Tag Archives: Wayan Karja

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“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

 

 

 

 

 

Wayan Karja: From a ‘Young Artist’ to Balinese Visionary

p21iwayan-img_assist_custom-511x337                                                       Wayan Karja

Within every Balinese village there is a tale or two to be told.

The association between the master and pupil has played a vital role in the development of Balinese traditional art. The bonds amid teacher and student, father and son, or among relatives have enabled the sharing of ideas, support and tuition. Such relationships helped categorize Balinese art by village styles or ‘schools’.

In the late1920’s – 30’s, Balinese art was being revolutionized and adapted for foreign tastes. The two-dimensional Hindu narratives, Kamasan or Wayang paintings met head on with western aesthetics and the results were dramatic. The development of tourism created large markets for these new paintings, and localized schools of art, such as the Ubud, Sanur and Batuan schools, came to the fore.

20160804_184737                                                “Cosmic Energy 2016”

Fast forward to 1959 when Arie Smit, an accomplished Dutch artist living in Penestanan began sharing art materials with, and teaching young boys in the village. This was the beginning of the “Young Artists” style, and at its height there was about 300 village practitioners. Colorful and fresh, it was very popular in the 1970’s as tourism was enjoying a revival. Penestanan has a distinctive artistic history of its own.

This tale however, is about a painter, art educator and administrator from the village who has succeeded in creating a unique artistic voice within the framework of Balinese modern art.

Wayan Karja’s earliest memories are of sitting in his father’s lap with a paintbrush in hand.

“My father often guided my hand through sketches or marked areas within a composition that I would fill in with color,” Karja says. “I was very lucky to grow up in a thriving art environment, every member of my family within the compound was painting, even the women too. This intense activity was inspirational.”

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Born in Penestanan in 1965 Karja’s natural ability and birthright automatically sealed his fate. Determined to learn more about art he received a wealth of local and international art education. Karja studied in Switzerland in 2008-11 painting abstract landscapes, while in 1997-99 he undertook an art scholarship at the University of South Florida, USA. At the School of Fine Arts, Denpasar, 1981-85 he broadened his knowledge of art theory and international art, and then at the Udayana University in Denpasar, 1985-1990 delved into impressionism and abstraction, and was inspired by Monet, Van Gogh and Matisse.

From 1978-81 Karja studied the Ubud style learning about light, shade and the anatomy. As a child he was introduced to the master pupil association and trained for many years under the watchful eye of his father Ketut Santra who gave him his indoctrination into the “Young Artist” style. “There were no galleries at that time so the buyers came direct to the artist’s home. At the age of 10 I sold my first painting,” Karja recalls.

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In 1994 upon visiting a museum in Switzerland Karja had his most profound art experience. One that began his love affair with modern art. He observed a pure red composition by the American abstract painter Mark Rothko.

“Is this what they call art?” Was Karja’s cynical response.

Yet by the time Karja had completed his tour of the museum the significance of the work was understood. Rothko’s work leapt out from the walls and “spoke” to him unlike any other artist had previously done. Rarely had an Indonesian artist adopted color as their sole message, least of all the Balinese.

“Balinese art is about tight configurations of patterns, details and narratives yet I was always driven to search into its philosophies.” Karja’s journey eventually led him to a deep exploration of cross-cultural thinking and he began combining the philosophy of the Balinese Hindu Mandala colors with modern western techniques. Karja’s initial response to the colors and movement of his environment (landscape and culture) had been based on emotion, yet the impact of Rothko and other western painters demanded from him a new sense of selfexpression.

“Balinese abstraction developed in the 1970’s yet it was different to the western model. Most of our creations are deeply rooted in traditions including icons, symbolic and non-symbolic elements, as well as philosophical and spiritual aspects of the Balinese way of life.” Karja’s direction evolved through intellectual endeavor, “Allowing my work to become simpler and more spiritual,” Karja says.

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Karja’s technique involves building layers of color, often in drips and with the use of watered down medium often creating swirling and dynamic organic forms. The works may be subtle and shimmering, or powerfully vibrant. They are always inviting, meditative and mysterious, creating aesthetic contrasts between the landscape and the cosmos.

