Category Archives: UOB Painting of the Year Indonesia

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

‘White Monkey’ 2019 – Wayan Arnata

Balinese artist Wayan Arnata first came to my attention in June 2013 in the landmark exhibition ‘Irony in Paradise’ by the collective Sanggar Dewata Indonesia (SDI) at the Agung Rai Museum of Art (ARMA) in Ubud, Bali.  ‘Nike Barong’ 2013, Arnata’s mixed media reflection upon the changing nature of the Balinese identity depicted the iconic Balinese ceremonial lion character, the Barong, wearing Nike shoes. While the theme of the work was not unusual, it was the 3-dimensional aesthetics along with the work’s technical aspects that caught my eye.

Arnata adopts the practice of Ngodi, a traditional decorative technique using natural fibers applied to Balinese cremation sarcophagi into his compositions applied directly onto conventional canvases along with acrylic paints. While he also creates installations his works include an array of media such as timber, bamboo, wire, styrofoam, grades of yarn (natural and synthetic fibres used for knitting and weaving), stove wick and hessian. Natural fibres have distinct cultural references in Indonesia due to the rich heritage of indigenous textiles throughout the archipelago.

‘Barong Nike’ 2013 – Wayan Arnata

“My technical approach is influenced by my childhood memories of my grandfather, a sangging, master of the various techniques involved with Balinese traditional ritual and ceremony,” said Arnata who was born in Sukawati, Gianyar in 1973. “I was fascinated by the creative activities my grandfather did as ‘gotong royong’ in service to the community. The finished works were beautiful yet required great patience and skill layering line upon line of fibres into the works.”

In 1995 Arnata began experimenting with an array of fibrous media and from 1993 – 1996 he studied and graduated in Fine Arts at Indonesian Institute of Art (ISI), in Yogyakarta.  Living outside of his village traditions and island home in Yogyakarta introduced him to new cultures and ideas that helped inspire his unorthodox style of artistic expression, which is a meeting of traditional practices with contemporary art ideas. Arnata had previously worked in dynamic palettes of oil and acrylic in the painting genre of abstract expressionism. 

‘Sang Pemburu’ 2019 – Wayan Arnata

Arnata’s work has evolved since 2013 becoming increasingly visually complex and technically demanding, while involving more in-depth thematic explorations, especially into self-identity. ‘Integrity’ is his first solo exhibition held in 2015 and featured twenty-four creations, including one installation, in a body of work produced over three years. His fascinating array of visual languages combining diverse media revealed his openness to push the potential boundaries of materiality. Some of Arnata’s compositions appeared to swirl and intertwine, expanding outwards in dazzling rhythmic patterns akin to the visual style of traditional Balinese painting.

In Jakarta in October 2017 Arnata’s ‘Foot Prints’, one of more than 500 contemporary artworks submitted in the 2017 UOB Painting of the Year Indonesia competition was endorsed by the Indonesian art establishment. Arnata received one of the highest accolades in the Indonesian art world, the UOB Painting of the Year Indonesia Bronze Award. UOB Indonesia identifies artistic talents and provides them with opportunities to hone their skills and showcase their works to a wider community.  Arnata’s multi-coloured picture features non-descript imagery along with human footprints and is characterized by the horizontal threads of fibre emphasising the passages of time. The varying footprint sizes define the human journey from the child to the adult.

‘Footprints’ 2017 – Wayan Arnata

“The work is themed upon the processes I encounter in life, the process of making the artwork, and the processes within the journey of life. The footprints are symbolic and explain my search for identity,” the artist said and continued. “As a Balinese, there are many processes to be endured within the cycle of life. For example, the traditional Balinese calendar only allows me to work on my art for 15 – 20 days the rest of the month requires me to attend to the customs and traditions at the heart of my culture.”

“I regard the thread as a metaphor for a span of time. It is a line connecting a one period with the next. The philosophy behind my work is the exploration of time and space between tradition and modernity. What I see, do and feel; my day-to-day experiences concerning my social life within traditional society is an ongoing inspiration for my work.”

‘Introspeksi Diri’ 2016 – Wayan Arnata

Arnata is currently working on a body of work that he will exhibit within the next few years. His new compositions, admits the artist, are becoming more expressive and abstraction in style. The new works feature characters and themes related to the Wayang shadow puppet theatre, a philosophical cornerstone of the Balinese Hindu culture. ‘White Monkey’ 2019 is Arnata’s depiction of the Hindu monkey god Hanuman. From within the colourful visual matrix, Hanuman appears with mouth wide-open enormous exposing fangs, his white fur seemingly brushed by the wind. Arnata perfectly emphasizes the dynamic and powerful being one of the central characters of the epic Ramayana.

