Category Archives: Abstract Painting

“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

 

 

 

 

 

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Previewing Larasati Jakarta Auction: Pictures of Indonesia 12 May 2019

Lot 627 "Boats at Kusamba" - Affandi Image Courtesy of Larasati                                         Boats at Kusamba – Affandi

 

Sixty-two items of fine art go under the hammer from 2:30 pm Sunday 12 May in the upcoming Pictures of Indonesia auction conducted by Larasati auctioneers at the CSIS Center, Tanah Abang, Central Jakarta.

The sale offers good buying opportunities for beginner and mid level collectors, as well as the seasoned connoisseurs, with lots available in a vast array of media including works in ink on paper, an etching, a charcoal sketch on paper, pastels on paper, watercolours on paper, oil pastel on canvas, oil and acrylic paint paintings on canvas, and sculptures. Genres of art to be auctioned comprise of Indonesian and Balinese modern paintings, contemporary paintings and sculptures, and Balinese modern traditional paintings, including works from the renowned Batuan School of painting – some are pre-war works.

Lot 662 "Mengintip" - I GAK Murniashi Image Courtesy of Larasati                                      Mengintip – I Gak Murniashi

 

Some of the well-known artists whose work appear in the sale are the Indonesian modern master Affandi (1907-1990), Ida Bagus Made Togog (1913-1989) from the Balinese village of Batuan, the famed Dutch colourist of Bali Arie Smit (1919-2016), talented Dutchman Willem Gerard Hofker (1902-1981), Balinese modern master Nyoman Gunarsa (1944-2017), Nashar (1928-1994), the overlooked painter of abstract and abstraction compositions, and the Balinese painter of the unconventional Dewa Putu Mokoh (1935-2010).

For those new to collecting fine art committed research, along with getting advice is essential, while internet databases are a good source of information, especially on prices of recently auctioned works. Auctions are transparent, providing benchmark prices that serve as a guide to how much collectors should be paying. Themed sections of work define the sale, beginning with Indo European featuring lots by noted Dutch artists, and an Indonesian artist, who painted pre-1960’s in the archipelago. While four compositions depict Indonesian coastal, village and city living, Lot 61 Geiderse Kade Amsterdam by Willem Gerard Hofker is a small etching of a canal scenario in Amsterdam that has an estimated price of between Rp. 4 – 6 million.

Lot 649 "A God and many animals in a Forest" - I Griem Image Courtesy of Larasati                              A God and many animals in a Forest – I Griem

 

For new buyers wishing to build their collection, the following works, if purchased within their estimated prices, offer very good buying. Lot 607 Balinese Woman, 1995, is an oil canvas painting by the overlooked American artist and long-term Bali expatriate Symon that has an estimated price of between Rp. 5 – 7 million. Lot 650 Village Life in Bali, is a colourful acrylic on paper scenario of village activity by noted Batuan painter Ida Bagus Putu Padma that has wan estimated value of between Rp. 6 – 8 million.

Two works are from the Pre War Balinese Art & Batuan Style section in the original Batuan ‘Black & White’ style achieved with ink on paper and reflecting some of the philosophies of the critically acclaimed genre. It must be noted that the years 1930 – 1945 are considered the golden years of Balinese painting. Lot 647 A Fight in a Village by Dewa Made Koendel, is a sketch in grey and black ink on paper, 34 x 31cm with an estimated price of Rp. 13 – 18 million, and Lot 649 A God and many animals in a Forest, circa 1936, by I Griem comes with good provenance and has an estimated value of between Rp. 13 – 18 million.

Lot 620 "Pemantasan Barong" - Wayan Meja Image Courtesy of Larasati                                Pementasan Barong – Nyoman Meja

 

The following lots offer good buying as potential investments if prepared to buy and hold the works for at least 10 – 15 years. Lot 630 Setan Mbesan, 2000-2001 by an icon of Indonesian art Nasirun, is a dramatic and colourful 92 x 147cm work with an estimated price of between Rp. 30 – 40 million. Lot 637 Dilarang Melintas #1, 2010 is an oil paint and pastel depiction of a child from the economically marginalised Balinese village of Songan by Bali’s most important painter Gusti Agung Mangu Putra. The work, which comes with an estimated price of between Rp 70 – 100 million, was exhibited in his landmark 2010 exhibition “Teater Rakyat” (People Theatre), at Galeri Nasional Indonesia, Jakarta.

Lot 656 Baruna Hotel Garden and New Queen Bali Restaurant, 2009 is by Dutch painter Paul Husner and comes with an estimated value of between Rp 70 – 90 million, Lot 662 Mengintip, 2002 with an estimated price of between Rp. 20 – 30 million is by Indonesia’s most significant female artist I Gusti Kadek Murniashi (1966-2006), from Bali, whose work was highly unconventional, erotic and violent, while emphasizing an array of women’s issues.

Lot 637 "Dilarang Melintas #1" - Agung Mangu Putra Image Courtesy of Larasati                              Dilarang Melintas #1 – Agung Mangu Putra

 

Highlights of the sale, and of special interest to the connoisseurs are these following three paintings. A beautiful and incredibly detailed composition of the drama and activity of a Balinese Barong dance, Lot 620 Pementasan Barong, 1999 by Nyoman Meja has an estimated price of between Rp. 300 – 350 million. Surprise and delight fill the faces of the children in the foreground, while the background reveals a vibrant wind swept scenario. Pulsating with energy in Affandi’s signature expressionistic style, Lot 627 Boats at Kusamba, 1980, is a 98 x 128cm oil on canvas composition of fishing boats on the beach in East Bali that has an estimated price of between Rp. 1,000 – 1,300 million. This is a rare work revealing the rigor of Affandi’s power late in his career.

Having previously studied modern art in New York Ahmad Sadali (1924-1987) became a leading avant-garde artist in the Indonesian post-war art and developed a distinctive style of his art in abstract patterns that are blended with the themes of spirituality and mysticism of Islam. Lot 644 Bidang dengan Bongkah Emas, 1986 has an estimated price of between Rp. 650 – 850 million, and was purchased by the current owner directly from Sadali.

Lot 644 "Bidang dengan Bongkah Emas" - Ahmad Sadali Image Coutesy of Larasati                            Bidang dengan Bongkah Emas – Ahmad Sadali

 

Lots 638 – 642 are oil on canvas works by the Javanese painter, classical dancer and contemporary dance choreographer from Yogyakarta, Bagong Kussudiardjo (1928-2004). Lot 639 Semar, 1995 by Kussudiardjo has an estimated price of between Rp. 35 – 45 million. Other interesting Balinese paintings in the sale are Lot 615 Aktifitas di Sawah, by Ketut Gelgel, Lot 614 Di Ladang , by Ketut Kebut, Lot 619 Pementasan Calonarang, by Wayan Djudjul (1942-2008) estimated price between Rp 35 – 45 million. Other popular Indonesian artists included in the sale are Kijono, Rusli, Widyat, Jehan and Yudi Sulistyo.

Potential buyers bidding over the phone, absentee bidders or real-time Internet bidders who are unable to attend the previews days or auction are advised to contact Larasati and enquire about the colour reproduction accuracy of the images contained within the online catalogue to ensure that what they wish to purchase can be realistically appraised. The absence of reference to the condition of a lot in the catalogue description does not imply that the lot is free from faults or imperfections, therefore condition reports of the works, outlining the paintings current state and whether it has repairs or over painting, are available upon request.

