barbican (London, 2015) and ‘Bains Numériques #7’ at Enghien-les-Bains (France, 2012).

“In Singapore, we look to the underground as a means to project into the future by building structures. There is an exciting anachronistic quality where the future and the past intersect. This expresses a sense of time which I associate to my migrant experience – in being in an in-between space-time.”

Black—Hut, Black—Hut, 2019 Boedi Widjaja Image courtesy of Boedi Widjaja & 2019 Singapore Biennale #8

 

“What I try to do is collapse several architectural traditions into Black—Hut, Black—Hut, includingJavanese architecture and the mandala – I am drawn to the latter because of its presence within traditions, and how it expresses cosmological and political ideas in one space. The mandala is present in both the installation and the Surakarta Royal Palace,” and he adds, “When I think about the centre of the Black—Hut, I think firstly of a sense of an anchor that is not present, yet which I yearn for. While the mandala-center is a concentration of cultural, historical and political power, it also points to the memory of my first home being located near to the Keraton – the universal centre according to local Javanese beliefs.”

“The spatial geometry of Singapore’s social housing seems to be conditioned upon a fragmented, staccato time that is regularly marked by interruptions. In the city, smooth and endless concrete surfaces become sound-tracked with the splintering of time,” stated Widjaja who’s solo exhibitions include, Black—Hut, a Singapore Biennale 2016 Affiliate Project at Institute of Contemporary Arts Singapore (2016), Path. 6 Unpacking my Library at Esplanade (Singapore 2014), and in 2019 Boedi Widjaja: Declaration Of, at Helwaser Gallery, his first exhibition in New York City.

To audiences exploring Widjaja’s work for the first time Black—Hut, Black—Hut, may seem indeed as an alien structure. So much so that they may be more comfortable to look, observe and enjoy it from various positions on the stairs, escalators and upper floors of the NGS, without the need for closer inspection.  To fully appreciate it however, one would benefit from observing and understanding his previous installation at APT in 2018 and recognise the two installations as a diptych.

Black—Hut, Black—Hut, 2019 Boedi Widjaja Image courtesy of Boedi Widjaja & 2019 Singapore Biennale #7

 

Black—Hut, Black—Hut is configured, says Widjaja, “to reference the gap between ground and land in the tropical and subtropical vernacular houses built on raised floors, such as the Javanese Joglo, the Queenslander, and the Malay houses. Ground is shorthand for me to speak about grounding, belonging, rootedness.” His APT installation in the Queensland Art Gallery referenced the ground level and a gap between an elevated structure, this installation is, however, a subterranean mirror of that work.

To assist curious observers gain a greater understanding of this NGS installation, they would benefit from video and audio explanations to gain insights into Widjaja’s ideas. For the inquiring minds, there is undoubtedly much to engage in, especially if they have the opportunity to meet and probe Widjaja or the biennale curators at the NGS.

For me, the work is visually and conceptually fascinating, especially as I have my interest in architecture and how structures and dwellings influence the human experience. On another level, this work entertains my ideas about my spiritual essence in relation to our physical world, and my fragmented feelings about belonging.

Black—Hut, Black—Hut, 2019 Boedi Widjaja Image courtesy of Boedi Widjaja & 2019 Singapore Biennale #4

 

Both beautiful and powerful, yet unusual in its physical and sonic presence, Black—Hut, Black—Hut is an intricate work charged with layers of meaning and focal points to experience its varying degrees of subtleties of intimacy and monumentality. The visual rhythms of the structure are exhilarating, and fascinating in their linear character from the inner repetitive mandala aspect to the external design.

While it’s inside installation’s ‘nerve centre’ we may fully appreciate the audio rhythms and their fragmented otherworldly heartbeat. Between the silence the sounds are indeed alien, yet at the same time from a comforting organic source. Widjaja’s abstraction of dwellings that have informed his life stand as a moment where the contemporary emerges providing a thought-provoking space for people to meet and converse.

Widjaja’s Black—Hut, Black—Hut captures an intimate essence of the modern human experience. Of a duality that touches on the present, future and past – and of a species disconnected and out of harmony with the tempo of universe and nature – lost and yearning for belonging, somewhere within time and space.

Black—Hut, Black—Hut, 2019 Boedi Widjaja Image courtesy of Boedi Widjaja & 2019 Singapore Biennale #4

 

 

Words: Richard Horstman

Images courtesy: Boedi Widjaja & 2019 Singapore Biennale and Richard Horstman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

“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

 

 

 

 

 

the curious worlds of Balinese painter Galung Wiratmaja

  Tari-persembahan-150x120cm-2019-ac-on-canvas                           Tari  Persembahan, 2019 – Galung Wiratmaja

 

Intrigue and mystery are powerful psychological elements when effectively utilized within a painting. The ability to make subtle suggestions in a composition that inspire curiosity and ignite the observer’s imagination reflects a painter who is in full control of his canvas.

Colour and form are the potent visual fundamentals of a painting that we respond to – they are the fundamentals that inform our conscious and subconscious minds. We then recognize colours and shapes and immediately make associations with objects in our surrounding world. On the deeper, subconscious level, colour and form are distinct vibrational codes that resonate with our inner architecture and core.

Walau-abstrak-teruslah-150x120cm-2016-ac-on-canvas                         Walau Abstrak Teruslah, 2019 – Galung Wiratmaja

 

Balinese modern artist Made Galung Wiratmaja understands how to create captivating paintings – compositions that balance colour with form to catch the eye and incite fascination. Over the past two decades he has explored the abstract, abstraction and figurative expressionistic painting styles. Abstraction paintings reveal a very simple and incomplete depiction of form, abstract compositions, on the other hand, are in descript arrangements of colour and unknown shapes that are without any physical references that we recognize.