“There is no separation between art and life,” Karja says. “Life is color and my physical and spiritual journey is to become an accomplished colorist painter.”

His contribution, via teaching, to the development of Balinese art has been substantial. Karja began in 1990 at the School of Fine Arts in Ubud and then at the Indonesian Institute of the Arts (ISI) in Denpasar where he continues teaching to this day. Over the years he has taught locally and abroad holding various positions, from 2002-04 as head of the Fine Arts Dept., Indonesian College of the Arts (STSI), Denpasar and from 2004-08 as the Dean of the Visual Arts Department at ISI.

“I enjoyed and benefited from this experience,” he says. “However being an administrator took me away from my artistic dreams.”

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Karja has exhibited in many international countries and frequently travels locally and abroad giving lectures, speeches and engaging in collaborative projects. At his family’s guesthouse Santra Putra in Penestanan is his gallery and studio, along with a space open to the public for workshops and events, where he teaches tourists and often hosts exhibitions by young local artists.

“Journey to the Unknown” Karja’s March 2015 exhibition in Jakarta showcased 42 paintings created between 2010-15 was an outstanding success. “The audience’s response was excellent, nonetheless I experienced an unexpected sense of liberation. I realized to complete a procession from childhood through to adulthood, my transition from a world of freedom to one dominated by mental activity, in order to sustain my creative journey I have to return to a childlike state.”

“I have now opened a new door with the motto – play, flow and free. I am invigorated and my works reflect a new joy,” Karja says.

“Now I am learning how to play again.”

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http://www.wayankarja.com

Words: Richard Horstman

 

 

The Legacy of Arie Smit 1916-2016

20160827_191628The Death of Dutch Colorist Arie Smit 23 March 2016 is an Enormous Loss to The Canon of Southeast Asian Art.

 

During an August seminar at Ubud’s Neka Art Museum, a gathering of over 100 members of the Balinese art community paid homage to the legacy of the Dutch post-modern colourist Arie Smit (1916-2016). The iconic painter, who left a distinguished mark in the history of art in the region, passed away 23 March, only days short of his 100th birthday.

Renowned for his vibrant landscape paintings and scenes of Balinese village life Smit is a much-loved artist; his work forms part of collections in Indonesia, and throughout the world. Characterised by rapid movements with dense mosaics of color, allowing only scenic images to emerge in abstract forms, Smit’s compositions resemble an impressionist-pointillist style, and have been dubbed “Poems of Color.”

painting-by-arie-smit-image-richard-horstman                                        “Rhythms of Life” 1990

Drafted into the Netherlands army, sent abroad and stationed with the topographical service in Batavia, now Jakarta, Smit first set foot in the Dutch East Indies in 1938. Previously he studied art at the Academy of Arts in Amsterdam. In 1942 with the out break of World War II he was imprisoned by the invading Japanese army, later being shipped to Singapore, Thailand, and then Burma to undertake forced labour.

In 1950 Smit returned when the Dutch acknowledged Indonesia’s sovereignty after the revolution of Independence (1945-1949), becoming an Indonesian citizen. He settled in Ubud in 1956. Enchanted by the tropical light and landscape he roamed throughout Bali, reputedly moving house 36 times. Smit became the most important stimulator of painting on Bali, post Second World War.

20160827_192255                              “Full Moon Ceremony” 1994

“The Balinese trust more in their feelings than which meets the eye,” said seminar speaker Suteja Neka, founder of the Neka Art museum, long time friend, and Smit’s art dealer. “Smit’s unique skill was in capturing the potent invisible elements of Bali in his dazzling colourful verve.”

“Smit had a different way of seeing Bali’s landscape compared with the other Western artists of the 1930’s-1950’s era,” said art observer, Indonesian Art Institute (ISI) lecturer, curator and artist Dr. Wayan Kun Adnyana. “Bringing a western perspective, similar to fauvism, through his personal interpretation colour became the language and entity to explore and communicate Bali’s tropical nature.”

20160827_192221                               “Galungan Holiday” 1996

“In 1960 Smit began sharing art materials with, and teaching young boys in the village of Penestanan, near Ubud. This was the beginning of the “Young Artists Style”. At its height there was more than 300 practitioners,” said international artist and ISI lecturer Wayan Karja, who was born in Penestanan in 1965. “He helped transform the village, and prosper economically; poor farmers turned into painters. Not only was he an art teacher, Smit was a father figure to the village as well.”