Lot 647 "A Fight in a Village" Dewa Made Koendel Image Courtesy of Larasati                       A fight in a village – Dewa Made Koendel

 

Provenance, the historical data of the works previous owner/s is also important and is provided. An information guide including before the auction, during the auction and after the auction details, including conditions of business, the bidding process, payment, storage and insurance, and shipping of the work is also available. A buyer’s premium is payable by the buyer of each lot at rate of 22% of the hammer price of the lot.

Open to the public at CSIS Jakarta in Tanah Abang, the auction starts at 2:30 pm Sunday 12 May, while viewing begins from 10:30 am Saturday 11 May. The online catalogue, complete with a guide for prospective buyers is available at: www.larasati.com

Lot 619 "Pementasan Calonarang" - Wayan Djudjul Image Courtesy of Larasati                             Pementasan Barong –  Wayan Djudjul

 

Viewing:
Saturday, 11 May 2019, 10.30 am – 7.30 pm
Sunday,  12 May 2019, 10.30 am – 2 pm

Auction:
Sunday, 12 May 2019, starting at 2.30 pm

Venue:
CSIS Jakarta
Gedung Pakarti Center
Jl. Tanah Abang 3 No.23
Tanah Abang, Jakarta Pusat, Indonesia

 

Words: Richard Horstman

Images: Courtesy of Larasati

 

 

the curious worlds of Balinese painter Galung Wiratmaja

  Tari-persembahan-150x120cm-2019-ac-on-canvas                           Tari  Persembahan, 2019 – Galung Wiratmaja

 

Intrigue and mystery are powerful psychological elements when effectively utilized within a painting. The ability to make subtle suggestions in a composition that inspire curiosity and ignite the observer’s imagination reflects a painter who is in full control of his canvas.

Colour and form are the potent visual fundamentals of a painting that we respond to – they are the fundamentals that inform our conscious and subconscious minds. We then recognize colours and shapes and immediately make associations with objects in our surrounding world. On the deeper, subconscious level, colour and form are distinct vibrational codes that resonate with our inner architecture and core.

Walau-abstrak-teruslah-150x120cm-2016-ac-on-canvas                         Walau Abstrak Teruslah, 2019 – Galung Wiratmaja

 

Balinese modern artist Made Galung Wiratmaja understands how to create captivating paintings – compositions that balance colour with form to catch the eye and incite fascination. Over the past two decades he has explored the abstract, abstraction and figurative expressionistic painting styles. Abstraction paintings reveal a very simple and incomplete depiction of form, abstract compositions, on the other hand, are in descript arrangements of colour and unknown shapes that are without any physical references that we recognize.

I love painting – I find it such a fascinating and inspirational force. Yet a painting is simply some paint applied to a two-dimensional surface, be it a compelling composition of technical mastery, or an expression that requires little time and skill to complete. What sparks my curiosity is how easily our minds are led, and how quickly we believe in the painted illusions that appear before our eyes. As Picasso once said, “Art is a lie, that makes us realize the truth.”

Galung Wiratmaja - AmbangGalung Wiratmaja at ARMA with his paintings in the 2018 exhibition “Ambang Embang”

 

In “Ambang Embang”, a 2018 group exhibition at the Agung Rai Museum of Art (ARMA), in Ubud, Galung exhibited three abstractions of the Lingga, an upright object symbolizing fertility and representing the phallus of the Hindu god Shiva. Entitled “Totem #1,2 & 3” his compositions ‘evolve’ within a sequential series that wonderfully suggest the shoulders and head of the human body. His use of colour, shape and line imply enough decipherable information for our mind to make immediate associations.

“Facing Reality” Galung’s recent solo exhibition, open 5 March – 6 May at The Oberoi, Seminyak and presented by Indonesian Fine Art, features nine figurative expressionistic paintings. In these works the artist combines an array of human figures positioned, mostly, with their backs to the observer, seemingly peering into the colourful abstract backgrounds. His unusual compositions immediately incite appeal, and we wonder what his figures are indeed doing, and what is it the artist wishes to say.

ORLA-(orang-lama)-150x110cm-2106-ac-on-canvas                           ORLA (orang lama), 2016 – Galung Wiratmaja

 

In “Founding Father”, Indonesia’s first President, Sukarno is the focal subject, while one work features a large group of people, and in another appears a Balinese family in traditional attire. What is particularly alluring is that his figures are not facing and addressing the audience. They are in interrelationships with unfamiliar backgrounds and this conjures up within us many different responses.

“I enjoy making compositions that feature mysterious elements and that provoke the audience’s imagination. I want that observers to discover their own interpretations – all readings are valid,” the artist says. “In the compositions depicting Balinese people I make identity statements of what it means to be Balinese, and of the two worlds in which we inhabit.”

Angel-40x50cm-2019-ac-on-canvas1                                      Angel, 2019 – Galung Wiratmaja

 

The paintings reveal two contrasting visual realities according to the Balinese understanding of sekala/niskala – the seen, and unseen worlds. In the realm of sekala is all that is of the physical form, while the niskala is the non-physical, spiritual world consisting of the gods, ancestors and nature spirits. Balance is the key to Galung’s choice of colours that are a mixture of subdued ochre’s, greens, browns and greys that create interesting and unusual contrasts. They are never over powering. “My colours reflect my personality, not too bright, yet not too dark,” he says with a smile.

“Tari Persembahan” (Dance Tribute) depicting four Balinese Legong dancers is an exhibition highlight. The figures Galung generally depicts are stationary, appearing rigid, in a type of silent contemplation, in a departure of style his Legong dancers blend and harmonize within a field of vibrant motion, and the composition has a distinct visual tension.

Totem #1, 2018 Galung Wiratmaja                                    Totem #1, 2018 – Galung Wiratmaja

 

“Often while painting my mind becomes detached from the creative process,” the painter says. “My hand guides the brush without me being conscious and compositions mysteriously appear before my eyes. At times I work with a clear concept in mind, and others times not. The outcomes are always surprising, and harmonic.”

About five years ago Galung’s works really caught my attention. Born in 1972 in Sukawati, GIanyar, he studied Fine Art at Udayana University in Denpasar and started painting at the age of thirteen. To his distinction Galung has succeeded in creating his own signature style. He certainly deserves recognition and increased exposure.

Founding-father-65x80cm-2019-ac-on-canvas2                               Founding Father, 2019 – Galung Wiratmaja

 

Words: Richard Horstman

Images courtesy: Richard Horstman & Indonesian Fine Art

 

 

Paradise lost & new frontiers: Gede Mahendra Yasa’s landmark investigation into Balinese painting

"Tamiang" GMY 2011Tamiang, 2011, 150 x 200cm – Gede Mahendra Yasa. Exhibited in “Post Bali”

 

After the fall of President Suharto and the New Order Regime in 1998 Indonesian artists enjoyed new liberties, and their art became increasingly social and political in content. Representing a new generation of the Balinese avant-garde, Gede Mahendra Yasa was inspired by the freedoms of the post refromasi era, and dared to investigate his Balinese roots like no other artist had previously attempted – he questioned the popular ‘narratives’, along with the status quo. What transpired at the beginning of the new millenium has evolved into an ongoing project – a unique, yet essential, exploration into Balinese painting.

Born in 1967 in the island’s former capital of Singaraja, Mahendra Yasa grew up within a ‘multi-cultural’ environment where the Balinese Hindu’s had the freedom to choose a more open interpretation of cultural life. They were not subjected to the religious and cultural structures that were ‘imposed’ within the Gianyar regency during the 20th century, while it was being honed into a pro-Dutch colonial model of a ‘living cultural museum’ to stimulate tourism.

