Category Archives: Balinese Contemporary Art

Citra Sasmita captures the Indonesian contemporary art spotlight

Citra Sasmita - "Torment" Image by R. Horstman                                       Torment – Citra Sasmita


The most significant display of contemporary art on the island during 2015 featured many of Bali’s finest artists exhibiting side-by-side with emerging talent. Violent Bali – Bali Art Intervention #1, opened at the Tony Raka Art Gallery, Ubud in November presenting eighty-five works raising issues such as identity, gender and cultural conflicts, and the New Order regime and the mass killing of 1965-66, among others.

One painting, however, stood alone for its pure economy of means. Distinguished by a balanced composition, minimal coloration and arresting imagery, the visual impact was immediate. Matching technical prowess with the controversial subject matter, the work’s essentials were complete. Torment by Citra Sasmita, one of only three exhibiting women, captivated the audience. The bold, yet disturbing narrative depicted a naked woman holding and kissing the snout of severed pigs head as blood drips from the pig, and the woman’s mouth. It ‘spoke’ of the psychological and physical abuse of women within the patriarchal Balinese society. Torment’s daring and aesthetic simplicity revealed Sasmita as an extraordinary young talent.

Citra Sasmita "Mea Vulva Maxima Vulva" 2016 Ceramic & mixed media Image richard Horstman                      Mea Vulva Maxima Vulva – Citra Sasmita

“You want to be an artist: you want to live poor?” was Sasmita’s fathers’ reaction upon learning that his daughter wanted to study fine art. Born in 1990 in Tabanan, Central Bali, as a child she had a passion for creative expression, and was destined to follow her heart. In conflict with her parents about her vocation, she studied literature and physics to appease them. While at university in Singaraja she joined a theater group that inspired her love of art and literature. Sasmita began painting secretly, without her parent’s knowledge, eventually exhibiting in a small community event in 2012.

“A journalist from the Bali Post newspaper wrote about the exhibition, and my parents read the review. At first, they disagreed,” Sasmita said. “Yet upon their final wishes, they consented, and then gave me their approval for my art career. I have always reflected upon this,” and she adds. “Without their blessing, it seemed impossible to survive in the challenging and highly competitive world of art.”

Citra Sasmita, third from the left, at the UOB Painting of the Year Award CeremonyCitra Sasmita (third from the left) during the UOB Painting of the Year Indonesia award ceremony, Jakarta, October 2017

After the exhibition, Sasmita was hired as an illustrator for short stories at the Bali Post. “Working at the Bali Post allowed me to investigate literature and symbolic forms that I began to adopt into my works. Art became the vehicle through which I could question my position as a Balinese woman.”

Promising to be the most important exhibition of the 2016 Bali art calendar Merayakan Murni (Celebrating Murni) ran mid-year at Sudakara Art Space, Sanur. Contextualizing the relevance, along with celebrating the legacy of iconic female Balinese artist I GAK Murniasih (1966-2006), the exhibition brought together the work of Murni along with 15 other local and international invitees. Sasmita’s installation Mea Vulva, Maxima Vulva, presented fifty small ceramic vaginas within a set of large out of balance scales, her reflection upon Balinese social class distinctions. Again she captured the audience’s imagination, while the critics paid due attention.

Old Mountain and Imaginary Pilars, 160 cm x 120 cm, mix media on canvas, 2017        Old Mountain and Imaginary Pillars – Citra’s UOB Gold Award painting

Even though Sasmita had entered many art competitions, success had always eluded her. “I became cynical, unless you were from one of the art and cultural capitals of Java, like Yogyakarta, Bandung or Jakarta, it was difficult to win a national competition,” she explained. In October 2017, however, her composition Old Mountain and Imaginary Pillars was honored with the prestigious Gold Award of the UOB Indonesian Painting of the Year 2017 competition, thrusting her into the national spotlight, while confirming her presence in the Indonesian contemporary art world.

“I have always doubted my chances in the UOB, last year, however, was my first submission,” Sasmita said. “In my concept, I wrote whole-heartedly about the plight of women in the Indonesian art world, and about the struggle against gender bias and sexism, and that there are few opportunities for women to speak up through their art.”

