Category Archives: Bali Contemporary Photography

Images of Bali fuse with Old Masters paintings to create landmark pictorials

AFTER THE HARVEST small                              After the Harvest, 2019 – Joel Singer

 

“I approach every magical day here in Bali with gratitude and wonder. Gratitude for having the joyful privilege of living on the gorgeous rice fields north of Ubud,” says Canadian avant-garde filmmaker and photographer Joel Singer who first visited Bali in 1979 and has lived here for the past decade.

“I usually awaken with the sunrise and have an early morning walk with my dogs out on the stunning terrain of the Campuhan Ridge,” he continues. “I’m always photographing daily life around me and images continually coalesce in my mind – likely and unlikely juxtapositions.”

Bali Turner small                               Bali Turner, 2019 – Joel Singer

 

“About seven years ago I was struck with a blast of realization while watching the golden evening light on the ripening rice fields,” explains Singer whom since the mid-1980s has experimented with cut and paste photographic collages. (long before the advent of Photoshop, the popular digital image manipulation computer program)

“I was then vividly reminded of some of the “Hudson River School” paintings, (the mid-19th-century American art movement of landscape painters influenced by Romanticism) and later during the rice harvest I was reminded of some of Breugel’s work.” (Pieter Breugel (1525 –1569) was the most significant artist of Flemish Renaissance painting who pioneered large compositions depicting landscapes and peasant scenes).

Bali Caravaggio (or the Feast of the Cockfight) - Joel Singer 2019             Bali Carrivagio (or the Feast of the Cockfight), 2019  – Joel Singer

 

“Then with the magic of Photoshop, I began to work with some of the images of the Old Masters paintings combining them with images of Balinese daily life. It seemed like an inevitable fit and I’ve continued to explore this merging ever since into creations I termed many years ago “PHOTAGES” describing my process of photo – collage – montage.”

Singer’s series “When the Old Masters Visited Bali” pays homage to the master European painters. In “Bali of Gold” multiple images of musicians and dancers are married with an abstract background of swirling energy and colour made famous by the iconic English landscape painter JMW Turner.

Bali Van Gough Revisited, 2018 - Joel Singer                    Bali Van Gogh Revisited, 2018 – Joel Singer

 

While in “Bali Caravaggio (or the Feast of the Cockfight)” he fuses two disparate worlds – gesticulating audience action images from a Balinese cockfight layered upon a composition by Caravaggio where men are sitting at a table engaged in animated discussion prior to a chicken feast. Darkness contrasts with light, emphasizing Balinese Hindu philosophies, and of course the visual technical prowess of the Renaissance maestro. Another composition features the smiling face of Mona Lisa on the surface of a flooded rice field that is reflecting the morning light, her raised finger points to the shining sun. Singer delicately fuses humour with natural beauty creating a heart-warming composition.

Humour again comes to the fore in his pairing of dancers from Matisse’s famous “Dance 1” with the frightening demonic creatures that star in the Balinese Ogoh-ogoh parade, together frolicking hand-in-hand in a circular romp. Other compositions are meetings of the Balinese landscape with rural and cultural activities that are either immediately arresting, or simply gracious and eternally beautiful.

UNDER THE VOLCANO small                        Under the Volcano, 2018 – Joel Singer

 

“When I ‘go to play’ up in my loft in my house overlooking the rice fields I try to surprise myself. To give vision to my dreams and the spirits which inhabit this place. I trust my intuition when approaching a ‘blank canvas’ and now, after 50 years, my ‘editing’ skills learned through filmmaking and skills of the juxtaposition of sometimes unlikely images are more finely honed with every passing year,” he says of his creative process. “I refer to my work as ‘images of elsewhere’. I play with time and sequencing, creating ‘eye music’. There is something about the timelessness of experiencing archetypal rural life, the rhythms of the planting and harvesting seasons suggest a blending of aesthetics.”

Monet Temple copy                                 Monet Temple, 2019 – Joel Singer

 

Born in Montreal, Canada in 1948 aged 12 Singer discovered the fascination of image-making. Later in college, he majored in fine arts and encountered the magic of film and cinema. He then yearned to participate in the great renaissance in avant-garde cinema stirring in the U.S.A. A film history class taught by the poet/filmmaker James Broughton (1913 – 1999) at the San Francisco Art Institute in 1974 then changed his life. During the 70s and 80s Singer showed his avant-garde films around the world while collaborating with his, then life partner Broughton, many of their films were collected by institutions including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and the German Filmmuseum in Frankfurt and the Austrian Filmmuseum in Vienna.

TRIPTYCH small signed copy                                     Triptych, 2018 – Joel Singer

 

Singer gives us insights into the natural rhythms of life via his fresh and fantastic windows into the extraordinarily diverse visual and cultural, multi-dimensional worlds of Bali. “I’m not interested in the slightest in ‘reality’, it’s HIGHLY overrated,” Singer states.  “My desire is to make the invisible somehow visible through the magic of creating another ‘separate reality’. Through my work, I hope to bring some beauty into this very troubled world.”

