Monthly Archives: October 2016

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.

 

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Indonesian Art Growing in Popularity With Regional Collectors: Reviewing Sotheby’s Hong Kong Autumn Sales 2016

sothebys-auction-scene_modern-and-contemporary-asian-art-evening-sale-image-coutesy-sothebysScene from the Sotheby’s Sale 2 October, Affandi’s “Borobudur and the Sun” 1984, sets a new world record for the artist selling for US $ 1.26 million. All Images courtesy of Sotheby’s  Hong Kong.

 

More than 290 items of fine art went under the hammer in two auctions of special interest to collectors of Indonesian Modern and Contemporary Art during Sotheby’s Hong Kong Autumn Sales 2016. The Modern and Contemporary Asian Art Evening Sale 2 October, and the Modern and Contemporary Southeast Asian Art Day Sale 3 October featured paintings by the prominent Indonesia artists. More than half the total of auction lots sold achieving prices over their high estimates, reflecting a well-curated sale aligned with the current market.

affandi_borobudur-and-the-sun                        “Borobudur and the Sun” 1984 – Affandi.

There were two notable highlights of the Modern & Contemporary Asian Art Evening Sale, of the four works by Indonesia’s most internationally renowned modernist Affandi (1907-1990), 2 sold within their estimated prices, however Lot # 1034 “Borobudur and The Sun” 1984, estimated between US$ 585,000 – 880,000 set a new world record for the artist selling for US $ 1.26 million, including the buyers premium.

ay-tjoe-christine-when-it-is-the-only-path-of-going-home-image-courtesy-of-sothebys-hong-kong“When It Is the Only Path of Going Home” – Ay Tjoe Chrsitine. Sold for US $ 429,000.

Indonesia’s most sought after female contemporary painter Ay Tjoe Christine (b.1973) is distinguished by her sensitive, yet often dark and moody abstract compositions. Lot # 1071 “When It Is the Only Path of Going Home”, estimated price between US $ 77,500 -104,000 sold for a whopping US $429,000. Another work by Affandi, Lot #1035 “Balinese girl with Piglet” estimated between US $ 232,000 – 322,000 sold for US $ 505,000.

lee-man-fong_satay-vendor-with-mother-and-son “Tukang Sate Dengan Anak & Ibu” – Lee Man Fong. Sold for US $ 161,000.

Lot # 1064 by Lee Man Fong (1913-1988) “Setelah Mandi” with an estimated price between US $ 77,000 – 116,000 sold for US $ 145,000. Lot # 1061 “Village Life” 1975, by Hendra Gunawan (1918-1983), estimated between US $ 710,000 – 1,100,000, sold for US $ 846,000, while Lot # 1073 “Proud” 2012, by Nyoman Masriadi (b.1973), estimated between US $ 258,000 – 387,000 sold for US $320,000.

09_hendra-gunawan_chicken-vendors               “Pedagang Ayam” – Hendra Gunawan. Sold for US $ 350,771.

Highlights of the 3 October Modern & Contemporary Southeast Asian Art Day Sale include Lot # 399 “Landscape Gunung Kawi, Bali” by Srihadi Sudarsono (b.1931), estimated price between US$ 49,000 – 71,000, sold for US $ 89,000. Lot # 391 “Pedagang Ayam” by Hendra Gunawan estimated between US $154,000 – 232,000, and sold for US $ 350,771, and Lot # 368 “Three Women in the Garden” by Adrien le Mayeur (1880-1958) estimated between US $ 154,000 – 232,000 sold US $ 319,821.

srihadi-sudarsono_landscape-gunung-kawi-bali       “Landscape Gunung Kawi, Bali” – Srihadi Sudarsono. Sold for US $ 89,000.

Again Ay Tjoe Christine was popular, Lot # 218 “When I See It Is The Only Way Home #1”, estimated between US $ 38,000 – 64,000 sold for US $ 258,000. Mochtar Apin (1923-1994) with Lot # 385 “Memecah”, a wonderful abstract triptych with an estimated price between US $ 38,000 – 64,000 sold for US $ 92,720. Lot # 364 “Exotic Nude With Gong” by Antonio Blanco (1923-1991) with an estimated price between US $ 8,000 – 12,000 sold for US $ 25,972.

2-lot-368-adrien-jean-le-mayeur-de-merpres_three-women-in-the-garden   “Three Women in the Garden” – Adrien le Mayeur. Sold US $ 319,821.

Lot # 227 “Seven Magnificent Masterpieces #1&2”by Bali’s Gede Mahendra Yasa (b.1967) is from a series focusing on the exploration of Balinese aesthetics, with an estimated price between US $ 38,700 – 64,500 the works sold for US $ 116,000. Collectors responded with enthusiasm to works by emerging artists demonstrating the healthy development of the market, two Indonesian artists with strong results were Oky Rey Montha (b. 1986) Lot # 225 “The Dark Salvador” estimated price between US $ 5,800 – 8,300 sold for US $ 11,284, and M Irfan (b. 1972) with Lot #237 “One Day For Good Day” estimated between US $19,000 – 25,000 and selling at US $ 40,000.

mochtar-apin_memecah-triptych-1 “Memecah” – Mochtar Apin. One third of the triptych that sold for US $ 92,720.

