Monthly Archives: March 2019

Sujendra’s fantastic & light-hearted depictions of the underworld

"Senyummu Tangisku" 2018 Made Sujendra Image R. Horstman                         Senyummu Tangisku, 2018 – Made Sujendra

 

In Klungkung, East Bali, the former capital of the island, stands Kerta Gosa. An 18th century mandala shaped pavilion within the royal palace built by the monarch Dewa Agung Gusti Sideman, it functioned until 1908 as the kingdom’s court of law and justice.

Its ceilings are adorned with paintings from a Hindu Mahabharata epic, in the classical Balinese narrative style featuring wayang characters derived from the shadow puppet theatre. Scenarios describe divine retribution for law-breakers, one scenario depicts the afterlife fate of being cooked alive in cauldrons of boiling water by the ogres of hell.

The paintings served as teaching modalities promoting good moral behaviour and peace within Balinese society, and they are a source of inspiration behind Hell Sign, a solo exhibition of paintings by I Made Sujendra, open 1 December at TiTian Art Space, Ubud.

Installation view of Hell Sign at TiTian Art Space. Image TiTian Art Space          Installation view of “Hell Sign” at TiTian Art Space, Ubud, Bali

 

“Balance is the key to life according to the Balinese and when this is forsaken during the afterlife we will be subjected to dire consequences according to karmic laws,” Sujendra said.  “My paintings are stirred by my observations of life, and what is necessary for us to learn in order to live harmoniously, and ultimately avoid the cycle of reincarnation.”

“In my search for a new style within the framework of the Batuan techniques I moved away from the conventional crowded and complex compositions,” said Sujendra who is considered an outsider within the Batuan School of Balinese traditional art. “I experimented with simpler more minimal configurations that balance empty space with iconography in order to create a fresh and strong aesthetic impact.”

"Atma Prasangsa" 2011 made Sujendra Image R. Horstman                       “Atma Prasangsa” , 2011  – Made Sujendra

 

Lineage and the master/pupil relationship have played an important role in the development of Batuan painting, the most critically acclaimed genre of Balinese traditional art. Born in 1964, Sujendra is the son of accomplished painter Wayan Kabetan, who was a student of the iconic Batuan modernist innovator Nyoman Ngendon (1906-1946). “The Greedy Priest”, Sujendra’s landmark 1984 painting was featured in Dr Jelantik’s 1990 book Balinese Art, after which he was labelled the original ‘surrealist’ of the Batuan School.

Sujendra pioneered imagery and compositional structure in the mid 1980’s that more recently has become one of the catalysts in an exciting revival in the Batuan School, led by the new generation of emerging painters like Ari Sarmanta, Wayan Budiarta and Pande I Made Dwi Artha.

"Nafsu" (Lust) 2018 Made Sujendra Image Richard Horstman                         Nafsu (Lust) 2018 – Made Sujendra

 

Exploring life choices and the karmic consequences we are subjected to in the hereafter according to ancient Balinese beliefs, Sujendra’s themes include lust, adultery, greed, abortion, and reincarnation. In Kerja 2018 (work) Sujendra describes the afterlife scenario for those who have chosen an lazy and idle earthly existence. The payback is an eternity in hell as a beast of burden. Men are tethered to ploughs being whipped by demons, balls of fire explode with every stroke of their whips. With bodies are large and rotund, their faces depict anguish and dismay.

Senyummu Tangisku (Your smile is my tears) 2018, reveals two child-like characters cutting down trees. One offender is receiving retribution – restrained by two of hell’s guardians, one giving thumbs up and expressing delight, while the other cuts open the wrongdoer’s head with sharp tooth saw. For those who venture into the forest and shoot the wildlife without restraint Berburu & Diburu 2018 (hunters & the hunted) reveals hunters surrounded and under siege by a bevy of angry animals and demons. The afterlife scenario depicts the hunters being hunted by the very creatures they once pursued.

Made Sujendra at TiTian Art Space Image R. Horstman                          Made Sujendra at TiTian Art Space

 

And while Sujendra’s colourful and black and white compositions are indeed confronting they are, however defined by his sense of humour. His demonic creatures are at once serious, yet playful, exuding both horror and charm – his ogres appear as lovable ‘clowns’.

Eleven paintings and 2 installations feature in Hell Sign. Eight paintings are grouped together and presented as an installation that includes a large, flowing minimal red line mural of demonic creatures painted upon the gallery floor. The area has been cordoned off so that onlookers do not enter the space to closely inspect the works. They are forced to observe from a distance the group of paintings as a whole, and as a painting installation.

"Saya Kemana" 2018, Made Sujendra Image R. Horstman                             Saya Kemana, 2018 – Made Sujendra

 

“Exhibitions are about communication, and not only just display,” said TiTian Art Space founder Soemantri Widagdo.

Since its inception onto the Bali art landscape in January 2015 TiTian has set out to reconfigure the norms that have hindered the local art gallery model. In Hell Sign TiTian pushes the boundaries of exhibition design and presentation so that the local art audience has an opportunity to experience traditional art within a new framework, in fresh and exciting manner.

Detail of "Mabuk" Made Sujendra Image R. Horstman                    Detail of Mabuk, 2018 – Made Sujendra

 

“We strive to be at the leading edge of presenting art to the public, and we will push the boundaries using innovative exhibition design principles,” stated Widagdo. “Beyond our trademark of exhibiting only 9 paintings, we wish to introduce a new language in communicating ideas behind the artworks. We will explore installation concepts as our trademark rather than just a collection of hung paintings.”

A schoolteacher for the past two decades, Sujendra is well aware of the younger generation’s attraction to the imagery of the digital era. For them the Kerta Gosa paintings have lost their potency and appeal and a new aesthetic code is required. Sujendra’s renderings of the Balinese legends and folklore, however are a proven language, already a source of inspiration for the emerging artists of Batuan.