Sasmita has chosen her ideology not only as a criticism, yet she endeavors to inspire empathy for those who are confronted with these social issues. “It means a lot to me to achieve recognition from people who have not been willing to listen to my artistic ‘voice’, and in some ways disrespect women in Indonesian art,” Sasmita said. “Winning this competition is a great thrill, I understand, however, that I must remain humble and focused on my learning journey.”

12697353_896845307096369_7827360737894318145_o                              Birth of Nothingness – Citra Sasmita


Words: Richard Horstman

Images: Citra Sasmita & 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





Bruce Carpenter: presenting Indonesian art & culture to the world

BruceC-2a                                                          Bruce Carpenter


A lust for life and adventure, along with a generous dose of savvy have propelled New York City born and bred Bruce W. Carpenter around the planet.

The son of a young American soldier who returned from WWII with an upper class English bride, Carpenter found himself torn between the idealism and glory of old Britain and the cosmopolitan metropolis of his birth. In the end, the creative cauldron that was NYC in the 60s & 70s would be the winner.

“I found my sanctuary in the great museums and then seminal art scene of the “City” where I was introduced to the Underground Art Scene and the Beat Poets. This would lead on to the first happenings, the precursor of installations, in Soho lofts, Andy Warhol’s Factory, experimental theatre and film,” says Carpenter, who eventually channelled his creativity into filmmaking. Carpenter was also an eyewitness and full-blown inductee into the Woodstock Generation, having attended the concert, and the Age of Aquarius. He played in a Blues band and was a member of several theatre groups.

Lempad_cvr_300dpiLempad of Bali: the illuminating lineCarpenter, Darling, Hinzler, McGowan, Vickers, Widagdo

The election of Richard Nixon and the resurgence of the conservative right, along with the death of a brother who served during the Vietnam War, precipitated a leap across the Atlantic Ocean to the city of Amsterdam where idyllic hippie dreams were still raging on. After experiencing one long and miserable Northern European winter, Carpenter succumbed to exotic tales of the mystic East recited by a new breed of young travellers.

In 1974 he sold his camera and bought a one-way ticket to Bangkok. During the next 18 months he would explore the east crisscrossing the Malay Peninsula and Indonesia starting in Sumatra. Together with the Swiss artist-photographer, Charles Junod, they would scout out wild destinations and create surreal installations that they photographed. These would tour Europe in an exhibition of surreal photography sponsored by the Canon Gallery.

When Carpenter arrived on the island paradise of Bali, Kuta was no more than a small village set in coconut groves adjacent to the beach. “There was a handful of homestays with a cast of international bohemian suffers and roaming hippies as the guests,” he recounts. The two most dangerous moving objects were falling coconuts and the deer-like Balinese cow.

sovarrubias-sketchesMiguel Covarrubias Sketches: Bali – Shanghai – Adriana Williams & Bruce W Carpenter

For the next decade Carpenter led a nomadic lifestyle with regular visits to Bali. In the early 1980s, after meeting Dr. Stanley Kripper, he began organizing cultural tours under the auspices of the Institute of Noetic Sciences in Sausalito. These specialized in visits to traditional healers and religious figures and would end with a book on traditional Balinese healing co-authored with Krippner and Dr. Denny Thong the head of Bali’s mental hospital in Bangli.

In 1985 Carpenter settled in Ubud and began working on a series of research and art projects usually tied with the art, history and culture of Indonesia. As his reputation grew he was invited to author and co-author a growing number of books. In 1993 he gained wide attention as the author of Willem G. Hofker, Painter of Bali (1993), the first major book on an expatriate artist on Bali. Several other books on expatriate artists soon followed including the acclaimed, W.O.J. Nieuwenkamp, the First European Artist in Bali (1997).

“Often in life, its not what you know, but who you know,” says Carpenter. Through a serious of discussions with key figures in the hotel industry in Bali Carpenter was to be granted a wonderful opportunity after he convinced the management of the Four Seasons Resort in Jimbaran that luxury hotels were the natural heirs of the mantle once held by the royal palaces as patrons of the arts. The result was the opening of the Ganesha Gallery, the first dedicated art gallery on the premises of a hotel in 1992. This was hailed as an excellent cultural bridge between the guests and Indonesian modern and traditional art.