I love painting – I find it such a fascinating and inspirational force. Yet a painting is simply some paint applied to a two-dimensional surface, be it a compelling composition of technical mastery, or an expression that requires little time and skill to complete. What sparks my curiosity is how easily our minds are led, and how quickly we believe in the painted illusions that appear before our eyes. As Picasso once said, “Art is a lie, that makes us realize the truth.”

Galung Wiratmaja - AmbangGalung Wiratmaja at ARMA with his paintings in the 2018 exhibition “Ambang Embang”

 

In “Ambang Embang”, a 2018 group exhibition at the Agung Rai Museum of Art (ARMA), in Ubud, Galung exhibited three abstractions of the Lingga, an upright object symbolizing fertility and representing the phallus of the Hindu god Shiva. Entitled “Totem #1,2 & 3” his compositions ‘evolve’ within a sequential series that wonderfully suggest the shoulders and head of the human body. His use of colour, shape and line imply enough decipherable information for our mind to make immediate associations.

“Facing Reality” Galung’s recent solo exhibition, open 5 March – 6 May at The Oberoi, Seminyak and presented by Indonesian Fine Art, features nine figurative expressionistic paintings. In these works the artist combines an array of human figures positioned, mostly, with their backs to the observer, seemingly peering into the colourful abstract backgrounds. His unusual compositions immediately incite appeal, and we wonder what his figures are indeed doing, and what is it the artist wishes to say.

ORLA-(orang-lama)-150x110cm-2106-ac-on-canvas                           ORLA (orang lama), 2016 – Galung Wiratmaja

 

In “Founding Father”, Indonesia’s first President, Sukarno is the focal subject, while one work features a large group of people, and in another appears a Balinese family in traditional attire. What is particularly alluring is that his figures are not facing and addressing the audience. They are in interrelationships with unfamiliar backgrounds and this conjures up within us many different responses.

“I enjoy making compositions that feature mysterious elements and that provoke the audience’s imagination. I want that observers to discover their own interpretations – all readings are valid,” the artist says. “In the compositions depicting Balinese people I make identity statements of what it means to be Balinese, and of the two worlds in which we inhabit.”

Angel-40x50cm-2019-ac-on-canvas1                                      Angel, 2019 – Galung Wiratmaja

 

The paintings reveal two contrasting visual realities according to the Balinese understanding of sekala/niskala – the seen, and unseen worlds. In the realm of sekala is all that is of the physical form, while the niskala is the non-physical, spiritual world consisting of the gods, ancestors and nature spirits. Balance is the key to Galung’s choice of colours that are a mixture of subdued ochre’s, greens, browns and greys that create interesting and unusual contrasts. They are never over powering. “My colours reflect my personality, not too bright, yet not too dark,” he says with a smile.

“Tari Persembahan” (Dance Tribute) depicting four Balinese Legong dancers is an exhibition highlight. The figures Galung generally depicts are stationary, appearing rigid, in a type of silent contemplation, in a departure of style his Legong dancers blend and harmonize within a field of vibrant motion, and the composition has a distinct visual tension.

Totem #1, 2018 Galung Wiratmaja                                    Totem #1, 2018 – Galung Wiratmaja

 

“Often while painting my mind becomes detached from the creative process,” the painter says. “My hand guides the brush without me being conscious and compositions mysteriously appear before my eyes. At times I work with a clear concept in mind, and others times not. The outcomes are always surprising, and harmonic.”

About five years ago Galung’s works really caught my attention. Born in 1972 in Sukawati, GIanyar, he studied Fine Art at Udayana University in Denpasar and started painting at the age of thirteen. To his distinction Galung has succeeded in creating his own signature style. He certainly deserves recognition and increased exposure.

Founding-father-65x80cm-2019-ac-on-canvas2                               Founding Father, 2019 – Galung Wiratmaja

 

Words: Richard Horstman

Images courtesy: Richard Horstman & Indonesian Fine Art

 

 

TANDA SERU! exhibition in Bali makes a bold artistic statement

Members of the public engage with paintings by Citra Sasmita during the opening of "Tanda Seru" at Uma Seminyak - Image courtesy of FutuwonderAudience members engage with paintings “Portrait of the Other, #1 & #2” by Citra Sasmita during the opening of Tanda Seru!

 

In 2017 a meeting of young Balinese women from various creative backgrounds, yet with similar visions, set out to create a cross-disciplinary platform to support and encourage women’s art activities and visual discourse. Their driving motivating question: ‘Why aren’t there many established women artists in Bali?’ The gathering set the foundations for a new art collective – Futuwonder.

In July 2018, Futuwonder announced its arrival on the Indonesian art scene by conducting a Wikilatih workshop (Wikipedia article writing) and uploading onto the World Wide Web eighteen new articles on female artists from Bali. Puan Empu Seni: Edit-a-thon was a part of a national drive, held in conjunction with Wikimedia Indonesia, to increase the amount of data on Indonesian female artists available on the Internet’s most go-to source of information – Wikipedia.