A selection of Singer’s pictures is currently on display at the Tony Raka Art Gallery, in Mas, Ubud.

Mona Lisa and the rising sun. 2019 Joel Singer                           Mona Lisa and the Rising Sun, 2019 – Joel Singer

 

 

 

Words: Richard Horstman

 

 

Revealing Chinese and Balinese Cultural Connections through Art: Meet Tjandra Kirana

"A New Spirit of Balinese Tradition", 2019 - Tjandra Kirana Watercolor on Chinese Paper“A New Spirit of Balinese Tradition”, 2019 – Tjandra Kirana Watercolor on Chinese Paper

 

One of the most charming characters within the Bali art community is Tjandra Kirana. Quick with a smile, and always ready to share a light-hearted joke, or a tale, he is gifted with a generous, and effervescent personality.

Born in Denpasar in 1944, of Chinese Indonesian heritage, over the past six decades the well-known, self-taught photographer and painter has been a witness to change – of the increasing modernization of Bali. Tjandra began painting at the age of seventeen, while his love for photography started when he was fifteen, and then he commenced working as a professional photographer seven years later.

28167736_10211599757534780_7519901610013381311_n                                              Tjandra Kirana

 

A collector of photographs, paintings, documents, artefacts, and memories of the development of Denpasar and Bali, Tjandra is a multi level identity – Chinese, Indonesian and Balinese. His years as ‘an amateur historian and an art and cultural ambassador’ have distinguished him within the Indonesian art community.

Celebrating the human spirit through the lens of his camera, Tjandra’s subjects range from cultural phenomenon, to everyday subjects of city and countryside scenarios, and from social and political identities to those who are marginalized. His studies of the Balinese culture, in particular the religious precessions and ceremonies are highlighted by his eye for balancing the colour and festivities with the beauty of the natural landscape. His Black & White images perfectly capture the rich and dynamic atmosphere of Bali.

20190825_040623                                    Calligraphy by Tjandra Kirana

 

In 1969 Tjandra opened a photography studio in Semarang, Central Java, specializing in advertising, wedding, and portrait photography, along with developing film and printing. The founder of the Semarang Photography Club in 1977, he was also one of the founders of the Perhimpunan Fotographi Bali (the Bali Photographers Association) in 1984. He has evolved with the various periods of photographic technological development – from black & white analogue images to mastering the digital age of technology.

Tjandra has received dozens of national and international awards and titles, including the 2008 & 2009 Shanghai International Lung Jing Shan Photography Art Award: Gold Trophy, while he has received his Certificate of Fellowship from the Royal Photography Society of Thailand from the Princess of Thailand, Maha Chakri in 2012. He is a member of the Royal Photography Society of Great Britain, and the Photography Society of the United States of America, to name just a few of his associations, and has exhibited both his photographs and paintings on more than three hundred occasions throughout Indonesia, Southeast Asia, China and India. Tjandra is constantly invited to represent Bali in exhibitions throughout Asia, and has recently returned from an art and cultural event in New Dehli, India.

20190629_124935Paintings by Tjandra Kirana exhibited at Santrian Gallery, Sanur in “Culture in Colours” 28 June – 9 August 2019

 

Bali is renowned for being been open to, and embracing, influences from foreign cultures. Trade with China began about 300 AD and centuries of migration from main land Asia to the Indonesian archipelago followed, while the Chinese began settling on Bali about one thousand years ago.

“Significant cultural influences are evident in the fields of architecture, art, craving and danceeconomic exchange (kepeng coins), textiles, culinary, and within local customs and rituals,” Tjandra states. One of the most famous icons of the Balinese culture – the Barong – the benevolent lion character that represents universal good and plays a significant role within religious ceremonies is derived from the Chinese lion dance featuring similar character – Barongsai.

Photo by Tjandra Kirana                Photograph of Balinese ceremonial offering by Tjandra Kirana

 

Tjandra’s beautiful decorative paintings create awareness to the distinct facets of the Balinese culture that reveal Chinese influence via the use of unique iconography. “The influence of Chinese culture which is infused in various manners and daily habits is embedded in my memory. This longing for ancestral heritage can not escape the subconscious and within my paintings I wish to reveal that two cultures are present today in contemporary Bali,” he explains.

When sharing some of his ‘secrets’ for a long and fruitful life Tjandra says, “Life is to be enjoyed to the fullest, and having an open, and disciplined mind, is the foundation to success.” Tjandra has been a giver of many gifts, yet also the receiver.

“In 1998 life dealt me the most unusual circumstances. Suffering from heart complaints I was hospitalized. That night I lost consciousness and my heart stopped beating, and then kicked back into life on three separate occasions. I woke the next day surrounded by my family, but I had no comprehension of what had occurred during the night.” Tjandra immediately needed a series of operations to sustain his life, yet did not have the finance to cover the costs. A friend, however, then graciously gave him the required funds. “This gift gave me a fresh perspective on my life, and I clearly understood about my own sense of kindness, and how being generous was essential to a happy and fulfilling life.”