"Priest" GMY 2011Priest, 2011, 150 x 200cm – Gede Mahendra Yasa. Exhibited in “Post Bali”

 

Mahendra Yasa studied architecture and mechanical engineering in Surabaya, East Java from 1986 to 1988, yet he discovered this to be too limiting, being more attracted to the expressive freedoms of painting. He then began his autodidact journey, and an intensive learning into the history and discourses of Western painting.  Between 1998-2002 he formally studied at the Indonesian Art Institute (ISI) Denpasar where he analyzed his practical and theoretical Balinese art knowledge.

Bali is generally considered to be exotic, and is stuck in a past cultural era. Balinese art is perceived as secondary, as a craft, and not as a legitimate part of Indonesian modern art history. These issues have arisen due to the dense bias of ethnography and anthropology (orientalist in nature) in determining the understanding of Bali, especially during 1920’s – 1930’s within the ‘golden age’ of Balinese development when Balinese traditional art was shaped as a colonial political tool – and this frustrates Mahendra Yasa.  An atheist, Mahendra Yasa was an avid detractor of the local culture, and took a critical stance to the art practices in Bali. This compelled him to continuously investigate and then seek out new frontiers in Balinese painting, in a career long pursuit into its thematic and aesthetic distinctions.

7 Magnficent Masterpieces #1, 2011, 200x150cm Newspaper Collage chinese ink on canvas7 Magnificent Masterpieces #1, 2011, 200 x 150cm, Newspaper Collage & Chinese Ink on Canvas – Gede Mahendra Yasa. Exhibited in “Post Bali”

 

“My entry point is from the contemporary, but using the traditional identity of painting,” he once said. In Post Bali, his landmark 2014 exhibition at ROH Projects, Jakarta, Mahendra Yasa adopted a unique methodology to other Indonesian contemporary artists, driven by his powerful intellect, and an obsession with painting, he delved into local Balinese issues from a western conceptual art perspective. Painting for the artist is not only about the object – it can function as a philosophical and analytical tool.

Post Bali combined an array of western and Balinese painting styles through which Mahendra Yasa revealed his investigation of the complexities of Balinese painting. He utilized various appropriations in his works that have been internationally recognized as modern or contemporary art masterpieces. The exhibition unfolded with photo-realism paintings from 2010 depicting scenarios of Balinese life. It continued via the acclaimed traditional Batuan narrative style of painting, with miniature photo realistic characters as the code through which he explained key parts of Balinese, Indonesian and Western art techniques and history. Within these works he also explored traditional techniques of making canvases, and Chinese ink painting.

7 Magnificent Masterpieces #2, 2012 Acrylic on canvas 200x150cm7 Magnificent Masterpieces #2, 2012, 200x150cm, Acrylic on Canvas – Gede Mahendra Yasa. Exhibited in “Post Bali”

 

Contemporary Art in Paradise Lost, Mahendra Yasa’s enormous 75 x 300 cm epic which included multiple scenes in the one work, taking the artist over a year to complete, was juxtaposed against his dual panel Pollock-esque abstract expressionist works. Post Bali explored three distinct realizations of Bali through different painting styles and ‘tests’ to what extent it is able to interact with materials and ideas familiar to contemporary art. The exhibition can be read as a chronological progression of his work and represents the start of a project that has now become much larger and more complex in nature. Post Bali has defined Mahendra Yasa as one of the few, truly important Balinese contemporary artists, while confirming his position within Indonesian art history.

"Silver Acrylic Paint on Face #2" GMY 2012 Silver Acrylic Paint on Face, #2, 2012 –  Gede Mahendra Yasa (self-portrait)

 

In early June 2018 the following interview was conducted by Richard Horstman and Gede Mahendra Yasa.

 

RH: Since early 2000 you have been driven by the need to question the popular ‘narratives’ and the status quo within Balinese art.

Why did you begin doing this?

GMY: In 2001, only 3 years after reformation and the fall of the new order regime, Indonesian artist enjoyed new freedoms, and political art came to the fore. For a few decades Sanggar Dewata Indonesia (SDI), Bali’s oldest and most influential collective which began in 1970, held power over the art scene. For me, however, they represented the new order regime, with much of their approach to art continuing on from the Dutch colonial methods. I was determined to change the game here in Bali.

The-Death-of-Gatotkaca. 1500x200. 2013The Death of Gatotkaca, 2014, 150 x 200cm – Gede Mahendra Yasa. Exhibited in “Post Bali”

 

RH: As an art provocateur it was essential to ask important questions in order to be able to move forward, as well as to inspire others to be more analytical and critical. Within the sphere of Indonesian and Balinese art, however, there is no culture of criticism, and such an approach is seen as confrontational. You had to move ‘out of the comfort of your studio’ and into the public forum to be heard.  Was this difficult to do?

GMY: Yes, at the beginning it was very difficult. But slowly the art public accepted my criticism.

RH: The formation of collectives has played an important role, while helping you in the exploration of your ideas. (This first began with the Klinik Seni Taxu. The young artists of Taxu reacted to the institutionalized “authority” over Indonesian art which prevailed during in the 1990’s – 2000. They were driven to promote the development of a Balinese art outside the traditional parameters of Balinese religion and culture and were active between 2001-06 releasing publications and exhibiting. In 2001, as students at the Indonesian Art Institute (ISI) Denpasar, the Taxu group received funding from ISI to hold an art event they titled, Mendobrak Hegemoni (Shattering the Hegemony).

"Paradise Lost" GMY Chinese Ink on Kamasan Canvas 2014

Paradise Lost #2, 2014, Chinese Ink on Kamasan Canvas – Gede Mahendra Yasa

 

What occurred was a protest featuring abusive comments in various languages about the commercialization of art. They attacked copies of major artists works and produced effigies of the artists as mummies, posters proclaimed ‘art is dead’. The event shocked both the singled out artists, and the ISI authorities during an era when the pressures of the New Order Regime were still heavy. The protest was of national significance because Bali had become a key site for the formation of ideas about Indonesian art).

Can you explain why the Taxu group came about and what were their aims?

GMY: Bali has traditions like the banjar system of communal organization. I learned from the influence of the foreign artist during the 1930’s – 1940’s (Spies and Bonnet) and Nyoman Ngendon from Batuan, and in wider context from the first Indonesian community based artist groups (PERSAGI & LEKRA). I understood that organizing groups, following in the tradition of making “schools” of artists was a more strategic and quicker way to achieve goals. This belief pushed me to find artistic idioms for the groups to function as a“glue” (Social realism for Klinik Seni Taxu, and abstraction for Nu-Abstract, his latest collective which began in 2017).

"Between Me,You and the Bedpost #2 Mahendra YasaBetween Me, You and the Bedpost #1. 2014, 100 x 163cm – Gede Mahendra Yasa, Exhibited in “Post Bali”

 

RH: More recently the Neo-Pitamaha has been formed. Can you share more about this collective?

GMY: The origins of the Neo-Pitamaha began after my 2011 solo exhibition in Milan, Italy because of problems with my “identity” as a Balinese painter. I began to think a lot about my artistic roots, and then started to explore Balinese painting (focussing on painting from the last century – the Classical style referred to as Kamasan, and the Batuan traditional style). I believed that the Classical and traditional styles had come to a dead-end. And then I challenged myself to contemporize what the academic artists (especially the Yogyakarta Indonesian Art Institute (ISI) alumni) thought was impossible. And I proved them wrong! In 2013 I “assembled” a new group to push this idea further.