Leading Indonesian contemporary artist Arahmaiani and Tanda Seru artists during the exhibition opening at Uma Seminyak 31 March 2019 - Image courtesy FutuwonderLeading Indonesian contemporary artist Arahmaiani with Tanda Seru! artists during the opening of the exhibition at Uma Seminyak

 

Following on from their first exhibition, Masa Subur: Efek Samping, held late last year in Ubud, Futuwonder presents Tanda Seru! (Exclamation Mark) open for two weeks from 31 March at the Uma Seminyak, Bali. Officiated by Indonesia’s most prominent woman contemporary artist, Arahmaiani, and showcasing a diverse array of contemporary works by eight-woman artists, the exhibition commemorates International Woman’s Day 2019, 8 March, and Kartini Day on 21 April. Also referred to as Women’s Emancipation Day, established in 1964 by Indonesia’s founding President, Sukarno, Kartini Day is a national holiday celebrating the life of Raden Ajeng Kartini (1879-1904), Indonesia’s first feminist activist.

“Bali is a very patriarchial society with few women being represented in the art scene, especially in the museums and galleries,” said Ruth Onduko, one of the founding members of Futuwonder, along with emerging artist Citra Sasmita and graphic designer Ni Putu Sridiniari. “We intentionally invited talented young women to exhibit in Tanda Seru! especially those who make art but do not label themselves as artists,” Ruth explains. “Due to the narrow scope of today’s contemporary art world women are marginalized and few get the opportunity to exhibit their work within the fine art gallery system as their work may not follow current market trends, or may lack the necessary commercial elements.”

"Res Publica - Security Mirror for Genitalia, 2019, Ni Putu Sridiniari. Image by Richard Horstman         Res Publica: Security Mirrors for Genitalia, 2019 – Ni Putu Sridiniari

 

“Through Tanda Seru! we examine and question issues related to gender, patriarchy and sexuality – making statements about the female body, woman’s roles, and our capabilities as equals with men,” Ruth said. “We chose the exhibition title to emphasize the importance of these issues, while showing the art world (especially in Bali), that there is a lot of highly skilled female artists that are worthy to be considered as part of the larger art world.”

Dan Bunga Berkata (And the Flower Speaks) is inspired by Aria Gita Indira’s investigations into data released by Badan Pusat Statistik (BPS Statistics Indonesia) in 2017, that reveals 1 in 3 Indonesian women aged between 15 – 64 have experienced violence and, or sexual violence in their lives. Indira presents three small ‘still life’ compositions of flower arrangements on black backgrounds, some of the flowers, however, are embroidered in cotton. The cotton ‘patches’ are metaphors, symbolic icons for all the female victims of domestic violence. Journalists often use the names of flowers when referring to domestic violence survivors in their reports.

"Dan Bunga Berkata" by Aria Gita Indira Image Richard HorstmanDan Bunga Berkata (And the Flower Speaks), 2019 – Aria Gita Indira

 

Crude, yet confrontational The World Between Her Legs, 2019 and Are We There Yet by Santi Permana features women’s underwear attached to brightly colored canvases. Statements to encourage strength and enthusiasm, such as: ‘forced prostitution’, ‘sexual harassment’, ‘girls are strong’ and ‘empowered women’ complete the compositions. Questioning the patriarchal reconstruction of the body of a woman who is menstruating, worshipping, in the work place, and in marriage, Happy to Bleed #1,2&3 by Cristine Mandasari presents circular compositions with restrictive statements written upon sanitary napkins. The artist poses the question, ‘With all the restrictions, can women actualize themselves as human beings who are free and equal to men?’

Communicating about the objectification of women, layers of transparent acrylic sheets frame a collage of digital images featuring mannequins, flowers and hands in the eye-catching Mannekin, 2019, by Intan Kirana Sari (b. 1999, Denpasar, Bali). Delicate brightly colored pieces of paper are arranged into collage on a blue background in Male Reproductive System, 2019 by Irene Febry. Febry imagines what the human reproductive system may look like if it was found within the body of a man.

"Mannequin", 2019 Intan Kirana Sari - Image by Richard Horstman                               Mannekin, 2019  – Intan Kirana Sari  

 

Citra Sasmita is renowned for her descriptive paintings depicting the exploration of the female body through the suffering and pain of the wounds inflicted upon them. Portrait of the Other, #1 & #2 contrasts and balances tragedy with an unusual sense of beauty, creating strong and distinct compositions. Few Balinese artists express themselves through the medium of printmaking, Sealing the Body and Tutur Tinular by Ni Luh Pangestu Widya Sari (b. Denpasar, Bali 1991) are a departure in artistic techniques and aesthetics from the other works in the show, adding to the overall strength of Tanda Seru!

 A pair of long, silver legs protrude from a square mirror, centrally positioned between the legs another mirror, round and convex. Upon inspection of Res Publica: Security Mirrors for Genitalia, by Ni Putu Sridiniari, the observer immediately comes face-to-face with their own image. The highlight of Tanda Seru! the work is both engaging and confronting, provoking thoughts, experiences and reflections upon gender identity.

"Happy to Bleed #1,2&3" by Cristine Mandasari - Image Richard Horstman                    Happy to Bleed #1,2&3, 2019  – Cristine Mandasari

 

“People are obsessed with private matters and sexuality. The law and the public, however, control women’s freedoms and perpetuate gender inequality,” said Sridiniari, a freelance graphic designer, who rarely publically exhibits her work. “I believe contemporary art is important to negotiate politics and socio-cultural issues – discourses that highlight personal narratives and cultural identity in a larger context: the family, community and the state.”

“I’ve always wanted to work with mirrors and body parts to create an installation, so I decided to work with legs for Res Publica, because everybody is curious about sexuality, especially in this case with the direct reference to the female genitals,” she explained. “In Res Publica, the female genitalia is a treasure, yet remains a hidden mystery, that is watched by the public eye.”

