Monthly Archives: September 2017

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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the SELFIE PROJECT – Kenyut’s artisitic exploration into popular culture

Participant in "I Love Me - the Selfie Project"                              A participant in the Selfie Project

We are living in the era of pop culture selfie mania. Technology and smartphones have democratized visual self expression, with social media and imaging apps allowing us to constantly ‘curate’ our digital presence, enhancing our obsession with our perfect self.

The Century of The Self, the landmark 2002 documentary series by British filmmaker Adam Curtis focuses upon the work of Austrian psychoanalysts Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), his daughter Anna, and his American nephew Edward Bernays. Freud was responsible for changing our perception of the mind and its workings.

A devotee of his uncle’s work, Bernays was the first to use psychological techniques in a new field of marketing he labelled Public Relations. He went on to establish a hugely influential PR consultancy in New York City in the 1920’s that was to have an unprecedented impact on western civilization.

Children participate in "I Love Me - the Selfie Project" Image Richard HorstmanChildren participate in the Selfie Project during a workshop on contemporary art by Kenyut at Tepi Sawah Festival, Ubud.

“This series is about how those in power have used Freud’s theories to try and control the dangerous crowd in an age of mass democracy,” Curtis says in his introduction to Episode One. “Bernays showed corporations how they can make people want things they didn’t need by linking mass-produced goods to their inner desires. By satisfying one’s inner selfish desires people became happy and docile. This was the start of the all consuming self, which has come to dominate the world today.”

In recent years the selfie has entered the sphere of social themes for Indonesian contemporary artists. During Jogja Art Weeks (JAW), a month-long plethora of art activities held through the months of May – June, 2017 in Yogyakarta, there were two presentations based on this theme. In Selfie Frame, collective showings by Indonesian and Polish artists, decorated frames were arranged throughout an exhibition space and visitors were invited to pose within them, and then post their selfies onto social media.

Popular young artist Oky Rey Montha, (b.1986, Yogyakarta), exhibited In Frame We Trust, 2017, at ArtJog10. He prompted the audience to engage with his installation by sitting on a toilet and taking a selfie in front of his paintings that parodied the selfie as a ridiculous act. The artists contributed nothing fresh to the critical discourse about this phenomenon, prioritizing fun experiences while appearing to utilize the opportunity simply as an attempt to “cash in”.

I Love Me - the Selfir Project by Djunaidi Kenyut                       I Love Me – the Selfie Project at Laramona, Ubud

East Javanese, Bali based artist Djunaidi Kenyut, however, takes a vastly different approach with his art project, I love Me – the Selfie Project. In his ongoing venture in community engagement beginning early this year, Kenyut randomly seeks out people and asks them to be participants by drawing their image onto a small piece of mirror with a marker pen. The image he later engraves permanently onto the glass.

“People without artistic experience often feel intimidated when I ask them to partake,” Kenyut said. “So I introduce this exercise to them in a fun, non-confrontational way with the theme drawing is easy.” The artist’s goal is to amass 2000 of these individual images and exhibit them in Surabaya, along with presenting a workshop to children at the school he attended in the city, during his childhood.

From 29 April for one month, Kenyut exhibited over 200 of these self-portraits in I Love Me – the Selfie Project, at Laramona, Ubud. Featuring an array of fascinating, often humorous manually recorded images, the exhibition opening was a unique gathering where the project participant’s creations were the focus of interest.

Participant of "I Love Me - the Selfie Project" Image Kenyut                            A participant in the Selfie Project

Kenyut continued his engagement with the public at Tepi Sawah Festival, in Pejeng, Ubud 3-4 June, a new grass-roots community celebration of music, performance and creativity, highlighted by children’s educational programs on topics including environmental awareness and sustainability. He presented a workshop to children introducing the concept of contemporary art making and involving them in the Selfie Project. The group of twenty boys and girls delighted in the opportunity to participate in a communal work by drawing their reflections upon a large mirror.

During his one-on-one interactions, Kenyut learns about the character of the participants. “For some, the task of drawing their reflection is easy, while for others it’s difficult because they are afraid of their self-appearance,” he said. “In the mirror, they tend to see one of two things, and then chose to either imitate their true reflection or create an ideal image of the self. Some people focus on the creative process, while others focus on the results.”

“When people become hesitant I encourage them, and if they are not happy with the result it can be erased, and they can try again,” he said. During this process, Kenyut carefully prompts them to look into the mirror and engage with their reflection, to look beyond the physical, and to love and accept who they are. This helps to stimulate their creative process. “Simulating one’s self-image evokes a sense of self- confidence,” Kenyut said.

Kenyut during his presentation to children of "I Love Me - the Selfie Project" at Tepi Sawah Festival. Image Richard HorstmanKenyut demonstrates the selfie technique to children at Rumah Apik, during the Tepi Sawah Festival.

“I believe selfies to be narcissistic behavior – a desire to love one’s self excessively. The addiction we witness on social media is an empty expression constantly being repeated, reflecting people’s unbalanced psychological state. The selfie addicts look happy, but on the inside, they are not,” Kenyut said.

What effect is this addiction having upon our society? Has the selfie reduced life to a popularity contest, driven by the external myth of beauty and the need to compare ourselves with others, governed by likes, Instagram followers and Facebook friends? The ancient Egyptians understood the relevance of distinguishing and connecting with the self. Within the inner sanctum of the Luxor Temple on the east bank of the Nile River, a proverb states, “Man, know thyself, and you are going to know the gods”.