RH: Can you share please the ideas behind your series of paintings made between 2012 – 2018 which began with 7 Magnificent Masterpieces #1 & #2, and continues on with Origen’s Gambit?

"Contemporary Art in Paradise Lost" 2012-2014, 300x75 cmContemporary Art in Paradise Lost, 2014, 75 x 300cm – Gede Mahendra Yasa. Exhibited in “Post Bali”

 

GMY: I wanted to contemporize the Batuan painting style emphasizing the full compositions, with no empty spaces. Complete with the dualities and horror, the dense and decorative style – very Balinese. Unlike the Dutch miniatures such as Brueghel, Bosch, for example, who use the linear perspective. I use the bird eye’s view perspective, like the Batuan artists. I then realised that the series could be used for telling stories about art history (Balinese, Indonesian and global art history). My inspirations came from the American painter Mark Tansey, and also the comic genres, such as Marvel and DC Comics, and how they make alternative universes. I wanted to mimic their method to create my own universe – an art history universe.

Remember this miniature epic series has taken 6 years to develop, so many things have happened. This is on going, and in the near future, in the third phase of this series I plan my approach to be more a linguistic or semiotic exploration. I will “illustrate” a lot of “ideas” about imagery, icons, logos and symbols. Here, I have been influenced by Xu Bing a main land Chinese painter.

"Yasa Perburuan Rusa" GMY 2014                        Yasa Perburuan Rusa, 2014 – Gede Mahendra Yasa

 

RH: You have a long and ongoing relationship with abstract painting. In 2017 you formed the collective NU-abstract to explore further Balinese abstraction and the collective will be exhibiting at NADI Gallery in Jakarta in early July. Do you find exploring your feelings within this genre is the perfect creative pursuit while other concepts need certain periods of time to fully develop and to be successfully executed and expressed? Does this help you to achieve a type of ‘balance’?

GMY: Yes, I need to balance my other painting series as they demand too much logic. There is, however, another reason. I formed the NU-abstract group because there are some Islamic fundamentalist art groups (Rumah Warna, Khat, Khilafah art networks) in Yogyakarta, and Hijrah in Bandung, who want to use non-figurative painting as a tool to forbid the making of imagery of “living creatures”. They twist modern abstraction for their own political benefits while intercepting the potentiality of this new Indonesian art trend. I want to stop their ideas of controlling and polluting the Indonesian art world.

"Yasa Spiral Frame" GMY 2014                              Yasa Spiral Frame, 2014 – Gede Mahendra Yasa

 

Mahendra Yasa along with Neo-Pitamaha co-founder Kemal Ezedine set out to strategically impact upon the Indonesian contemporary art world in 2016 by participating in high level exhibitions and art fairs in Bandung, Jakarta and Yogyakarta. Their presence was especially visible during the two international art fairs, Art Stage Jakarta 2016 and 2016 Bazaar Art Jakarta that attracted large national and foreign audiences.

The Neo-Pitamaha have taken their name from the legendary 1936 artists association established in Ubud during a revolutionary period when traditional art was being modernized for the new and expanding international market – the Pitamaha’s oversaw the successful development of this new genre of art that helped communicate the Balinese culture around the world. The Pitamaha was formed by the prince of Ubud Tjokorda Agung Sukawati, Bali’s modern master Gusti Nyoman Lempad, and the expat foreign artists Walter Spies, and Rudolf Bonnet.

"BipolarDemons" GMY 2017, 200x160Bipolar Demons, 2107, 200 x 150cm – Gede Mahendra Yasa. From the NU-abstract series and exhibited in the group exhibition “Celebrating Indonesian Portraiture” at OHD Museum Magelang, Central Java, continuing through until 8 October 2018.

 

With their ideology deeply rooted in the historical development of Balinese art during the past century, and with a new discourse about Balinese art the Neo-Pitamaha reinterpreted this art form from a contemporary art perspective – retaining the principles involved with the techniques and methods. By opening this to new viewpoints they awakened a new spirit and introduced a fresh model of possibilities into Balinese art.

 

After Paradise Lost 2014-2016In May 2016 at Christie’s Hong Kong Asian Contemporary Art Day Sale “After Paradise Lost” (2014) by Gede Mahendra Yasa sold for HKD 1,240,000 (USD 158,000), well above the estimated price of between HKD 350,000 (USD 44,500) – HKD 500,000 (USD 63,500).

 

Origen's Gambit" GMYAt Christie’s Hong Kong Asian Contemporary Art Day Sale November 2017, Gede Mahendra Yasa’s painting “Origen’s Gambit” (2016-2017) realised HKD 1,750,000 (USD 220,000), selling well above the estimated price of HKD 380,000 (USD48,000) – HKD 550,000 (USD70,000).

 

Gede Mahendra Yasa’s painting After Paradise Lost has been selected as one of the 15 finalists in the Signature Art Prize. The award, which is presented every three years, is organized by the Singapore Art Museum and sponsored by the Asia-Pacific Breweries Foundation. The winner will be announced at an award ceremony on June 29, and the works are currently on exhibit from May 25 to Sept. 2 at the National Museum of Singapore.

 

 

 

Words: Richard Horstman

Images: Coutesy of IndoArtNow, Gede Mahendra Yasa & Richard Horstman

Art eccentric – Ida Bagus Alit

Ida Bagus Alit                             The effervescent Ida Bagus Alit

 

The art world adores eccentric characters.

Lurking beneath the exterior of Balinese artist Ida Bagus Alits’ wacky persona is, however, a highly practical, compassionate and intelligent man. These traits meld into an effervescent personality that enchants everyone he meets.

Within the Balinese art world Gus Alit, as he is affectionately known, is a popular and unique figure; painter, sculptor, photographer, event organizer and art collective leader. A member of a well-known Brahmin high caste family in Denpasar, there is an aristocratic air about him, especially when attired in traditional costume and sporting his suave reading glasses. Yet one is not to be intimidated or coy within his presence, Gus Alit is as playful, and as friendly as a kitten.

Gus Alit’s passion for photography has drawn him along two distinctive paths. He is dedicated to documenting Balinese religious ceremonies around the island, capturing rare events, and the unique traditional costumes that characterize separate villages.  He does, however love to experiment with painting techniques upon printed images on canvas, striving to achieve new aesthetic results with his art photography.

Ida Bagus Alit, "No Doubt" 2014.                                No Doubt – Ida Bagus Alit

Grinning happily as he reveals images captured on his iPhone, his ever-ready pocket camera, Gus Alit explains one of the “secrets” of his photographic technique. The photos are of young Balinese women clad in traditional dress, glamorous and alluring – the iconic image of Balinese feminine beauty.

“At first they are shy, some even refuse to be photographed,” he says referring to his initial meetings with the models. “Yet I always win them over with a joke and my humor quickly sets them at ease.”   His photos recount the process of their transition from being restrained and rigid, to being relaxed and glowing in front of the camera. “Its important to make your models feel comfortable in order to capture and allow their inner beauty to shine.”