"Male Reproductive System" by Irene Febry Image by Richard Horstman                     Male Reproductive System, 2019 – Irene Febry

 

Tutur Tinular, 2015 Ni Luh Pangestu Widya Sari - Image by Richard Horstman    Sealing the Body and Tutur Tinular, 2019 – Ni Luh Pangestu Widya Sari

 

 

Tanda Seru!

Open 31 March – 13 April

Uma Seminyak,

Jalan Kayi Cendana 1.

Oberoi, Seminyak, Bali

 

Words: Richard Horstman

Images: Richard Horstman & Futuwonder

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Celebrating Indonesian Modern Art: the Painting Collection of the Presidential Palace of the Republic of Indonesia – Senandang Ibu Pertiwi

headpic_orig                         The National Gallery of Indonesia, Jakarta

The 2016 inaugural presentation of the Painting Collection of the Presidential Palace of the Republic of Indonesia, 17/71, Goresan Juang Kemerdekaan (The Brushstrokes of the Independence Struggle),  2-30 August at the National Gallery of Indonesia, Jakarta, highlighted the relevance of art and culture to the nation. Officially opened on 17th August by the current Indonesian President Joko Widodo, on the 71st anniversary of the proclamation of independence, the exhibition featured 28 paintings from the collection of over 3000 works assembled by Indonesia’s founding father President Sukarno.

It  featured scenes of the independence struggle by Indonesian maestros such as Affandi, Sudjojono and Raden Saleh alongside pictures of iconic Indonesia by painters such as Srihadi, Rudolf Bonnet and Walter Spies. The painting collection hangs in all six of the Presidential Palaces in Java and Bali.

20170811_135559          Nyi Roro Kidul (Queen of the South Seas) 1950 – Basoeki Abdullah

20170811_140437                         Lelang Ikan (Fish Auction) – Itji Tarmizi

Following on from last year’s historic event which attracted over 30,000 visitors to the National Gallery, the second edition: Senandang Ibu Pertiwi (Songs of the Mother Land) open 2 -30 August as part of the 72nd anniversary celebrations of Indonesian independence. It showcased 48 works by 44  artists from the 19th and 20th centuries with a variety of themes including landscapes, tradition, mythology and religion.

The son of an aristocratic Javanese schoolteacher and his high caste Balinese wife Sukarno was born in Surabaya, East Java, in 1901. From 1921-26 he studied at the Institute of Technology in Bandung,  West Java, graduating as an engineer, focusing on architecture. As the founding father and first President of the Republic of Indonesia, a position retained for almost 21 years, Sukarno was responsible for transforming the physical landscape of the capital city of Jakarta with public art.

1_2_orig“Pribite Nevesti” a painting that depicts a traditional Russian wedding by Russian artist Egorovick Makowsky.

Sukarno was an art lover and a great supporter of Indonesian modern art and Balinese traditional art amassing huge collections. While he enjoyed close relationships with many  artists he was also a talented painter. During his presidencey art was seen as a tool to help build the spirit and character of the nation.

Pribite Nevesti is the first painting that greets visitors upon entry into the foyer of the National Gallery. Painted by Russian artist Egorovick Makowsky (1839-1915) it is believed to be more than 125 years old, and depicts traditional Russian wedding. The painting was given to Sukarno as a gift during his visit to Russia by the leader of the Soviet Union, Nikita Khrushchev. It was exhibited at the Kremlin in Moscow before being brought to the Bogor State Palace in West Java and put on display.

A01_DSCN4907 CRW_9464_Basoeki Abdullah_Pemandangan Flores        Pantai Flores (On the Shores of Flores Island) 1942 – Basoeki Abdullah

20170811_140513              Keluarga Nelayan (Fisherman’s Family) 1950 – Renato Cristiano

Entering the display room the first theme is Nature’s Diversity and features a  variety of  landscape paintings, twelve in number, that immortalize the dramtic and beautiful scenary of Indonesia.  One of the highlights is Pantai Flores (On the Shores of Flores Island) 1942, by Basoeki Abdullah, the painting was originally a watercolor on paper by Sukarno, that was replicated into an oil on canvas work on request by Sukarno. The scene of the beautiful Flores landscape was captured  while he was exiled on the remote Ende Island between 1934 – 38 , sentenced by the Dutch East Indies Colonial Government.

Another highlight was Harimau Minum (Drinking Tiger) 1863 by the father of Javanese modernism Raden Saleh (1811-1880) who after living in Europe for 20 years studying with various european artist, became a portrait painter for the aristracy. The painting portrays a mystical atmosphere that is rich in symbolism and depicts a tiger drinking from a river.

20170909_100327                 Harimau Minum (Drinking Tiger) 1863 – Raden Saleh

20170811_110652                 Works dispalyed within the theme of Nature’s Diversity

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The collection of works themed Mythology and Religion offer insights into the historic and cultural influences that have evolved throughout the country over the centuries helping to define Indonesia.

According Senandang Ibu Pertiwi  curators Asikin Hasan, Amir Sidharta, Mikke Susanto and Sally Texania, the exhibtion catalogue: “The archipelago is not only a region that has numerous myths containing mystical and anthropological values, but also a locus that has created elements appropriated by almost all of the major religions in the world. The major kingdoms that prospered in Java, Sumatra, and other large islands are a melting pot for teachings whose artefacts we can still find today.”

Arguably the most iconic painting  within the mythology theme is Nyi Roro Kidul (Queen of the South Seas) 1950 by Basoeki Abdullah, a story that is often described in paintings. In Yogyakarta, there is a widely known story about Nyi Roro Kidul, who is depicted as a beautiful woman and ruler of the South Coast and seas. The myth describes that Kidul is found of the colour green, so the local people and careful not to wear this colour when they venture out into the southern ocean for fear of being taken by the Queen of the South Seas.