The recent death of renowned Dutch colorist Arie Smit (1916-2016) was an enormous loss to Indonesian art. Thirteen paintings within a range of prices went under hammer, four failed to sell, while 8 sold within the estimated prices, however Lot # 348 “Full Moon in Bali”, estimated price between US $ 14,000 – 20,000 sold for US$ 20,956. Other well known artists included in the sales were S. Sudjojono, Dullah, Agus Suwage, Entang Wiharso, Agung Mangu Putra, Heri Dono, Rudolf Bonnet and Willem Hofker.

gede-mahendra-yasa_i-seven-magnificent-masterpieces-image-courtesy-of-sothebys“Seven Magnificent Masterpieces #2” – Gede Mahendra Yasa.  His two works sold for US $ 116,000.

“In 1996, Sotheby’s began selling Southeast Asian Art in Singapore. The auctions for the category moved to Hong Kong in 2008, providing a platform for increased international exposure,” said Sotheby’s Hong Kong Head of Department, Southeast Asian Art, Kim Chuan Mok.

“Southeast Asian art is considered relatively affordable compared to art in other regions, making it a popular entry point for new collectors. Indonesia dominates the region’s art market with a greater than 50 percent market share based on total auction sales at Sotheby’s and Christie’s.”

lot-348_full-moon-in-bali                     “Full Moon in Bali” – Arie Smit. Sold for US$ 20,956.

An example of the buoyancy of this market was evident at the 2015 Sotheby’s Autumn Sale with Hendra Gunawan’s “Bathing in the Shower” selling for US $ 1.3 million, more than 5 times higher than the most expensive Southeast Asian painting sold at the first auction for the category in 1996. The results of the 2 & 3 October auctions confirm the growing demand for Indonesian modern and contemporary art by regional collectors (Taiwan, Hong Kong & Japan), especially works by the maestros, by collectors seeking quality.

nyoman-masriadi-proud-image-courtesy-of-sothebys-hong-kong

“Proud” 2012 – Nyoman Masriadi.  Sold for US $320,000.

Words by Richard Horstman

 

Life Lines: Ketut Sugantika

13996261_10205477680140088_8086067610478221642_o                                                 Ketut Sugantika

Abstract painting is arguably the most questionable, yet curious code of artistic expression of all.

To the uninformed it may appear as a senseless experimentation, a waste of energy, time and materials. They may doubt its purpose, and ask what visible beauty can be possibly  captured within its nondescript forms?

The creative process, however involves the artist setting out upon a personal journey, where conscious, preconceived structures are far from the desired outcome. The process involves an intimate exploration of feelings, with the aesthetic results being difficult to predict.

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When Indonesian artist Ketut Sugantika embarked on his quest to create a series of paintings for his exhibition ”Life Line” at Tadu Contemporary Art in Bangkok, open from 30 November – 9 December, he was preoccupied with only one thought, to address the feelings and emotions of the most recent period of his life.

In the evenings during the months of May through to September he would retire to his studio in Singapadu, Bali, committed to reflect on his life. The energy of memories, both wonderful and otherwise, he would then translate into vibrant works of art.

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An essential approach to abstract painting is to detach from the workings of the conscious mind, and simply allow intuition steer the motion and momentum of the brush strokes. Color too is an important part of this process because this too reveals various things.

Sugantika’s outpouring translated into a visual code that may initially be perceived as rather simple, yet this is far from the point. Abstract painting has no boundaries, what’s important is to follow the inner voice. Gone was his characteristic style of abstract painting from the past, characterized by dynamic explosions of color and form. Yet what evolved was colorful flowing lines resonating from his heart.

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Within these seemingly simple expressions may be revealed responses to his recent experiences in life. His wavy lines are far from being straight and rigid, yet are curving up and down, a reflection of the roller coaster of life.

Experimenting with aesthetic elements Sugantika utilizes both acrylic and oil house paint with alternating levels of sheen and an array of color combinations. Ranging from iconic Balinese cultural symbols, red, black and white through to compositions predominated by white yet in relationships with greys, black, yellows or blues. He tests various unusual fusions, from pink to light green and mauve, all in the process of engaging with his inner self.

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Some surfaces he scratches back to reveal under colors, while in other compositions the busy, random, pulsating background colors shine through to create potent contrasts. Drips of paint flow across adjacent lines, in both vertical and cascading motions adding to the visual impact. The omnipotence of color is constantly interacting within and without, while on the subliminal level it is communicating directly with the sub conscious mind.

“Through the layers of color that are overlapping, layer by layer, I have tried to cover up certain memories so that they became faint. But the more I try to cover them up, the more this seems obvious,” Sugantika said.

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“In fact I left a few colors in the background showing through to be part of the work’s aesthetic impact. Such is life. In the end I must admit that these memories become an inseparable part that bring color to my life. Therefore the brush strokes of color resemble wavy lines such as frequency lines, or natural lines within the landscape. Of course, they are a reflection of human life which is never constant.”

“Good and bad memories remain a part of my life’s journey pushing me to explore and study myself in the process of becoming whole.”

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“Life Lines” opens 27 October – 12 November at Tadu Contemporary Art, 2225 Soi 87 2/F, Thaiyarnton Building (Sukhumvit), Bangkok, Thailand (+66) 0-2331-8848

Text features in exhibition catalogue.

Words & Images: Richard Horstman