The “Young Artists Style” was fresh and exciting; 60’s Balinese psychedelic pop art that emphasized color, the denseness of pure decoration, with a strong graphic sense. Smit did not attempt to influence the style of boys work, only the subject matter of village life. At his home studio he was careful to keep his paintings out of sight so they were never copied.

During the tourism boom of the 1970’s the genre became enormously popular.

20160827_192357                                                “Orchids” 1991

Smit’s work comes in a wide range of formats, from small postcard sizes to works of 1.5 meters or larger. After the 2008-2010 Indonesian contemporary art boom that witnessed over inflated prices for up and coming artists, collectors shifted their focus to Indonesian modern art. Paintings by the old masters became popular, some of which were considered as undervalued.

In 2011 the market realized a record price for the most expensive work sold at auction by Smit at the March Larasati Singapore sale. “Balinese Village and Farmlands” sold for close to 5 times its estimated price at a high of US $ 124,000. At Christie’s Hong Kong Asian 20th Century Art Sale May 2015 Smit’s “Pura” sold for just over US $ 207,000.

20160827_192435                                 “A Tropical Garden by the Sea” 1999

Nowadays many of Smit’s works sell for modest prices within their estimates and under US $4,000. The Smit connoisseurs however, are very specific about their choices with some willing to compete bidding the prices up, determined to secure their desired trophy works.

During Sotheby’s Hong Kong Autumn Sales 2016 in the Modern and Contemporary Southeast Asian Art Day Sale 3 October thirteen paintings by Smit, ranging through the decades from the 1970’s – 1990’s, go under the hammer. They are sure to attract much attention from regional and international art collectors.

20160827_192122                                              “Low Tide” 1988

Believing that a painter’s style was, in short, his personality, Smit’s oeuvre reinforced his claim, reflecting traceable changes and developments over time. His aesthetics created a greater position for Bali within the context of Indonesian art.

Arie Smit spent his final days lying peacefully in bed at home in Ubud, despite his failing eyesight his mind remained clear. Famed for his “broken colors” style, his passing is a monumental loss to the canon of Southeast Asian art.

20160827_192147           “A Split Gate. Three Women and a Dog, And Two Heron Birds” 1999

The paintings pictured above are just a small part of the Arie Smit collection at the Neka Art Museum on Jalan Raya Sanggingan, Ubud.

 

One Heart – the Sureal Art Group

Suryani, "Mother & Daughter" Oil on Canvas, Image R. Horstman                                     Mother & Daughter – Suryani

 

In the media we often hear about the plight of West Papua and its people striving for independence from the Indonesian occupation, its wealth of mineral resources, or deforestation that is threatening indigenous cultures. Modern and contemporary artists from this region, however rarely gain exposure. One Heart, an exhibition by the Sureal Art Group, open at the Karja Art Space in Ubud on 12 November features four artists from different parts of the archipelago, including West Papua, exhibiting side by side.

“The name the “Sureal Art Group” is an amalgamation of letters from each of the artists names,” explains exhibition organizer and charismatic West Papuan artist Ellya Alexander Tebay. “It’s also derived from two words – sure and real – that underline our philosophy. If you wish to make something real – you must be sure.” One Heart features paintings by Balinese artist Gede Suryawan, female painter from East Java Suryani, Editya Lau from Timor along with Tebay.

“One Heart is an perfect theme for this exhibition,” Tebay continues. “It emphasizes the attributes that bind our group together, and the values that make us who we are. Humanity is one big family and we all share experiences, feelings and emotions. We are inseparable and together we embody one love and one heart. Art has a unique power that can unite people. I believe artists have a special gift to share.” The artist’s narratives and themes in the exhibition tell of their identities and values, their passions and concerns, along the power of the imagination – stories that are dear to the artist’s hearts.  “It is our wish to inspire our audience and make them reflect on their own lives and values. I represent the West Papuan people, and I wish to communicate a message for global peace.”