20170811_135321                       Offering to the Gods – Gusti Ketut Kobot

20170811_140233                                         Theo Meier

20170811_135453                                   Ida Bagus Made Poleng

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Words & Images: Richard Horstman

 

Nyoman Gunarsa (1944 – 2017) One of Bali’s Poineering Modernist

335-maestro_lukis_nyoman_gunarsa_meninggal_dunia_dok_youtube-696x341             RIP Nyoman Gunarsa – One of Bali’s pioneering modern artist

With the recent passing of Balinese artist Nyoman Gunarsa on the 10th September 2017 an important chapter of Balinese art comes to a close. His legacy as an artist, art lecturer, art collective leader and museum owner, however, will be long lasting. Born in Klungkung, East Bali in 1944, Gunarsa was the first post war Balinese artist to rise to national prominence. His contribution to the development of Balinese art as one of the pioneering modern expressionist painters was in the exploration of form, rather than the narrative.

Gunarsa’s energetic style of applying paint to canvas with spontaneous, gestural brushstrokes was likened by some to a musical conductor, and he was affectionately known as the maestro. Raised nearby to the village of Kamasan, which during the 16th – 20th centuries was the epicenter of Balinese Classical art, Gunarsa was renowned for his dedication to the art of his forefathers. Academically trained, he quickly matured as a realism painter, yet in the 1980’s his fresh approach to depicting the characters from the Wayang Kulit shadow puppet theater broke new aesthetic grounds in Balinese art.

nyoman gunarsa, 2006 water color on paper. 115x161cm.Barong Dance,Gunarsa’s dynamic paintings emphasized the energy and movement that typified Balinese performance and ceremony.

The foundation of Balinese art is drawing. The strictly governed rules and techniques that characterize the Classical style begin with the sketching of the composition, the drawing of the fine black ink outlines of all visual information, and the coloring in of figures, forms and motifs. Originally these were collective works completed by a group of artists, as a communal offering of gratitude to the Gods. The application of color involved controlled brushstrokes, layered until the desired results are achieved – a brushwork technique akin to drawing, or penciling in the colorful hues.

Gunarsa’s signature style was an adaptation from western art, in which the individual’s innovative ideas, emotions and energy are omnipotent. Freedom and power of expressive, often minimal brushstrokes defined his visual approach. Gunarsa captured a fresh sense of dynamism in his interpretations of iconic scenarios from the Balinese Hindu legends, along with his revolutionary method of capturing traditional ceremony and performance, especially beautiful women dancing. Fusing his cultural knowledge with elements of expressionism and abstract painting immediately set his work apart from that of his contemporaries.

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Colorful, pulsating movement and vitality categorize Balinese ceremony, performance and dance. This has been a source of inspiration for artists over many generations, yet never had a painter captured the seen, and unseen elements of energy, with Gunarsa’s colorful vibrancy. Form along with the decorative elements of Balinese Classical painting took on wonderful new life, and an exciting, newfound match for the unique, real visual spectacle was born.

As an art lecturer at Yogyakarta’s ASRI (Academi Seni Rupa Indonesia) during the late 1960’s and into the 1970’s Gunarsa was a catalyst to great change. He shared his vast knowledge and enthusiasm with a new, young generation of Balinese artists, the first to venture outside of their cultural structures and restraints, to be academically trained in Central Java. These were the formative days of Balinese contemporary art. Via their fresh approach to exploration and expression using new and unusual media they transformed Balinese philosophies, rituals and symbols into an exciting new visual language.

Gunarsa(DK)

Gunarsa helped establish Indonesia’s longest running artist collective, Sanggar Dewata Indonesia, SDI (Workshop of the Gods) in 1970, inviting his Balinese students to form the new association. SDI grew to create a social collective to coordinate artistic activities, exhibitions and organize debates on art outside the institutional teaching framework. It offered its members freedom to collaborate and create without having to fear being labeled as supporters of certain political parties, during a highly politicized era of Indonesian history.

While the influential 1936 – 1945 Pita Maha artists collective redefined Balinese traditional art with modern aesthetics for the burgeoning tourist market, SDI set about redefining from the artist’s perspective based on the search for new ideas, self-expression, and national identity. This new art movement laid the foundations for the future, while inspiring many young artist to study in Yogyakarta, and Balinese contemporary art evolved to reveal its own distinct ‘voice’ in world art, while spawning generations of talented artists.

Sketch in black ink- Gunarsa

During the 1980’s – 1990’s Gunarsa and others such as Wianta, Sika, Djirna and Erawan enjoyed national and international success. Gunarsa opened the Museum of Contemporary Indonesian Painting in Yogyakarta in 1989. His next milestone was in 1994 when the Nyoman Gunarsa Museum of Classical Painting opened next to his residence in Klungkung. In the 3-storey venue he combined his own works with Classical paintings from the 17th – 19th centuries. Dedicated to the preservation of this unique art form Gunarsa acquired scarce works, including ones painted on rare ulantaga bark paper.

Artifacts, stone and woodcarvings, traditional furniture, masks, sculptures and a collection of sacred ceremonial kris add to the historical significance of his museum. In August 2017 the Indonesian President Joko Widodo attended an official reception at the museum in Gunarsa’s honor. As an international, multi award winning artist Gunarsa held solo exhibitions in more than ten foreign countries.