27797357_1905610429450254_2276016392130748197_o                              The Beautiful Balinese – Ida Bagus Alit

There are often visitors to Griya Satria Art House, Gus Alit’s family’s home on Jalan Veteran, opposite the bird market in Denpasar. They may be friends, family, or new acquaintances, locals and foreigners, all curious to see the collection of art on display set in lush tropical gardens while being enhanced by traditional Balinese architecture.   Recently more and more young couples, brides and grooms in traditional costume, stop by to be photographed by professional photographers, surrounded by Gus Alit’s unusual paintings and sculptures. The consequences are unique momentos that they surely will look back on with pride.

“This is a new era in photography,” Gus Alit says with a cheeky smile stretching from ear to ear.“ They now go from the Bali museum to Griya Satria Art House for their wedding photos.”

Of course Gus Alit jumps into the action and captures the couples in all their glory, as well. Often he will print the photo onto canvas then paint the background in his flamboyant style. If the subject is a friend he may gift them with the work, however many of his subjects upon seeing his creations, request to buy these unique images directly from him.

Ida Bagus Alit, "Friendship" 2011, acrylic on canvas                                   Friendship – Ida Bagus Alit

“What is important is not to copy,” exclaims Gus Alit. “True art must come from the heart.”

As the long serving president of B.I.A.S.A (Bali Indonesia Sculptors Association), he is a driving force in the promotion and preservation of traditional woodcarving, and contemporary sculpture in Bali. I question Gus Alit on the value of art collectives in Bali, which he believes are essential to the development of local art.

“As individuals or groups its important to know our strengths and weaknesses. Through this we will learn the ways and methods to move ahead. Learning is life long education,” he states with a wisdom that almost belies his jovial character. “As the head of B.I.A.S.A I take the time to visit each of the members and discuss with them their challenges and I help to provide solutions. B.I.A.S.A is like a big family to me.” Gus Alit is well versed in the concept of leadership with the heart.

 

IMGP4843                                Sculpture by Ida Bagus Alit

Abstract and figurative wood cravings are a fusion of the rich natural rhythms of the timber intertwined with faces and figures. Although they are not always be beautiful, Gus Alit introduces imaginative possibilities, while adhering to a yin/yang theme. Some of his sculptures he paints in an outrageous manner that none dare to copy.

While contemplating his paintings the observer may wonder what on earth are these creations! Are they the musings of a complete oddball? His large compositions, some canvases measuring over 4 meters in width, each, however, have themes taken from his culture, for example Tri Hita Kirana, the Balinese philosophy of three fold harmony between man, nature and the gods.

Gus Alit’s paintings are as eccentric as is his personality. A fusion of bright colors, figures and forms, they are both surrealistic and dynamic at once. Adaptations from the Wayang Kulit shadow puppet-theater and traditional masks, his figures and faces have evolved into quirky, other worldly creatures. Akin to galactic landscapes that flow across the canvas his compositions express humor while accentuating that art should be fun to create.

IMGP4842                             Painting by Ida Bagus Alit

“To be a real artist you have to be free and strive to create your own works under your own responsibility.”

His C.V lists the exhibitions he has participated in over the past 40 years, numbering well over one hundred. Born in Denpasar 1947, Gus Alit’s works have been displayed in many countries, while his buyers come from every corner of the planet. In 2006 he participated in an artist in residency program, as well as having a solo exhibition at the Vermont Studio Center, USA. A self-taught artist, who regularly travels abroad, his initial childhood inspiration has come from studying his artist father, Ida Bagus Agung.

Watching him chiseling away at a carving, with an eye for detail, while being the picture of focus and determination, his wiry hands and arms are powerful, yet sensitive as well. Gus Alit values the virtues and importance of art and culture above himself, is an asset to the island, and a proud ambassador of the Balinese arts.

IMGP4855                                 Sketches by Ida Bagus Alit

Gus Alit welcomes visitors at Griya Satria Art House,Jalan Veteran, opposite the bird market in Denpasar.

 

Words: Richard Horstman

Images: Ida Bagus Alit, Monika Kiraly & Richard Horstman

 

 

 

 

The Cosmic Worlds of Visionary Balinese Artist Putu Wirantawan

Putu Wirantawan 2016

 

Rarely in Bali does the observer have the opportunity to experience art of such a unique and “other worldly” quality as created Balinese contemporary artist Putu Wirantawan. The fundamental key to Balinese traditional art is drawing, for Wirantawan, however, it serves a different function to that of his artistic forefathers.

About 15 years ago Wirantawan (b.1972 Negara, Jembrana, West Bali) became overwhelmed by what he perceived as a block in his artistic development. Yet, unbeknown to him at the time, he was in the formative stages of creative innovation. Having learned to draw and paint in his youth, actively exhibiting since 1993, and a graduate in Fine Arts from the ISI Yogyakarta 2005, (Indonesian Art Institute), Wirantawan had already become competent in the mediums of oil and acrylic paint, along with water-color to produce figurative and abstract works. Wirantawan, however, had become bored with these genres and wished to break free.

                                         Soulscape II, 2010 – Putu Wirantawan

His solution was to return to the basics of drawing. Wirantawan followed his intuitive urges and focused on spontaneous ideas that evolved into unexplainable sketches. He completed page after page in his sketch pad until eventually the idea blossomed, why not piece together some of these works into larger compositions.

Wirantawan’s process is determined by the flow of imaginative energy between his conscious and subconscious minds. The freedom and flexibility within his technique allows him to arrive at authentic compositions that he believes would be impossible to initially conceive – a powerful creative element had returned to his art along with seemingly endless possibilities to explore.

Working in pencil and ballpoint pen on paper, enhanced with a touch of color Wirantawan draws on the fundamentals of surrealism and abstract art.  “Many of my ideas come from the simplest of objects or from observations of the atmospheric, such as the elements of sunlight, fire, water and smoke,” says Wirantawan. “The elements contain a magic that ignites my imagination and I then transform the shapes I see into something new.”

             Tebaran Energi Sejati, 2008-2012, 9 panels, 2915 x 1260 cm – Putu Wirantawan

“Drawing is a flexible and spontaneous technic, it can be done wherever and whenever, and is not affected by the material drying quickly or still being wet. Drawing nurtures new spirit that enables me to feel free to explore my flowing ideas,” Wirantawan said. “Drawing is soul therapy for the mental burdens resulting from challenges in daily life.”

Often described as a visionary Balinese artist, Wirantawan’s works invite the observer into an abstract world of geometric structures that appear like futuristic cities, galactic landscapes and vast sanctums in the outer most reaches of the cosmos. While his work is truly contemporary and free of traditional Balinese aesthetics and the orthodox approach, there is a deep relationship to the Balinese Hindu philosophical universal view.

Initially, Wirantawan’s works appear almost cryptic and strange, yet they mysteriously radiate a warmth with an unexplainable fascination to the eye. The core structural content of his work is based on the principles of sacred geometry, in which arrangements of lines within harmonic proportions produce systems and symbols that resonate with the subconscious mind.

                                Gugusan Citra Batin, 1236011, 2011 – Putu Wirantawan

Wirantawan often utilizes the circle, which is nature’s perfect symbol, appearing like floating disks, planets and glowing orbs with auras radiating light. “Geometry is the essence and structure of all natural shapes on earth and in the solar system.   All cycles of life and natural phenomena follow a repetitive circular order of birth, death and then rebirth,” he said.

The geometrical symbols Wirantawan uses are governed by a mathematical ratio known as the Golden Ratio, first devised by the ancient Greek mathematicians defining an invisible order that regulates the 3 dimensional proportions of the earth plane. These harmonic proportions were used in the design of sacred buildings in ancient and renaissance architecture to produce a spiritual energy that is believed to facilitate connectivity with a higher universal intelligence.