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

Follow Wayan Arnata on Instagram:    #studiodelodrurung     @w_arnata

Words: Richard Horstman

Images: Richard Horstman & Wayan Arnata

Citra Sasmita captures the Indonesian contemporary art spotlight

Citra Sasmita - "Torment" Image by R. Horstman                                       Torment – Citra Sasmita

 

The most significant display of contemporary art on the island during 2015 featured many of Bali’s finest artists exhibiting side-by-side with emerging talent. Violent Bali – Bali Art Intervention #1, opened at the Tony Raka Art Gallery, Ubud in November presenting eighty-five works raising issues such as identity, gender and cultural conflicts, and the New Order regime and the mass killing of 1965-66, among others.

One painting, however, stood alone for its pure economy of means. Distinguished by a balanced composition, minimal coloration and arresting imagery, the visual impact was immediate. Matching technical prowess with the controversial subject matter, the work’s essentials were complete. Torment by Citra Sasmita, one of only three exhibiting women, captivated the audience. The bold, yet disturbing narrative depicted a naked woman holding and kissing the snout of severed pigs head as blood drips from the pig, and the woman’s mouth. It ‘spoke’ of the psychological and physical abuse of women within the patriarchal Balinese society. Torment’s daring and aesthetic simplicity revealed Sasmita as an extraordinary young talent.

Citra Sasmita "Mea Vulva Maxima Vulva" 2016 Ceramic & mixed media Image richard Horstman                      Mea Vulva Maxima Vulva – Citra Sasmita

“You want to be an artist: you want to live poor?” was Sasmita’s fathers’ reaction upon learning that his daughter wanted to study fine art. Born in 1990 in Tabanan, Central Bali, as a child she had a passion for creative expression, and was destined to follow her heart. In conflict with her parents about her vocation, she studied literature and physics to appease them. While at university in Singaraja she joined a theater group that inspired her love of art and literature. Sasmita began painting secretly, without her parent’s knowledge, eventually exhibiting in a small community event in 2012.

“A journalist from the Bali Post newspaper wrote about the exhibition, and my parents read the review. At first, they disagreed,” Sasmita said. “Yet upon their final wishes, they consented, and then gave me their approval for my art career. I have always reflected upon this,” and she adds. “Without their blessing, it seemed impossible to survive in the challenging and highly competitive world of art.”

Citra Sasmita, third from the left, at the UOB Painting of the Year Award CeremonyCitra Sasmita (third from the left) during the UOB Painting of the Year Indonesia award ceremony, Jakarta, October 2017

After the exhibition, Sasmita was hired as an illustrator for short stories at the Bali Post. “Working at the Bali Post allowed me to investigate literature and symbolic forms that I began to adopt into my works. Art became the vehicle through which I could question my position as a Balinese woman.”

Promising to be the most important exhibition of the 2016 Bali art calendar Merayakan Murni (Celebrating Murni) ran mid-year at Sudakara Art Space, Sanur. Contextualizing the relevance, along with celebrating the legacy of iconic female Balinese artist I GAK Murniasih (1966-2006), the exhibition brought together the work of Murni along with 15 other local and international invitees. Sasmita’s installation Mea Vulva, Maxima Vulva, presented fifty small ceramic vaginas within a set of large out of balance scales, her reflection upon Balinese social class distinctions. Again she captured the audience’s imagination, while the critics paid due attention.

Old Mountain and Imaginary Pilars, 160 cm x 120 cm, mix media on canvas, 2017        Old Mountain and Imaginary Pillars – Citra’s UOB Gold Award painting

Even though Sasmita had entered many art competitions, success had always eluded her. “I became cynical, unless you were from one of the art and cultural capitals of Java, like Yogyakarta, Bandung or Jakarta, it was difficult to win a national competition,” she explained. In October 2017, however, her composition Old Mountain and Imaginary Pillars was honored with the prestigious Gold Award of the UOB Indonesian Painting of the Year 2017 competition, thrusting her into the national spotlight, while confirming her presence in the Indonesian contemporary art world.

“I have always doubted my chances in the UOB, last year, however, was my first submission,” Sasmita said. “In my concept, I wrote whole-heartedly about the plight of women in the Indonesian art world, and about the struggle against gender bias and sexism, and that there are few opportunities for women to speak up through their art.”

Sasmita has chosen her ideology not only as a criticism, yet she endeavors to inspire empathy for those who are confronted with these social issues. “It means a lot to me to achieve recognition from people who have not been willing to listen to my artistic ‘voice’, and in some ways disrespect women in Indonesian art,” Sasmita said. “Winning this competition is a great thrill, I understand, however, that I must remain humble and focused on my learning journey.”

12697353_896845307096369_7827360737894318145_o                              Birth of Nothingness – Citra Sasmita

 

Words: Richard Horstman

Images: Citra Sasmita & Richard Horstman