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A landmark celebration of Balinese art was held from July – October 2012 at Gunarsa’s museum, The First International Festival of Classical Balinese Painting. The festival included works from collections of seven other countries, along with the participation of some of the world’s leading foreign authorities on Balinese Classical art. “Classical Balinese paintings have been admired world wide since the European society first became acquainted with the East in the 15th century,” said Gunarsa. “And since then other countries have searched out these masterpieces to enrich their cultural references because of the extraordinary implied messages, philosophies, and counsels about the life of the Balinese.”

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Words: Richard Horstman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Made Djirna – soul mining

Installation at Djirna's studio.                     Installation by Made Djirna at his Ubud studio, 2017

Exploring Balinese artist Made Djirna’s cavernous studio conjures up notions of a journey into a mysterious inner sanctum that is vibrant and fascinating, yet is equally as powerful and confronting.

A collector of all manner of cultural artifacts, naturally formed shapes and unusual objects, which he then converts into intriguing installations, typically, Djirna’s lively yet simplified and raw figures reflect the primitive tribal arts. He constructs enormous “shrines and altars” from old timber, crude sculptures and rocks, complete with fire, coloured light,  and abstract painted deities that are infused with a sense of ritual and resonate with spiritual energy.

Installation by Made Djirna, mixed media, various dimensions. 2012.Image Richard Horstman.JPGInstallation by Made Djirna exhibited in “Ubud 1963, (Re) Reading The Growth of Made Djirna”, at the National Gallery in Jakarta. 24th November – 5th December 2012.

Within the National Gallery of Indonesia, Djirna recreates the unique essence of his studio by placing his installations within small rooms and in confined corners. He allows the audience an insight into the creative world of one Indonesia’s finest contemporary artists.

“My concern is to express reflections that go far deeper than what we can know with our panca indra (eyes, ears, nose, tongue and skin). All of my work is a process that goes hand in hand with the demands of my soul. It is essentially a spiritual process taking visible pictorial shape,” Djirna.

'Benang Merah Bali - Basel" (The Red Thread From Bali to Basel) Made Djirna. 1993, mixed media on canvas, 145 x 245cm..JPG     Benang Merah Bali (the red thread from Bali to Basel) – Made Djirna, 1993

A versatile artist who loves to experiment with new materials, techniques and styles, from 2010 onwards Djirna reinterpreted his method of producing his paintings and the new works were highlighted in his exhibition Ubud 1963, (Re) Reading The Growth of Made Djirna, at the National Gallery of Indonesia, in Jakarta. The exhibition ran from 24 November through to 5 December 2012.

In this, Djirna’s eighth solo, retrospective exhibition, observers may take a brief sojourn through his creative development and witness the metamorphosis he has undergone. Mengenang Piramid (To Reminisce About the Pyramid),1994 and Kabut Hitam (Black Fog) 1994, are memoirs of his childhood experience of 1963. Both paintings are rendered in darkened acrylic hues with traces of red and white. These bleak abstract works convey anxiety and distress, evident in the facial expression in Piramid and the tension created by vigorously scored details into the body of the work. Kabut suggests architectural objects overcome by thick black clouds and bright red denotes volcanic flows and the horror of such a scenario.

"Wajah Wajah Mengambang" (Floating Faces) Made Djirna, 2008, oil on canvas, 295 x 380cm.      Wajah Wajah Mengambang (Floating Faces) – Made Djirna, 2008

Within his curatorial essay, senior Indonesian curator Jim Supangkat began by describing the extraordinary events of 1963 that had a catastrophic impact on Bali, as well as shaping the formative years of a young Djirna who was living just north of Ubud. Mount Agung in East Bali, the islands spiritual pinnacle, began its process of tremors in January, volcanic eruptions started in March and again in May and tremors then continued until its final blast in January 1964. This was an unprecedented year with extensive infrastructure damage, crop failures, wide-spread famines and many deaths, while also putting an immediate halt to tourism in Bali.

Born in Kedewatan, Ubud in 1957 Djirna was just 6 years old at the time of this event. He later went on to graduate from the Faculty of Fine Art and Design at the ISI (Indonesian Institute of Art) Yogyakarta in 1985 and spent 10 years living in the cultural capital of Java. He actively exhibits his works locally and internationally and is a member of the respected SDI, Sanggar Dewata Indonesia association of modern artists.

"Gajah Genit" (flirty Elephant) Made Djirna. 2012, mixed media on canvas, 260x400cm..JPG          “Gajah Genit” (Flirty Elephant), 260 x 400 cm, 2012 – Made Djirna

Among Djirna’s captivating new works exhibited in the National Gallery, Gajah Genit (Flirty Elephant), 260 x 400 cm, serves as a metaphor of a power crisis in the face of change. Djirna communicates the damages inflicted by power and domination via deforestation. Posing in jest, the “flirty elephant” stands confidently in defiance. Yet also he depicts a ruler’s demise by placing the image of a vulture on the elephant’s head.  He also symbolizes the dawn of a new era by depicting a dove on a stump of a tree. This intelligent work in rich blues, reds and greens is infused with humor that helps to resolve the seriousness of the alarming reality we face.

Upon his mixed media canvases of huge proportions (up to 350 x 400 cm) Djirna first applies a thick base of texture into which he scores his vast narratives, then adds color in rich metallic paint and finally contains all the characters within black lines. In a style reminiscent of the traditional Balinese paintings with the narrative covering the complete expanse of canvas, Djirna’s works take on modern narratives and issues that for the artist are very close to home.