The coloration of Wirantawan’s works contains the most basic of all visual dualities – black and its interrelationship with the color white. The impact of color psychology, the advancing nature of the white upon black creates dramatic depth of field. Some imagery simply morphs from light to dark and flows in and out of discernible surrealistic forms.

Wirantawan has won a series of awards and honors, including nomination as one of the 10 best Indonesian artists in 2000 Philip Morris Art Awards, as well as being a finalist in the International Triennial “Print and Drawing” in Bangkok, Thailand 2008 and again in 2012.

Blissful Line, Wirantawan’s 2015 solo exhibition at the Tony Raka Art Gallery in Ubud, featured hundreds of his sketches on papers covering the gallery’s walls, the focal point of attraction, however, was his extraordinary, and new venture into installation. Gugusan Energi Alam Batin (the Configuration of the Natural Energy of the Soul), 606 x 246 x 312 cm.  Within the context of contemporary Balinese art Wirantawan has developed a dynamic individual style, both beautiful and compelling, that clearly stands alone.

IMGP9421                           Gugusan Energi Alam Batin – Putu Wirantawan

IMGP9400                             Sketches by Putu Wirantawan

IMGP9397

Words & Images: Richard Horstman

 

 

The Bali Art Scene 2016: The Final Six Months Overview

15878100_120300001416662373_1113857188_oBudi Agung Kuswara with patient from Rumah Berdaya, a community based psycho-social rehabilitation center utilizing art as a tool for creative solutions.

 

The concluding six months of events on the 2016 Bali art calendar were exceptionally busy; the following are some of the highlights of the closing half of the year:

In late May contemporary artist Budi Agung Kuswara, co-founder of Ketemu Project Space, began his special art project in Denpasar, co facilitated by a professional psychiatrist at “Rumah Berdaya”, a community based psycho-social rehabilitation center utilizing art as a tool for creative solutions. The project continued throughout the year providing activities for people with schizophrenia to encourage social interactions through art making, productivity and independence while expressing their ideas and thinking.

Skizofriends Art Movement will be an ongoing program following on from the success of Budi and colleague’s lobbying of the Denpasar Government to become supporters. In 2017 it will become a part of the Denpasar City Department Health Care Program, while Skizofriends Art Movement was involved in activities at the Denpasar Festival 2016 28-31 December at Lapangan Puputan, Denpasar.   Budi must be congratulated on this initiative aimed at empowering individuals and building community through engaging the public through the potent creative forces of art.

made-valasaraValasara’s Konstruksi semesta, semesta yang teralienasi menpertanyakan kediriannya dalam ekspresi tunggal.

Made Valasara made a conspicuous presence during ArtJog 9’s Universal Influence 27 May opening at the Jogja National Museum in Yogyakarta, Central Java. Being the only Bali based Balinese artist invited to exhibit his work was both an honour and an excellent opportunity for exposure to large national and international audiences. Valasara’s installation, konstruksi semesta, semesta yang teralienasi menpertanyakan kediriannya dalam ekspresi tunggal, a series of 25 individual works of various sizes, overall dimensions of 230 x 520cm stood out for its originality.

Adopting the canvas as a standalone medium, along with sewing techniques, he layers and fills the canvas to create 3 dimensional embossed and debossed compositions. His small white figures, presented behind glass revealed his evolving technique with the innovation of his debossed works. Valasara’s attention to narrative development too, revealed an engaging Balinese narrative.

widyantara-i-gede-late-hero-115-x-81-cm-acrylic-on-canvas-2015Gede Widyantara’s Last Hero 2016 which may be viewed upside down to reveal a demonic face.

Traces Under the Surface: Batuan Painting Exhibition, 3 June -31 July at TiTian Art Space, Ubud explored artistic lineage that evolved in the renowned village of traditional painting, Batuan. The exhibition focussed upon the teacher/student relationship following on from Nyoman Ngendon (1906-1946), a multi talented artist and innovator who experimented with perspectives, creating “unreal” 3 dimensionality within the early rigid framework of the Batuan paintings. Ngendon’s great distinction was that he believed in sharing his techniques, while persuading his students to break with traditions and become art innovators themselves.

Traces Under the Surface featured the lineage of Wayan Taweng (1922-2004) who learned to paint primarily from Ngendon, beginning at the age of eight, and later teaching his sons Ketut Sadia (b.1966), Wayan Diana (b.1977) and Made Griyawan (b.1979), along with others. Paintings by the fore mentioned Balinese artists, and Taweng’s grandson Gede Widyantara (b.1984) proved to be some of the finest examples of the Batuan genre and its process of innovation. Widyantara’s talent, that belies his age, reveals that the future of Batuan painting will indeed by exciting.

imhatthai-suwwathanasilp-murnis-temple-mixed-media-human-hair-thread-wood-glue-31-x-18-x-10-cm-image-courtesy-of-ketemu-project-spaceSleeping Murni by Thai artist Imhathai Suwatthanaslip, made with Murni’s hair.

A unique, palpable buzz welcomed the opening of Merayakan Murni (Celebrating Murni) 16 July at Sudakara Art Space, Sanur. The project, which gathered local and regional artists to create works in response to the legacy of the iconic female Balinese artist I GAK Murniasih (1966-2006) “Murni” proved to be one of the most anticipated Bali art events of recent history. Some of the highlights were works by artists Illa from Singapore, renowned Dutch “Indonesian” artist Mella Jaarsma, Imhathai Suwatthanaslip from Thailand, along with Punia Atmaja and Citra Sasmita from Bali.

Murni was an artist of rare quality, unequalled in Indonesia at least. Along with such reverence comes great emotional attachment to the artist by her many friends and admirers, the exhibition therefore was not without critics. Some critics stated the Sudakara venue was too small and the exhibition included too many international artists, and as a consequence failed grant enough space in order for Murni’s ouvre to be fully appreciated by the audience, many of which had yet to be exposed to her work.

Others thought the exhibition overly ambitious, attempting to achieve too much, too soon, while the film about Murni could have represented a more positive theme. Event organizers Ketemu Project Space, along with their young and energetic team proved, however that their presence on the Bali art scene is indeed exciting, with enormous, yet to be realized potential.

20160703_112528                            At The Point of View#4 – Radwin Nurlatif

At The Point of View opened Friday 1 July at Santrian Gallery Sanur, with Radwin Nurlatif presenting one of the most outstanding photography exhibitions of 2016. Curated by Rifky Effendy, the exhibition captivated not only for its high standards of technical quality and presentation of superbly beautiful aesthetic and conceptual images (giclée prints on Hahnemühle photo rag ultra smooth 305 gsm), yet in the simplicity of some of the digital images that wonderfully contrasted women with nature, or women in surreal compositions.

kemal-ezedine-2016-asj-image-richard-horstmanKemal Ezedine was represented by Edwin’s Gallery Jakarta at Art Stage Jakarta 2016

The presence of Balinese artists at Indonesia’s two international art fairs held in Jakarta, Art Stage Jakarta 5-7 August & Bazaar Art Jakarta 2016 25-28 August help to consolidate Bali’s growing presence on the Indonesian art world, which during recent years has tended to be dominated by artists from Java and West Sumatra. While Art Stage, among its hundreds of exhibitors featured only three Indonesian Bali based artists, Agung Mangu Putra, Made Valasara and Kemal Ezedine (along with Ashley Bickerton), Bazaar Art Jakarta, on the other hand featured the work of 13 artists.