Painting by Tjandra Kirana                                             Tjandra Kirana

Tjandra’s upcoming solo painting exhibition will open to the public 28 June at Griya Santrian Gallery, Sanur, 28 June 2019.

67697120_2617694888241614_4978224811005181952_o                    Tjandra Kirana at work in his Denpasar studio.

 

Words: Richard Horstman

Images: Courtesy of Tjandra Kirana

 

 

 

 

 

 

A lens on the mysterious – Windee Winata

17349626_10209059632832607_6493271523895940897_o                                                Image by Windee Winata

 

Bali is an extraordinary visual experience, equalled by few other locations on earth. From the spectacular, shimmering landscapes, to the architectual and sculpturally magnificent structures and monuments, the grandeur of festivals and ceremonies, and the grace of the Balinese. It is vibrant and rich in photogenic subjects that incite wonder and euphoria, that continually seduces strangers, the experienced visitor, and expats alike.

There is, however, another essential element that few photographers confidently express, a mysterious realm that is not visible, but certainly can be felt. According to the ancient Balinese beliefs of sekala – niskala, we live equally in two worlds – the visible or conscious world sekala, and the invisible or psychic world niskala. Indonesian photographer Windee Winata’s serene landscape images capture the veiled dynamic of a unique life force, and arouse contemplation of the one of the most compelling aspects of the Island of the Gods.

19388435_10209811917719259_8115866998175820987_o                                                Image by Windee Winata

“Excited about an upcoming trip to Egypt, Greece & Turkey, I bought my first film SLR camera in 1996,” says Winata, who at the time was studying automotive engineering at the Technical University of Berlin. The camera became an immediate fixture to his body and he indulged in his newfound passion, while temporarily neglecting his studies.

“Married with a secure position at the Mercedes-Benz Technology Centre in Sindelfingen, even before the final exam of my degree, life was good. The arrival of my first child then dictated photography had to take the back seat,” says Winata, who was born in Denpasar in 1974. “Returning to Indonesia thinking Bali would be a nicer environment for our daughter to grow up, I concentrated my hobby into a profession, and with my wife established the PhotoFactory, a wedding photography business in Denpasar.”

29872510_10211990003690047_3534173479682265435_o                                                 Image by Windee Winata

“Cutting a long story short, one thousand plus clients, success, and years later I began to suffer from depression. Intuitively I rediscovered the joy of creativity and began focusing on fine art photography.”

Less is more is born from the simple aesthetic design values of Zen Buddhism – the Japanese philosophy states that things are left imperfect to allow the mind’s eye to make the space complete. Within Winata’s landscapes the compositions are stripped to the barest of design elements, often predominated by a blue-grey monochrome mist – appearing to visibly pulsate. The sparse iconography may include distant temple structures, mountains or palm trees, the outlines seemingly echoing within a shadowy haze.

29060330_10211844218565510_6090354740303961588_o                                               Image by Windee Winata

Space is the dominant feature, characterized by abstract voids that overflow with ambience – evocative and serene. Within this realm we access deeper levels of consciousness, and temporarily our minds are set free. Creating an interlude within the blur of lineal time, Winata freezes the moment – transforming it into the eternal.

“I long for simplicity in life, and this is reflected in my photographs.”

“The locations I choose to photograph are a consequences of my need to escape, and be alone – a personal journey of solitude that is my safe haven. I gravitate to airy, beautiful places that seem to bypass my brain and resonate with my heart.”

20246444_10210120804521236_1588455552162941195_n                                                  Image by Windee Winata

Of his technique Winata says, “The images are captured with a single long exposure which is unpredictable, yet I bask in the feeling that I cannot fully control the outcome. The images I love seem to only emerge when the universe takes over. The process feels more like a fulfilling collaboration. The results often surprise and delight.”

My experience of Winata’s images is thrilling, and indulgent. With senses fully engaged the power of suggestion kicks in – I revel in the unseen. Bali is unique and somehow gifts us with greater awareness and insight, which I thoroughly entertain. For me, however, the invisible world is not overwhelmed by the mysterious, as I fill it with the gods and deities of the Balinese Hindu pantheon, along with an abundance of fantastic imaginings, and wonderful possibilities.

29060106_10211852018440502_1566899207596044322_o                                                Image by Windee Winata

“Being a wedding photographer has given me high mileage, which helps when doing my fine art work,” Winata says. “While they are very different disciplines, when I click the shutter button, I’m transported to a happy place. Wedding is exciting, but fine art, to me, is how I live my life.”

“My works are the way I connect with the unknown. When I’m out there, it feels like a union, or as a Balinese priest once said to me when viewing my images: “The small universe meets the big universe.” The outcome is the image – it’s never about the visible setting, but rather the spirit.”

17436133_10209139494389096_3344828269058569652_o                                                   Image by Windee Winata

28061495_10211594030270959_7481044953276066991_o                                                Image by Windee Winata

 

Instagram @windeewinata

 

Words: Richard Horstman