Metamorfosis-2012      Metamorfosis (Metamorphosis), 260 x 400 cm, 2012 – Made Djirna

His recent use of metallic paints adds a wonderful luminous dimension, particularly when highlighted by artificial lighting. They are aesthetically spectacular not only because of the dynamic coloration, yet the scale of the works simply overwhelms. Some have taken Djirna more than 4 months to complete.

In Metamorfosis (Metamorphosis), 2012, 260 x 400 cm, two lovers embrace in the forest surrounded by hundreds of brightly colored butterflies, on the trunks of the trees are numerous large caterpillars. What may appear to be a simplistic narrative denoting change reveals the reality that life is full of paradoxes. Butterflies are natures symbol of grace, yet they become caterpillars which are destructive and are seen as pests. This is a creation of wonder and beauty, and it is here that Djirna’s brilliance shines through.

DSCF4366Installation by Made Djirna in the exhibition, “The Logic of Ritual” at Sangkring Art Gallery, Yogyakarta, 2013.

During his July, 2013 exhibition at Sangkring Art Space in Yogyakarta Djirna was prepared to bring his religion under close scrutiny. His paintings and installations in The Logic of Ritual were protests against numerous ritual practices, whose meaning, according to the artist, is now driven by modern and commercial practices.

Djirna criticises the consumption of money (his works utilise a countless number of Chinese coins used in Balinese rituals) in direct relation to the demands of Balinese Hindu religious rituals that are becoming increasingly glamorous, luxurious and festive. Such demands, while indeed granting communion between the devotee, the spirit world and Gods, may be perceived as rigid mechanisms, ultimately keeping the ‘little people’ poor.

He dedicated his exhibition to the plight of the impoverished of Bali, who suffer in silence while paying excessively for offerings and rituals that demand perfection both in the materials and presentation.

Djirna -the magic of ritual .jpg               The Logic of Ritual – Made Djirna, 2013

Djirna was invited to participate in the landmark 2016 Singapore Biennale – An Everywhere of Mirrorings at the Singapore Art Museum (SAM). His installation – Melampaui Batas (Beyond Boundaries) 2016, seeked to transcend the boundaries between the interior and the exterior, the microcosm and the macrocosm, along with the spiritual and the physical planes.

A fusion of different elements, it featured found objects, 1000 terracotta figurines representing humanity (the fragility of clay signifying the precarious nature of life), an antique traditional ironwood boat from Sulawesi –symbolic of journeying between Nusantara and the larger world and the worlds of the living and dead (in Balinese belief the boat carries the soul to its ancestral abode after death). Positioned in the corners of the room, large trees constructed from driftwood – its trunks and branches, some with crude primitive figure scribed into the wood, suggest fragments of other lives, cultures and civilizations.

Made Djirna "Melampaui Batas" 2016 Singpore Biennale .jpgMelampaui Batas (Beyond Boundaries) 2016 – Made Djirna, Singapore Biennale – An Everywhere of Mirrorings at the Singapore Art Museum.

The artist’s earlier works are categorized by naïve figurative and abstract expressions often rendering thick chunks of paint to create ambiguous forms with faces that reveal the darker emotions of the human experience. His strong earthy figures are a reminder of the past when life was simpler and with a greater connection to the environment.

What has remained consistent throughout Djirna’s career is his sense of unity within the collective experience and importance of the personal process while learning to endure the dualities of life.

“Through the personal development that is achieved by the inward journey of self-discovery, compassion, understanding and healing, we gain wisdom and strength. These are the tools which will support us during the journey of life.” Made Djirna’s expressions are intimate, honest and expose the heartfelt emotions of the human experience. They convey a profound sense of authenticity.

Djirna is currently working on a large installation for the Jakarta Biennale in November 2017.

Rimba-2011                        Rimba, 2011 – Made Djirna

Mixed Media on board, 210x70cm, 2007.                Installation by Made Djirna at his Ubud studio, 2007

DSCF4389.JPG                  Painting from The Logic of Ritual – Made Djirna, 2013

Words & Images: Richard Horstman

Previewing Indonesian Modern & Contemporary Art at Sotheby’s Hong Kong Spring Sale

The 1-5 April Sotheby’s Hong Kong Spring Sales, a highly anticipated auction on the 2017 global calendar, inevitably will draw increased global attention to the Asian region.

Sotheby’s first conducted sales in Hong Kong in 1972. For the first time however, works by iconic Western contemporary artists Andy Warhol, Jean Michel Basquiat and Damien Hirst will be presented during the 2 April Modern and Contemporary Art Evening Sale, to be held at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center.

Affandi, Colosseum, Roma.Image courtesy sotheby's HK                             Lot 1047 Colosseum, RomaAffandi

For collectors of Indonesian modern art the following works will be of interest, especially Lot 1047 Colosseum, Roma. Painted in 1972, this is one of the three known depictions of the famous Roman amphitheater by Affandi, (1907-1990). Arguably Indonesia’s most important modernists Affandi was the first Indonesian to exhibit in the Venice Biennale in 1954.

Capturing afternoon sunlight emblazoning the arena, this rare work would compliment any Affandi connoisseurs collection, and has an estimated price between HKD 2,200,000 – 2,500,000 (Rp.378,070,000–601,480,000). Lot 1048, Barong, 1966, also by Affandi, has an estimated price between HKD 1,800,000-2,800,000 (Rp.3,091,880,000-4,809,600,000).

Lee Man Fong_Balinese Procession                               Lot 1024, Balinese ProcessionLee Man Fong

Lot 1021, The Lotus Pond, is by Belgian impressionist painter Adrien Jean le Mayeur (1880-1958), who fist settled on Bali in 1932. One of several pieces he left unfinished upon his death, it portrays Balinese beautiful women in, and surrounding a pond. It’s estimated price ranges between HKD 3,800,000 – 5,500,000 (Rp.6,527,310,000 –9,447,420,000).