9789814068154-us          Emilio Ambron: An Italian Artist in Bali – Bruce W. Carpenter

Initially the resort attracted wealthy and sophisticated international clientele and with the charismatic Carpenter as the figurehead of Ganesha and his sharp eye for art, the timing was perfect and it became an immediate success.

For a 15-year period the gallery held 12 exhibitions a year, an unheard of phenomenon in Indonesian art, confirming it as the fine art gallery in Bali. In its heyday well-heeled guests and local collectors purchased quantities of art, however over the years as the profile of the guests changed, along with events such as the Gulf War, 9/11 and the Bali bombings, and its market gradually faded. This experience for Carpenter gifted him with enormous experience and knowledge, along with connections and an international reputation.

In the meanwhile Carpenter would also begin publishing a series of books on the traditional arts of Indonesia, including Mentawai Art, Batak Sculpture, Nias Sculpture and two books on traditional jewellery. “I am a firm believer that expatriates should contribute to the country they live in. I was blessed with a deep knowledge and appreciation of Indonesian arts and culture which is fast disappearing and I have taken it upon myself to try to record as much of it as possible.

4mpXadWmpPcjnmClhQXP          W.O.J Nieuwenkamp: First European Artist in Bali – Bruce W. Carpenter

In all, Carpenter has written and co-authored over twenty books and scores of articles on Indonesian art, culture and history. However, with the recent release of the book Lempad of Bali – The illuminating Line, the first fully comprehensive study on the master of Balinese traditional artist, Gusti Nyoman Lempad (1862-1978), on the 20th September 2014 at Museum Puri Lukisan, he admits, “this has by far been the most challenging project I have engaged in in my life.”

“As the book concept and project manager my list of tasks was unprecedented. I had to oversee interactions with over forty institutions and collectors in eight different countries, each with different requirements, along with dealing with six authors, one of whom is dead!” Carpenter says. “Our endeavour was to include the broadest range of Lempad’s works available in the book, therefore the detective work required was unbeknown to us and consequentially enormous.” The beautiful volume of over 424 pages is the culmination of more than six years work for the team of dedicated and respected academics and professionals.

“Bali deserves to have world class art exhibitions, books and events to create more interest in its immense and unique culture,” Carpenter states.

“I am dedicated to the publication of illustrated books on the traditional arts of Indonesia which have disappeared or are disappearing. We honor the past by recording its brilliance. I also feel it is important to urge young Indonesians to do the same. It is ironic that westerners play such a critical role in the studies of Indonesian art. This should change.”

Opinionated and articulate Carpenter counts many, including the rich and famous, as friends. A father of two he cuts both a dashing and unusual figure. His trailblazing journey through life is rich in colourful tales that are steeped in the exotic, mysterious and dynamic.

127446                                 Indonesian Tribal Art – Bruce W. Carpenter


Words: Richard Horstman


The Art of Pengosekan Village

Ketut Rudi. 2010                             Birds of Lod Tunduh, 2010  – Ketut Rudi

Balinese traditional art is the art of story telling. Its ancient narratives bring to life tales from the sacred Hindu and Buddhist texts, old Balinese and Javanese folklore, and accounts of daily life. Its purpose is to promote harmony within the community via examples of proper moral conduct.

During the past century indigenous art has been revolutionized via the meeting with Western art techniques and ideas into a ‘new’ genre that became known as Balinese modern traditional art. This art form thrived due to the development of new tourist markets, driven initially by the first wave of foreign visitors in the 1930’s, who after holidaying on Bali wished to purchase a memento to bring home. A distinctive feature of Balinese modern traditional art is the different village styles, or ‘schools’ that evolved over time, each with its own individual creative verve.