I Love Me – the Selfie Project encourages people to reflect upon their inner worlds. This, Kenyut believes, is the key to the most powerful door of all. Contemporary artists increasingly play essential roles within the positive development of modern society. They challenge our understanding of ourselves and help others to see things differently and to learn about the world. Importantly, they shine light on issues that need to be individually and collectively addressed for the sake of a sustainable, more peaceful and loving world.

The Exhibition "I Love Me - the Selfie Project" at Laramona, Ubud. Image Merio Falindra            the Selfie Project at Laramona, Ubud – Image Merio Falindra

https://www.facebook.com/djunaidi.kenyut

Words & Images: Richard Horstman & Merio Falindra

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Infusing iconography from two worlds “Italian-Indonesian Artist” Filippo Sciascia

"Expat Boat" Filippo Scia scia, Size 280 x 190 cm Oil And Gesso On Canvas 2013. image courtsey of the Artist.                             Expat Boat, 2013 – Filippo Sciascia

Italian contemporary artist Filippo Sciascia’s relationship with Asia and Indonesia began back in 1998, however, says the artist, he has only truly “come of age as an Italian-Indonesian artist” in 2013 when he successfully fused iconography from the two worlds into a single creation of art.

“I realize now my works have become more sincere,” says Filippo. “They reveal where I have come from, and where I am now. I can never feel completely comfortable, however, and my works are never perfect. An overwhelming force continually urges me on to strive for more. Intuitively I leave my works open, open to my creative development, and open to the future.”

Filippo Sciascia 'Crown Size" 145 x 130 cm Oil And Gesso On Canvas 2014. Image courtsey of the artist.                           Crown Size, 2014 – Filippo Sciascia

Filippo’s association with Bali began via a collaborative design project of the Gaya Fusion Gallery in Sayan, Ubud in 1998. He exhibited regularly and curated events at Gaya while becoming a key part of its artistic direction helping distinguish Gaya as one of the leading avant-garde galleries in Indonesia. From then on he worked on art projects both locally and internationally, across S. E Asia, China, in New York City and in Italy.

“I am a lover of philosophy and psychology and these sciences are the driving energy behind my art,” says the artist. “My paintings involve research into both archaeological and anthropological subjects and experimentation with media in my eternal journey to reveal authentic creations themed upon human evolution.”

"Lumina Mense" Filippo Sciascia, Size 205 x 165 cm Mixed Media 2012. Image courtsey of the Artist                                 Lumina Mense, 2012 – Filippo Sciascia

Filippo admits to having a growing relationship with Asia since he was a child, now aged 48, his artistic voyage has taken shape while oscillating between three extremely diverse worlds; Sicily, Bali and N.Y.C.

Working within the mediums of painting, sculpture and installations, and video art, Filippo’s passion for photography has greatly impacted upon his work. During the past decade he has explored the use of various mediums along with oil paint to create highly textured surfaces which have become a unique and characteristic feature of his paintings.

Often combining monochromatic photographic images layered upon the canvas’ surface, to which he applies layers of medium, fractured lines and textures appear akin to arid landscapes in states of decay, emphasizing a essential fundamental of his works. ”My works always appear unfinished accentuating that all matter is in a continual, never- ending process of change.”

Mendut Size 205 x 165 cm Oil And Bamboo Mounted On Wood 2014                              Mendut, 2014 – Filippo Sciascia

Mysterious elements within Filippo’s paintings often mesmerize the observer, while at the same time having the uncanny ability to subdue the mind into sense of longing. The tension of heavy tonal aesthetics juxtaposed against white or soft colors, for example, emphasize duality along with the aura and majestic essence of light. “We perceive all life through light,” he says. “Therefore it is a vital conceptual and visual feature of my work as light is the quintessential source of universal inter dimensional intelligence from which springs forth all life.”

Born in 1972 in Palma Di Montechiaro, Italy, in 1983 Filippo moved to New York and in 1985 to Trieste, Italy where he attended the Institute Art of Nordio, followed by studying at the Accademia di Belle Arti Firenze, Florence. Acutely aware of modern cultures’ obsession with the image, Filippo’s works are a pictorial meeting ground, highlighting the relationship, while blurring the line between the disciplines of photography and digital imaging technology. Consequently, the results challenge the conventional practice of painting.

Trinacria Size 250 x 200 cm Oil And Gesso And Shells On Canvas 2014                             Trinacria, 2014 – Filippo Sciascia

Religious symbols, historical cultural icons, figurative forms, vehicles of mass trans migration and other worldly imagery fuse with abstract elements in compositions void of literal meaning that are rich in allegory and metaphors, and designed to question our notions of reality.

“Its not my vision anymore, I don’t have a desire to make paintings. Rather, I see my work as a collection of notes akin to diaries about my quest for the greater meaning of life.”

Filippo Sciascia, image by Richard Horstman                             Filippo Sciascia, 2014, Ubud

 

 

Filippo Sciascia, Lumina Chlorophylliana, 2016                     Lumina Chorophylliana, 2016 – Filippo Sciascia

BEN_0165-1Rosetta, 2016 – Filippo Sciascia. Exhibited at OFCA International, Yogyakarta

Rosetta, 2016, Exhibited at OFCA International, Yogyakarta                             Rosetta, 2016 at OFCA International

Lumina Araidica No 2, 2016

                        Lumina Araidica, 2016 – Filippo Sciascia

http://www.filipposciascia.com

 

Words by: Richard Horstman