Lee Man Fong, (b. Guangzhou 1913-1988) spent extended periods painting in Bali. Lot 1024, Balinese Procession is an excellent work, highlighted by his fusion of East and West styles with an estimated price between HKD 10,000,000-15,000,000 (Rp.17,177,100,000–25,765,700,000).

Hendra Gunawan_Cucu-Cucu Witarsa Mengenang Bintang PSSI. ALM. Djamiart Dhalhar (The Grandchildren of Witarsa Commemorating Indonesian Football Star, the late Djamiat Dhalhar)Lot 369,Cucu-cucu Witarsa Mengenang Bintang PSSI. Alm. Djamiart Dhalhar (The Grandchildren of Witarsa Commemorating Indonesian Football Star, the Late Djamiat Dhalhar) – Hendra Gunawan

Three contemporary works are offered in this sale. Lot 1056, Cakrawala Warna #8 (Colour Horizon #8) 2012-2016, by renowned painter Rudi Mantofani (b. 1973, Padang, West Sumatra) has an estimated price between HKD 650,000-950,000 (Rp.1,116,510,000-1,631,830,000),  Lot 1057, I Nyoman Masriadi, The Old Master (Snapping Provocation of Samuro) 2016 is estimated between HKD 1,800,000-2,800,000 (Rp.3,091,880,000-4,809,600,000), An abstract composition by the most prized Indonesian woman contemporary artist, Aye Tjoe Christine, Lot 1059, Black and the Small White, 2014, has an estimated price of between HKD 500,000-700,000 (Rp.858,856,000-1,202,400,000).

Arin Dwihartanto Sunaryo_Harmonic Tremor             Lot 219, Harmonic Tremor, 2016 – Arin Dwihartanto Sunaryo

A diverse array of more than 30 works by Indonesian artists, with price ranges to suit all budgets, are offered the following day during the 3 April Modern and Contemporary Southeast Asian Art Sale. Works from emerging, established, senior, and deceased artists are presented.

For new buyers wishing to enter the Indonesian market there are opportunities with works by prominent contemporary names going under the hammer within the lower range of estimated prices, including Heri Dono, Yunizar and Agus Suwage. Some artists in the middle to upper price range are Rudi Mantofani, Nasirun, I Nyoman Masriadi, and Rudi Mantofani.

Agus Triyanto BR_Savana Dance                             Lot 208, Savana DanceAgus Triyanto BR

One of the emerging artists featured is Angki Purbandono (b.1971 Yogyakarta), a pioneer in the use of digital scanning technology (scanography) in Indonesian contemporary art. Lot 212, The Plastic Guns – Violence for Beginners, a scanography transparency in neon box installation has an estimated price of between HKD 20,000-40,000 (Rp.34,351,500-68,703,000). Another is East Javanese painter Agus Triyanto BR (b.1979), Lot 208, Savana Dance, 2016, is a surrealistic composition with an estimated price between HKD40,000-60,000 (Rp.68,703,000-103,063,000).

Lot 211, Multicolor, 2016 by Arin Dwihartanto Sunaryo (b.1978, Bandung) is a dynamic composition created by a moving blend of poured pigment paint suspenAgus Triyanto BRded in resin and pressed upon glass. The three panel work, 180 x 465 cm has an estimated price of between HKD 40,000-60,000 (Rp.68,703,000-103,063,000).

189HK0717_XXXXX             Lot 350, Three Balinese Maidens With Offerings – Theo Meier

For seasoned collectors the sale features eight paintings by Lee Man Fong, four by Affandi, three by Srihadi Sudarsono, and three compositions by S. Sudjojono, who is considered the one of the fathers of Indonesian modern art. Lot 372 Pemendangan (Landscape), has an estimated price between HKD 650,000-950,000 (Rp.1,114,630,000-1,629,080,000).

Lot 369,Cucu-cucu Witarsa Mengenang Bintang PSSI. Alm. Djamiart Dhalhar (The Grandchildren of Witarsa Commemorating Indonesian Football Star, the Late Djamiat Dhalhar), is by artist, poet, sculptor and guerilla fighter Hendra Gunawan (1918-1983). It depicts a group of children playing football in a surrealistic landscape and is estimated between HKD 1,000,000-2,000,000 (Rp.1,714,820,000-3,429,640,000).

217HK0717_XXXXX          Lot 213, Pemandangan Dari Atas (Landscape From Above) – Nasirun

Works by noted foreign artists include Dutch painters Willen Gerard Hofker (1902-1981) and Arie Smit (b.1916, The Netherlands – 2016, Bali), along with Theo Meier (Switzerland 1908-1982), Adrien Jean le Mayeur.

Buyers bidding over the phone, and on the Internet, who are unable to attend the previews days or auction are advised to contact Sotheby’s 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 gaged. 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.  Estimates do not include buyer’s premium. Prices achieved include the hammer price plus buyer’s premium up to 25% of the hammer price.

HK0717-374_web                      Lot 374, Janger Dancer – Srihadi Sudarsono

 

Previews open to the public 31 March

Modern and Contemporary Art Evening Sale 2 April from 7pm

Modern and Contemporary Southeast Asian Art Sale 3 April from10 am

The Hong Kong Exhibition and Auction Venue,

Hall 5 Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center (New Wing),

1 Expo Drive, Wan Chai, Hong Kong.

 

Words: Richard Horstman

Images courtesy: Sotheby’s Hong Kong