Cosmic Circle - Dewa Nyoman Batuan                                    Cosmic Circle – Dewa Nyoman Batuan

Stories from the other side of the canvas – both triumphant and tragic – of the artists and the events behind the art have enriched the ‘aura’ of Balinese modern traditional art while endearing a global audience. This is a tale about the art and some of the characters that have distinguished the art from the village of Pengosekan.

Overshadowed by the more famous styles of Ubud, Batuan and Sanur, Pengosekan, one kilometre south of Ubud, has its own art history, complete with unique figures, and signature styles. The most celebrated of all Pengosekan painters is Gusti Ketut Kobot (1917-1999), accredited as one of the leaders of the post-war changes in Balinese paintings, he was also an influential art teacher. Some of Kobot’s finest works are mythological featuring characters from the religious narratives, while he also responsible for creating the prototypes for the scenes of village life that would be ceaselessly imitated for mass production as tourist art.

Gusti Ketut Kobot, "Triwikrama" 1986, Image couresty of Larasati                                 Triwikrama, 1986  –  Gusti Ketut Kobot

Kobot’s renditions of characters that still today are brought to life in the Wayang Kulit shadow puppet theatre are executed with extraordinary attention to compositional balance. According to the Balinese paintings that achieve perfect visual equilibrium indicate the artist’s excellent skills, and his strong connection with the divine. Brahma on Wilmana, Kobot’s painting of the Hindu god of creation riding the monster headed mythical bird Wilmana, on permanent display at the Neka Art Museum in Sanggingan, Ubud is fine example of his talent.

Structured with outer layers of decorative patterns the central characters appear framed and effortlessly poised, Wilmana wears a magic protective poleng (black and white checkered cloth) around the waist to avert harmful forces, since it has positive white and negative black in balance. Kobot is renowned for such depictions, honing them to the height of refinement. He is acknowledged as one of the masters of the original Ubud artist’s cooperative, the Pita Maha that thrived between 1936-1945, helping establish Balinese modern traditional art.

Gusti Ketut Kobot."Scene from Ramayana Story" 50x70cm                         Scene from the Ramayana story  –  Gusti Ketut Kobot

The inhabitants of Pengosekan were predominantly farmers, tending the agricultural fields surrounding their village. In the process of breaking away from the orthodox subject matter that featured in their paintings, the artists began to look outside of the conventions for new creative inspiration, and started paying more attention to nature.

A signature style developed in Pengosekan during the 1960’s featuring images of local flora and fauna painted in fresh pastel colours. At first the artists focussed on depicting bird life set within beautiful scenarios of forests and trees, others then explored nature close-up, their compositions highlighting an array of insects, often grasshoppers or butterflies rendered in great detail.

Pengosekan Style                              Pengosekan fauna and flora style

One of the finest practitioners of the flora and fauna style is Ketut Rudi who was born in Lotonduh, just south of Pengosekan in 1943. His works were commissioned and collected by the second President of Indonesia, Suharto (1921-2008) and hang in the Presidential State Palaces around the country. Rudi often painted at the State Palace in Tampaksiring, Central Bali, while Suharto was on retreat from the nation’s capital city, Jakarta. To ease his mind Suharto would often sit for hours watching Rudi at work.

Another painter, Ketut Liyer (1924-2016) was a local village priest (pemangku) who painted agricultural scenes and the sacred cloth amulets known as rerajahan. Liyer, who was also a paranormal and ‘healer’, shot to international fame via the Hollywood movie Eat, Pray, Love released in 2010 and starring Julia Roberts. Liyer’s paintings occasionally come up for auction at the twice-yearly Larasati Bali art sales held in Ubud.

Dewa Put Mokoh, 2006, Acrylic on canvas 60x90cm.                                      Dewa Putu Mokoh, 2006

Dewa Nyoman Batuan (1939-2013) was an icon within the world of Balinese art. Painter, entrepreneur and artist community visionary, he was graced with an effervescent personality. Batuan had a dream for his village that manifested into the Pengosekan Community of Artists in 1970.  Through his entrepreneurial endeavor he helped establish international markets for the local paintings and was able to contribute enormously for the well-being of the community of poor farmers, many who became painters to supplement their family income. Batuan’s contribution to the development of Balinese modern traditional art was to fuse traditional narratives within the Buddhist structural icon of the mandala, designing compelling, unique, and highly original works.