From the traditional genre was Nyoman Meja (b. 1950, Ubud), others artists present were Nyoman Gunarsa, Made Wianta, Nyoman Erawan, Agung Mangu Putra, Gede Mahendra Yasa, Wayan Kun Adnyana, Teja Astawa, Kemal Ezedine, Ketut Moniarta, Tang Adiawan, Putu Wirantawan, Wayan Mandiyasa and Ketut Sumadi. Erawan’s installation at the Mon Décor Art One booth provided a strong contrast to what was on display at the fair, while being deeply engaging.

mangu-putra-pura-puncak-mangu-2016-oil-on-canvas-200x300cm                Pura Puncak Mangu 2016 – Agung Mangu Putra

Paskal Gallery’s acute eye for display, allowing attendees from a distance to be captured by the alluring and mysterious qualities of the 190 x 290 cm oil on canvas composition Pura Puncak Mangu, by Agung Mangu Putra confirmed why he is regarded as one of Indonesia’s most respected painters. His scene of a group of Balinese people praying at the remote mountain top temple in Buleleng was one of the highlights of Bazaar Art. The Neo Pitamaha collective made a strong presence at Bazaar Art with works exhibited by four artists and Jakarta’s Edwin’s Gallery confirmed their confidence in Kemal Ezedine by dedicating their entire booth at both fairs to the Ubud resident artist.

Sanur based Swedish painter Richard Winkler, also present at both fairs represented by Zola Zulu Gallery of Bandung, also enjoyed strong sales with his eye-catching and technically brilliant ‘utopian Bali’ compositions. Sotheby’s presented contemporary works by Mangu Putra and Mahendra Yasa in the preview of their Hong Kong Autumn Sale, while Sidharta Auctioneers presented Gunarsa and Meja, and ISA Art Advisory presented modern works by Arie Smit (1919-2016) and Adrian Le Mayeur (1880-1958).

ida-bagus-made-nadera-fajar-mengjingsing-1949                   Ida Bagus Made Nadera – Fadjar Mengjingsing 1945

A landmark event in the history of Indonesian modern art, held from 2 – 30 August at Jakarta’s National Gallery of Indonesia was 17/71, Goresan Juang Kemerdekaan (Brushstrokes of the Independence Struggle). Presenting 28 paintings from the collection (over 3000 works) assembled by Indonesia’s founding father President Sukarno the exhibition was opened on August 17th, on the 71st anniversary of the proclamation of independence by the Indonesian President Joko Widodo.

Ida Bagus Made Nadera’s (1912-1988) beautiful 188 x 300 cm modern traditional composition Fadjar Mengjingsing made a special presence, along with works by Walter Spies and Rudolf Bonnet in an exhibition featuring scenes of the independence struggle by Indonesian maestros such as Affandi, Sudjojono and Srihadi alongside pictures of iconic Indonesia.

20160827_191628                                                  Arie Smit (1916-2016)

During the 27 August seminar at Ubud’s Neka Art Museum, a gathering of over 100 members of the Balinese art community, and distinguished guests Suteja Neka and Agung Rai, and 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.

He started teaching painting to young boys in the village of Penestanan in 1960, beginning the “Young Artists Style”, while at its height there were more than 300 practitioners. He helped transform the village, and prosper economically, being both an art teacher and a father figure to the village. Smit’s passing is a monumental loss to the canon of Southeast Asian art, while the Young Artist Style is one of the most exciting developments in Balinese art in the later half of the 20th Century.

made-wianta-receives-the-award-from-bali-governor-mangu-pastikaMade Wianta receives the Bali Mandara Parama Nugraha 2016 Award from the Governor Mangku Pastika.

A special 30 August ceremony at Taman Budaya Cultural Center Denpasar by the Bali Government honoured local figures who have made important contributions to Bali. An icon of Bali contemporary art, internationally renowned, Made Wianta (b. 1949, Tabanan) received the Bali Mandara Parama Nugraha 2016 Award from the Governor Mangku Pastika in highest appreciation of promoting Bali through contemporary art.

14642015_1359257894086482_2982552466485278854_n

Often overshadowed by the southern regencies of Gianyar, Badung and Tabanan, Buleleng is not only home to a unique Balinese art history (Van Der Tuuk in 1845 and his commissioning of Balinese artists work for his research into the first dictionary of the Balinese language), yet a community of talented artists. Exhibitions by artists from Buleleng are held annually in the southern regencies, and on 22 October Qilin – Membaca Social Budaya Warga Pecinan Kota Singaraja (Socio-cultural readings of Singaraja’s Chinatown Residents) opened at Neka Art Museum in Ubud, and continued for one month.

Based upon curatorial research led by Hardiman, from the Art Department of UNDISKHA University in Singaraja, along with his young team of Made Susanta Dwitanaya, Dewa Gede Purwita, Ketut Wisana Ariyanto and Gede Panca Gautama, into the culture of the Chinese Tionghoa community, the group exhibition delved into spiritual and religious practises, artefacts and there traces, stories from their literature, and portraits of figures from the community. Of the many highlights were the eight collective works, including Spreading Qilin, an installation of terracotta Chinese dragon characters.

20161023_161947A Brutal Contrast of Concrete and Kamasan Painting combined street art along with paintings from selected emerging local talent from Batuan, Ubud, Tabanan and Denpasar.

Cahyendra Putra and the Neo Pitamaha Invite You To: A Brutal Contrast of Concrete and Kamasan Painting opened 23 October will be recorded in the annals of Balinese art history. The outsider exhibition, which in many ways was noteworthy, was underpinned by a long-awaited and fresh approach to presenting art in Ubud, outside of the conventional gallery, art space and museum format.

This collaborative project, organized by Kemal Ezedine, features street art by artists from Bali & Jakarta, along with paintings from selected emerging local talent from Batuan, Ubud, Tabanan and Denpasar. Set within the gutted interior of a building, twenty young artists revealed their interpretation of the famous Bali 1930’s Pita Maha artist’s association in dynamic contemporary art that challenges the establishment. Highlights included works by Wayan Budiarta, Wayan Aris Sumanta and street artists Ego, Saf, Ola, and Slinart.

20160817_111722                                      Bali LandscapesWillem Kerseboom

Bali Landscapes by Dutch painter Willem Kerseboom opened at TiTian Art Space, Ubud 28 October (continuing until late January 2017). Kerseboom, who shares his time between Holland/Belgium and his home North Bali presented acrylic landscape compositions of a rare quality. His imaginary, abstract snapshots, are deeply engaging, while being a fine creative contribution to the long line of Dutch artists who have been inspired by Bali.

jiri-kudrna-light-plane-photography                             Light Plain Photographs – Jiri Kudrna

Ubud based Swiss engineer and software developer Jiri Kudrna, a pioneer in experimental photography has made major contributions to the development of contemporary photography. Kudrna’s contributions to Age of Photography #2, open 15 – 28 November at the National Gallery of Indonesia, Jakarta were from his inventions that created Light Plain Photographs (LPP), and his three interactive installations, Space – Time Variations.

 LPP’s are fantastic images using a plain of light and a camera to record photographs with unique optic effects – a fusion of the four-time space dimensions – while the subject is housed within a dark room and participates within their own unique photographic procedure. Kudrna’s Space – Time Variations were very popular with exhibition audience who created over 1800 pictures in four days, and were also able to upload the images onto social media platforms.

