“art, just like life, is an ongoing process,” Wayan Upadana

apapun yang terjadi, hidup harus dijalani#1, water colour and ink on paper, 37 cm x 55 cm, 2012
                           Apapun terjadi, harus jalan, 2013  – Wayan Upadana
 Can you imagine icons of the Balinese culture represented reclining, cheerfully in a bathtub or bowl, drenched in luscious, liquid chocolate? The idea makes the eyebrows rise, while stimulating the  taste buds too.
These unusual figures, sculptures by Balinese contemporary artist Wayan Upadana are, however, expressed not only to incite our curiosity, yet also in order to make important statements. Under the spotlight is the meeting of two opposing worlds, that of the artist’s traditional culture along with the modern, And according to the artist, there are critical related issues that require immediate attention.
Iwayan upadana 'the process' 2012 Video instalation in sculpture ( Polyester resin, spray paint                         The Process, video installation, 2012 – Wayan Upadana
Art is a mysterious medium, perhaps one of the most misunderstood of all human
expressions. Somehow in the process miraculous and unimaginable creations become manifest. Often from sources completely unknown. In the case of Wayan Upadana, how does this young artist’s imagination and creative prowess arrive at works so fantastic, yet relevant as well?
“Contemporary art in Bali is still growing,” says Upadana. “Yet to avoid becoming stuck and rehashing ideas, local artists need to pursue new experiences and learning prospects
– they need to invest in traveling outside of their island.” In the process of creative development it is essential for young contemporary artists, living within the
restraints of their Balinese Hindu culture, to step outside of their communities and be introduced to new artistic landscapes, ideas, freedoms and alternative cultures. Not to mention have the opportunity to access different and higher standards of education.
Tanah Sekolah Dasar, G-5, Oct 2013, Tony Raka Art Gallery
                                           Tanah Sekolah Desa, 2013 – G5
“My love of Balinese traditional art and culture inspired me as a child to draw and paint. I am continually fascinated by the array of creative expressions people are able to invest energy into. Yet it wasn’t until studying painting in high school that I began to dream of becoming a professional artist,” says Upadana. “In 2000 I saw an important exhibition by Indonesia’s most respected art collective, Sanggar Dewata Indonesia (SDI) in a museum in Bali. This had an enormous impact upon my future visions.”
In 2001 Upadana moved from Bali to the city of Yogyakarta, Central Java, the cultural capital of Indonesia, driven by his dream of becoming an SDI member, and a desire to learn of new cultures. To become a member of SDI Upadana had to study art at the prestigious Yogyakarta ISI, the Indonesian Art Institute.
scream, water colour and ink on paper,28 cm x 56 cm 2012
                                         Scream, 2013 – Wayan Upadana
What we foreigners may perceive as a mere relocation to the neighboring island of Java is in fact something few Balinese ever consider contemplating because the Balinese culture is very much focused on systems of cooperation between families and the community, while offering social and religious security.
ISI molds artists of distinction, and somehow the character of their creativity is easily recognizable. Renown for producing some of the most important experimental Balinese artists, spearheaded in the 1970’s by the likes of Gunarsa, Wianta and Erawan, ISI Yogya, for those with the opportunity and the desire, is a pinnacle, and one of the most popular destinations of the Indonesian art education system.
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                                        Wayan Upadana 2017

At ISI Yogya, captivated by the exploration of 3 dimensional forms, Upadana studied sculpture, working with various materials including wood, stone, metals and resins. He learned the craft of video art that has become a powerful language for communicating his ideas, and especially important in emphasizing one of his main concepts, that art, just like life is an ongoing process. In many of Upadana’s recent sculptures he utilizes resin, and the manner in which these works are completed often emphasizes melting and flowing liquid forms, cleverly underlining his concept.

Living in Yogyakarta presented Upadana with challenges that helped to strengthen
his character, amongst them working to support his studies and living costs carving stone sculptures and doing whatever tasks he could to earn money. The “friction” created by the multi cultural fusion of Indonesian ethnic groups unique to Yogyakarta provided fertile grounds for contemplation and ingestion of creative ideas. Looking from the outside in, Upadana became increasingly sensitive to the social and environmental changes confronting Bali. He learned to become the observer, and via his art, a critic of his own Balinese culture.
20161206_170532
                                                   Wayan Upadana
The pig is an icon of Balinese culture, yet for Upadana this animal serves as a metaphor for the Balinese people. In works such as his quirky, yet comical sketches on paper with water color from his 2013 exhibition GloBaliasi, the pig is the embodiment of the dualistic nature of life confronting Balinese youths living between modern and traditional cultures. In his sculptures featuring pigs, reclining in Balinese ceremonial bowls covered in chocolate, the pig becomes a humorous communicator of critical ideas.
What Upadana is suggesting is that his people are too quick to enjoy the material spoils of globalization without enough consideration to the increasing environmental, social and personal impacts and conflicts that money and modern development bring to Bali.
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                      Si Gendut Pencari Tuhan, 2016  – Wayan Upadana
A decade in Yogya has made a definitive impact upon Upadana and helps to explain why he is capable of creating art of such a unique quality. Born 1983 in the small village of Saba, Blahbatuh, Gianyar, this experience for Upadana, who began exhibiting in 2002, has enabled him to achieve notable career results. For example, finalist of the 2011
BaCAA (Bandung Contemporary Art Award) and the “UOB Art Awards – Painting of the Year 2011”, and in 2013 again a finalist at the BaCAA, and finalist of the 2013 Trimata
National Art Award. Justifiably Upadana is regarded as one of the most promising young artists in Bali today.
During his time in Yogyakarta Upadana formed bonds with other fellow Balinese art students that led to the birth of the art collective G-5. Consisting of five graduates of ISI
Yogya, all born in Gianyar, who resided in the city for 10 years, or more, G-5 became one of the most exciting group of emerging artists in Bali. Whether producing art on his own or along with G-5, Upadana’s talent is never far from the national spot light, continually catching the eye of critics, art lovers and collectors as well.
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                             Euphoria Globalasi, 2010 – Wayan Upadana
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The Desire of Gravity, 2017 – Wayan Upadana.  Exhibited at the 13th annual Sculpture by the Sea, March, 2018, at Cottesloe Beach, Western Australia.
Words: Richard Horstman
Images: Wayan Upadana & Richard Horstman
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