"Tantri - the Greedy Priest" 1984 Made Sujendra Image R. Horstman                     Tantri – the Greedy Priest, 1984 – Made Sujendra

 

Partial installation view - Hell Sign Image R. Horstman                    Partial installation view at TiTian Art Space

 

Hell Sign until 30 January 2019

TiTian Art Space

88 Jalan, Bisma, Ubud, Ginayar, Bali

Open Tuesday – Sunday 9am – 5pm

www.titianartspace.com

 

Words: Richard Horstman

Images courtesy: Richard Horstman & TiTian Art Space

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Satya Cipta – the rise of a unique female Balinese talent

Satya Cipta "Fragrance" 2018, chinese ink & kencu on paper Image Richard Horstman                                  Fragrance, 2018 – Satya Cipta                       

 

A beautiful, naked woman with long flowing hair sits legs raised, feet positioned above her head. In her left hand she is holding a red lotus flower concealing her groin. “Fragrance” an intimate, yet daring sketch by Balinese artist Satya Cipta ‘speaks’ of the feminine physical, and worldly splendour, and according to the artist, a woman’s desire to be perceived as one of nature’s most beautiful gifts.

“Broken Vulva”, on the other hand, is in stark contrast. It illustrates a woman ripping open her vagina, while a symbol of red fire is cited between her legs. This is a depiction of violence.

Satya Cipta "Broken Vulva" 2018 chinese ink & kencu on paper                                  Broken Vulva, 2018 – Satya Cipta

 

Explicit images of the body are in no way considered by the Balinese as vulgar or pornographic, they are essential teachings about the mysteries of human life and its origins. While male sexuality is openly explored in Balinese art, few artists are willing to expose female sexuality – the violence and suffering – as Satya has done.

In “A Budding Talent”, which closed 16 November 2018 at Ubud’s Puri Lukisan emerging artist Satya Cipta, in her first solo exhibition reveals the pleasure and pain, and the horror and beauty that are constant realities for the women of the Balinese culture.

In her semiotic works she juxtaposes themes such as resentment, marriage without love, adultery and rape with fertility, intimacy, solitude and passionate love. And while it is the complexity of her compositions, enhanced by the distinct power of her lines that reveal the aesthetic beauty of her works, like a poison pen the line is contrasted with wildly imaginative narratives. Some are not for the faint-hearted – they convey what is considered taboo within Balinese art.

Satya Cipta "The Offering" 2017 chinese ink, water color, acrylic and gold on canvas Image Richard Horstman                              The Offering, 2018 – Satya Cipta                          

 

An outsider within her own culture Satya’s situation is unlike many Balinese. Born in Lombok she came to Bali at a young age, then later moved to South Sumatra and resided with her family in a small minority Balinese group within an Islamic and Christian dominated environment. She went on to study theatre and performance in Jakarta before returning to Bali. Living outside of Bali, as well as in the nation’s capital gifted her an open and modern worldview.

“Before, when I was living in Sumatra and Jakarta I was proud to be Balinese and loved to participate in the ceremonies and rituals. When I returned to Bali I found things were much different,” Satya said. “I witnessed how people engaged in their religion within the temples showing respect to the gods and goddesses. When they returned home, however, they could not respect the real women in their lives – their mothers, sisters and wives.” She continued, “I discovered the domestic violence, and that women are trapped within their roles and cannot live their lives how they wish.”

Satya Cipta at the Puri Lukisan Museum Image R. Horstman                                    Satya Cipta at Museum Puri Lukisan                                                  

 

Destined to create controversy in this fiercely patriarchal society Satya is willing to courageously speak her mind. “I paint my pain,” she stated. “Yet this represents not only myself, but many other women throughout the world. I want people to understand about the position of the woman’s life within the Balinese society. Maybe it is forbidden – but I have to say it.”

“Change is slowly happening,” she admits. “The most difficult thing is to introduce the change. The first women to do so endure much criticism, then the others can more easily follow on.” Through Satya’s works we may witness a new era and that Balinese women too, are prepared to stand up in protest.

Satya Cipta "Darmi" 2018 Chinese ink & Kencu on canvas. Image R. Horstman                                          Darmi, 2018 – Satya Cipta

 

Her criticisms, however, are not only directed at men. In “Emptiness”, 2018 Satya depicts the scenario of a woman who marries into a family yet disrespects her mother-in-law. “Many women also forget their parents at home and wait for them to die so they can inherit the family’s land. She looks so beautiful, yet she is empty.”

A self-taught artist from the age of fourteen a decade later Satya began learning the renowned Batuan painting traditions. From there she kept pushing forward eager to improve and not to become stuck within the traditional mind-set. Two years ago she began studying under Ketut Budiana, recognized as one of the greatest living Balinese artists. “I am stepping into the next phase of my creative journey, and there is much to learn,” Satya said.

Satya Cipta "Spirit" 2018 chinese ink on hot pressed paper. Image R. Horstman                                     Spirit, 2018 – Satya Cipta

 

Holding her first solo exhibition at Puri Lukisan Museum, Ubud’s oldest and most important art museum, grants the artist immediate endorsement from the highest levels of the Balinese art establishment. Satya, however, remains humble. Offers have come from a leading regional gallery, but Satya choses to reject them, remembering that its her process that is essential and only when she believes she is ready will she focus on the international stage.

A wonderful and abundant source of creativity, she is also gifted actor, performer and singer. We eagerly await Satya Cipta’s next artistic offerings.

Satya Cipta "Disgusted" 2017 Chinese ink & acrylic on canvas                                   Disgusted, 2018 – Satya Cipta

 

Words & Images: Richard Horstman