Power Playing works by Arum & Ida Adi.jpg                      Power Playing – Images by Arum & Ida Adi at Lingkara

Lingkara Photography Community of Denpasar is an alternative platform for contemporary photographers in Bali. Over recent years Lingkara have presented a range of quality collaborative exhibitions and events. Driven by a small core group of dedicated artists Lingkara not only strive to support the collective, yet seek out professional opportunities by engaging with and representing artists via product development and management.

Power Playing opened 20 November presenting mostly large-scale works by Candra Mpu Glimblond, Christina Arum, Ida Adi, Ismail Ilmi, Rudi Waisnawa and S.R. Awy. While the artists individual techniques involved varying processes, such as re printing images, painting, collage with the help of additional tools, mirrors, candles and magnifying tools to make impressions, the final large-scale results which were applied to the walls were a single photograph without digital enhancement. Lingkara are making important contributions to the development of contemporary photography in Bali and Power Playing was a very strong collective showing, while Arum’s technically labor intensive work was one of the highlights.

mangu-putra-2016-puputan-badung-the-fall-of-badung-kingdom-2-oil-on-canvas-370-x-150-cm         Puputan Badung 1906 (The Fall of Badung Kingdom # 1) – Agung Mangu Putra

Agung Mangu Putra: Between History and the Quotidian ran from 25 November – 12 December at Singapore’s Gajah Gallery. Mangu Putra continues his research into critical Dutch colonial events that shaped Indonesian and Balinese history. Highlights were Puputan Badung 1906 (The Fall of Badung Kingdom # 1& 2) 2016 & 2014, compositions pieced together from archival accounts and images into enormous paintings up 370 x 1590 cm in size. The works reveal the story of the Dutch colonial army’s confrontation with the Kingdom of Badung in Kesiman, Denpasar in 1906 that resulted in the tragic puputan event (act of ritual suicide).

Mangu Putra’s investigation into these events are important because these events occurred during a crucial era of the nation’s history and theses events without more historical examination may become historical myths.

20170103_170338                     Ashley Bickerton‘s sculptures at Follow the White Cube

The Pop-Up gallery concept is new to Ubud, Bali and was successfully adopted by Honold Fine Art twice in 2016. Follow the White Cube opened 26 November at Italian artist Filippo Sciascia’s studio in Nyuh Kuning. The exhibition featured work by artists Jumaldi Alfi, Marco Cassani, Ashley Bickerton, Fendry Ekel, Bepi Ghiotti, Yusra Mantunus, Narcisse Tordior and Filippo Sciascia.

Set within a ‘white cube’ display areas that lent well to strong, yet conventional viewing experience, the works ranged from paintings through to sculpture, installation and video art presented exciting contrasts. While the spontaneity of the Pop-Up concept is a fresh and much-needed addition to the Ubud art scene.

doors-of-perception-made-aswino-aji                              Doors of Perception 2016 – Made Aji Aswino

CROSSING: Beyond Baliseering presented some of the finest emerging contemporary artist from Bali at Forty-Five Downstairs Gallery, Melbourne, Australia, open 6 December. Reflecting upon Bali’s visual and social culture while exploring themes of personal life experiences, environmental, social and political issues in the contemporary society, the exhibition showcased paintings, photography, sculptures, and large-scale installations.

In the most important international group showing of Balinese contemporary art outside of Indonesia that featured Art of Whatever, Made Aji Aswino, Budi Agung Kuswara, Citra Sasmita, Kemal Ezedine, Made ‘Dalbo’ Suarimbawa, Natisa Jones, Slinat, Made Valasara, Wayan Upadana and Yoesoef Olla, highlights included Aswino Aji’s monumental two-sided wood craving installation, Doors of Perception 2016, 250 x 300 x 80 cm, a representation of a candi (traditional Balinese temple entry), along with works by‘Dalbo’ Suarimbawa, Upadana, Slinart and Citra Sasmita.

5-kasper-x-nedsone-teges-ubud                                 Lukas Kasper& Nedsone at work during Way Up

Bali’s ever evolving street art movement is increasingly discovering new sights to enliven along the streets of urban Denpasar and within the villages of the Badung and Gianyar Regencies. Way UpStreet Art Collaboration Project initiated by Cata Odata, Allcapsstore and Lukas Kasper began in November 2016 and will continue through until the end of January 2017.

The project was born through the meeting of Cata Odata and Australian artist Lukas Kasper beginning with the idea to contribute vibrantly to Ubud’s street areas and to collaborate with nine street artists from Bali on 20 walls. Local artists include Nedsone, Kmis3, Lezart, Slinat, Yapstwo, Sleeck, and 1escv. The event included the Way Up online map on the website and the 17 December Spray Jam workshop, and Kelas Belajar sharing session 18 December at Cata Odat, and the #UbudScavengerHunt. 17 December through 11 January which will include a prize to the winner.

http://way-up.cataodata.com/follow-the-map.html

putu-wirantawan-2016                  Contemporary Art from Bali – Installation by Putu Wirantawan 2016

Contemporary Art from Bali opened 15 December at LAF (Langgeng Art Foundation) Yogyakarta, and continues through until 31 January 2017. Curated by Rifky Effendy and Gede Mahendra Yasa the show featured some of the finest contemporary artists currently working in Bali, foreigners, Indonesians and Balinese: Ketut Susena, Ketut Samadi, Made Aswino Aji, Teja Astawa, Natisa Jones, Wayan Mandiyasa, Ketut Suwidiarta, Putu Wirantawan, Ashley Bickerton, Marco Cassani, Filippo Sciascia, Ketut Moniarta, Kemal Ezedine, Wayan Upadana, Made Valasara and Rodney Glick.

Overshadowed by the traditional art scene, and often overlooked within the context of the Indonesian art world contemporary art and the art infrastructure is on the rise in Bali. Making an important statement within the context of Indonesian contemporary art, in the Javanese cultural and creative heartland with its ever-evolving art infrastructure and eco system, this exhibition is the most important collective showing of contemporary art from Bali held in Indonesia in 2016.

20161230_175209                        Inside of Being  – Installation by Pande Ketut Taman 2016

The 30 December opening at the Tony Raka Art Gallery punctuated the end of 2016 and friendship and creative achievement by four Balinese contemporary artists, alumni of the Indonesian Art Insititue SI Yogyakarta. Inside of Being highlighted the talents of Putu Sutawijaya, Made Sumadiyasa, Made Mahendra Mangku & Pande Ketut Taman, artists who have shared friendships for over 30 years, while at the same time during their individual careers making significant contributions to the development of Balinese art. The exhibition, which includes paintings, both small and large-scale, and installations will continue through until 30 January, including an Artist’s Talk from 3pm 5 January at Tony Raka Art Gallery.

Such a report would not be fully complete without highlighting the stoic efforts of Warih Witsatsana and his small army of dedicated assistants at the Bentara Budaya Bali Cultural Center. Their consistent weekly programs throughout the year are a shining light in the support and development of Bali’s thriving creative culture.

With an emphasis upon education via lectures, discussions, presentations and hands on workshops, especially for the younger generations, Bentara Budaya’s one of a kind model is an inspiration to other aspiring art and cultural facilities on the island. 2016’s broad range of events, including numerous collaborations with international artists, institutes, and organizations highlights their open platform to global cultural expressions, while underlining Bali’s internationally renowned welcoming attitude to foreign cultures and creative expressions.

Words: Richard Horstman

Images: Richard Horstman & various photographers