Gede Suryawan. 'Starling in Green" Acrylic on Canvas, Image R. horstman                             Starling in Green – Gede Suryawan

“Social media has been the vital key to the Sureal Art Group,” Tebay adds. “It has enabled us to communicate over time, across vast distances.” Tebay first met Gede Suryawan 1997 in Bali at art school. Then Editya Lau at the Indonesian Art Institute (ISI) in Depasar in 2001, where Tebay studied art for 6 years, along with Suryawan and Lau. He met Suryani through Facebook, yet his first meeting in person was during the preparations for this exhibition. Renowned Balinese abstract artist Wayan Karja, owner of Karja Art Space, which opened in 2000 as a multi purpose facility available to the public, yet with an emphasis on supporting young artists, has been influential upon these three male artists as an art lecturer and administrator at ISI Denpasar.

Suryawan, (b. Ubud 1983) exhibits four paintings, all featuring animals as the subject, yet with cultural references. In “Starling in Green” he depicts the famous white Bali Starling, Bali’s regional mascot, yet due to its value on the black market has become critically endangered. At a glance his works appear like a mosaic of shapes arranged together, similar to a batik design, pulsating with colour and life. Closer inspection however, reveals his works are a combination of Balinese traditional painting techniques, along with his own modern ideas.

Self taught painter Suryani (b. 1974 Banyuwangi, East Java) became inspired to learn painting in 2007. She divides her compositions into an arrangement of squares and rectangles into which she applies oil and acrylic paints. Each correlating segment contains variations in colour tonality and hues, being either vibrant or restrained. Her themes are feminine, with titles such as “Fall in Love” and “Mother & Daughter”. “Perfect with Sampoerna”, however features a man and woman both enjoying a cigarette, and underlines how for many, smoking is an essential and pleasurable part of life. In the hand of the woman she has attached the front of a Sampoerna cigarette box.

Editya Lau, "Salam" Oil on Canvas, Image R. Horstman                                   Salam – Editya Lau

The paintings of Editya Lau (b. 1979, Kupang, Timor) reveal an artist with strong technical ability and ideas who combines the styles of both realism and abstract expression within his compositions. This combination highlights the faces of the subjects, young girls, however in “Penantian” (Waiting) & “Salam” (Greetings) provides added contrast and visual tension. Lau’s gift is to translate his sensitivity into the eyes of the subjects. This essence then mysteriously reaches out from the canvas and captures our attention – the eyes are the window of the soul. Even though this is only Lau’s second exhibition his works communicate a powerful sense of humanity.

Born in Nabire, West Papua in 1979, Tebay is also an excellent technician and communicator of strong ideas. The sweet potato is the staple food of his people and one of the main subjects in his main subjects in his paintings. The plant and vegetable he renders in realistic imagery that then transforms into colourful surreal, even abstract organic forms that weave and flow through his compositions. Perhaps Tebay’s strongest work, “To Grab the Star”, is designed to inspire his audience, the artist says, encouraging them to dream and think big. He depicts the smiling face of his younger brother, his thoughts appear to flow up and out of his head in colourful abstract verve, while suggesting a strange science fiction like alien form.

Ellya Alexander Tebay, "To Grab the Star", oil on canvas, Image richard Horstman                         To Grab the Star – Ellya Alexander Tebay

In the constantly evolving art landscape of Ubud, the cultural and artistic heartland of Bali, now more than ever artist owned and run creative spaces are making a telling impact. They serve as creative spaces for workshops, discussions and exhibitions, artist in residency programs and internships, even hubs for art management. They are one of the major drivers behind the development of contemporary art. With the closure of one prominent fine art gallery in the area and others being less active, while having agendas that are highly selective, opportunities for most artists to present their work are increasingly difficult.

In the past few years new art spaces have opened in Ubud, Cata Odata and Kupu Kupu being the most active, while the Sika Contemporary Art Gallery and Karja Art Space play important roles. Without the presence of such venues talented, yet unknown artists, such as Tebay and Lau are without the essential platforms to share their ‘voice’ with the greater community, while attracting the media attention they rightly deserve.

 

“One Heart”

Continues through to 28 November

Karja Art Space

Banjar Penestanan Kaja, Ubud, Bali.

Tel: 0361 977810

Words & Images: RichardHorstman