His older brother, Dewa Putu Mokoh (1934-2010) broke free from the restraints of Balinese art to introduce personal and intimate visual stories of another side of life that was often quirky, lurid, and even taboo. Simplified forms dominated his compositions, a self trained artist, Mokoh’s works boarded on both the modern and contemporary, simplifying and extending the range of images in Balinese art, especially with his close-up focus on intimate scenes.

I GAK MURNIASIH - SEMBAHYANG 104 - AOC - 170 x 100 cm - 2004                                   Gusti Ayu Kadek Murniasih

Pengosekan became the adopted home for the most important woman artist in Indonesian art history, Gusti Ayu Kadek Murniasih (1966-2006). Murni came from Tabanan, Central Bali to study with Mokoh. She rose from the life as a child of a farmer, poor and uneducated to the ranks of artistic distinction. Her father sexually abused her at the age of nine. Murni’s minimalist figurative/surrealistic style featured powerful coloration while communicating via the language of the sub conscious. Her outsider art is confrontational, daring and even violent, yet always electrifying. Murni’s work broke significant grounds into the social taboos of gender politics and feminism.


Words & Images: Richard Horstman




DENPASAR2017 – highlighting the diverse creativity of Denpasar

DENPASAR2017 Group - for caption see emailThe starting journey of DENPASAR2017. 17 participating creatives, together with invited speakers Marlowe Bandem and Ayip Budiman after DENPASAR TALK posed for a group photo to mark the beginning of their DENPASAR2017 exploration.


Since its arrival upon the Bali art and design landscape in July 2016, CushCush Gallery (CCG) in Denpasar has injected fresh and exciting energy into the local creative scene. An alternative gallery, with an inspiring and unique program embracing interactions and multidisciplinary creativity via explorations at the intersections of art, design, materiality, techniques and crafts, CCG prioritizes community engagement and learning, along with children’s workshops.

In a city that is becoming a melting pot of Indonesian ethnicity with internationals, highlighted by a thriving youth culture, CCG is making a positive, and much needed contribution to the island’s contemporary art infrastructure. And while Denpasar is rapidly expanding and a new contemporary urban culture is in the making, creative hubs such as CCG feed the growing demand for meeting points that are potent venues for the sharing of ideas and discussion.

Urban Sketchers Bali presentation for DENPASAR2017 Exhibition, Image by R. Horstman Part of the panoramic of watercolours by Urban Sketchers Bali presentation for DenPasar2017 Exhibition

In 2017 CCG facilitates a year round program of exhibitions, residencies, workshops and collaborations that focuses on the development of contemporary art and design experiences in Denpasar and Bali, hosting exchanges between the local and international communities of artists and creatives and Bali.

“This year’s DenPasar2017 is a new and exciting, yearly CCG program that we believe is destined to put Denpasar on the map of the art and design route in Bali,” said CCG’s co-founder Suriawati Qiu. “The exhibition will introduce locally based young artists and creatives with works that speak of Denpasar.”

Marlem Bandem giving a presentation for Denpasar Walk             Marlem Bandem giving a presentation during DenPasar Walk

The DenPasar2017 program of weekly events began 10 June with the Launch of the DenPasar2017 Art & Design Map, and Meet the Artists of DenPasar2017, part 1 (of 2). This was followed by activities such as KitaPoleng & Denpasar Deaf Community dance workshop, led by the brilliant Japanese, Bali-based dancer and choreographer Jasmine Okubo, workshops by the Urban Sketchers Bali Academy, DenPasar Street Talk, with street artists Slinat, Bombdalove and Swoofone, and DesignTalk with Nyoman Miyoga, Fransiska Prihadi, Charlie Hearn and Eva Natasa. The program culminates on 26 August with the presentation of Three Eras of Denpasar by Masuria Sudjana and the silent movie screening of Arsip Bali 1928, narrated by Marlowe Bandem.

The launching of the DENPASAR2017 Art & Design Map spotlighted the first map to highlight city features such as museums and galleries, government and cultural institutions, art and design educational institutions, art and creative communities, artists’ studios, cultural heritage/public spaces/monuments, and the markets within the Denpasar area. The map is endorsed by the Bali Tourism Board, Badan KREATIF Denpasar, and the Denpasar Tourism Promotion Board.

Image by Susanto Sidhi VhisatyaKangen Denpasar – Susanto Sidhi Vhisatya in the DenPasar2017 Exhibition

The Road to DenPasar2017 began in January through an open call, CCG invited artists and creative communities to respond to “Bahasa Pasar” in small 2 dimensional works. Seventeen participants were selected from creative backgrounds including architects, dancers, fashion, jewelry, and graphic designers, photographers, street artists, and fine artists. As an introduction for the selected artists CCG facilitated a “Melali Ke Pasar” (journey to the market), a one-day event consisting of 2 parts: DenPasar Talk and DenPasar Walk, with invited speakers, cultural experts, Marlowe Bandem and Ayip Budiman. Bandem highlighted the importance of the role of documentation through art and other creative means, which is deeply embedded in Bali’s culture.

Invited artists and art communities in the DenPasar2017 Exhibition were prompted to re-think and give meaning to the city that is relevant in today’s society via the theme of the traditional markets, paying homage to the role of the market in the development of Denpasar city. Some of the highlights of the exhibition are the collaborative installation of photographs and short film highlighting the dynamic street art designs by Swoofone, and the Urban Sketchers Bali panoramic group presentation of watercolors depicting Denpasar market scenes.

20170719_151818                            Cover of the DenPasar2017 Art + Design Map

“The overall response to the DenPasar2017 program has been excellent,” said Suriawati, who co-founded CCG with her partner Jindee Chua. “Yesterday’s (5 August) DesignTalk attracted a diverse audience from many creative backgrounds listening to presentations from creatives each with a unique journeys within the fields of interior, landscape, architecture and furniture design.”

DesignTalk, along with landscape designer Nyoman Miyoga featured Fransiska Prihadi, an architect who spends 20% of her time designing architecture and interiors, and the other 80% organizing the Minikino Film Week, a Bali based international annual short film festival, Charlie Hearn, who came to Bali from London on an intuitive urge after the 2008 economic crisis and founded Inspiral Architects. His team now designs resorts, private residences, yoga spaces, and other exciting projects. And furniture designer Eva Natasa started out making a personal array of furniture for her home two years ago, in 2016 her collection ‘Lula’ was exhibited in Italy at Milan Salone Del Mobile.

20170723_091217                       Dadian Ratu – Dian Suri in the DenPasar2017 Exhibition

“Personally I feel these creatives are able to lead their DesignLife journey’s successfully in Bali. Bali is unique, open, embracing and nurturing,” Suriawati said. “Bali has international exposure, while at the same time gives space, comfort and has just the right environment to support creativity.”

DenPasar2017 Exhibition continues until 26 August.

CushCush Gallery (CCG)

Jl. Teuku Umar Gg. Rajawali No.1A Denpasar, Bali

Tel. (62) 361 484558


Words & Images: Richard Horstman



Rebirth – Wayan Aris Sarmanta

"Bali Not For Sale - Tangis Amarah Pulau Kecil" Aris Sarmanta. Image R. Horstman           Not For Sale – Tangis Amarah Pulau Kecil Baris, 2016  –  Aris Sarmanta

The genre of Batuan Painting has a unique story within the annals of Balinese art, and is recognized with a special esteem. Enduring the ever-changing sociopolitical, economic climates that shaped the island during the past 90 years, the style has evolved undergoing notable transformations.

The golden era was its infancy, during the 1930’s the Batuan ‘School’ was defined its own unique character, setting it apart from painting developments in Ubud at the time. Often dark and moody sketches in black ink, the compositions were generally dense and crowded, the white paper and canvas set against the compositions deep saturated tones created eye-catching contrasts.

During the 1970’s the style was revolutionized, the works became larger, detailed, dynamic and colourful, highlighted by universal themes. Painters I Made Budi (1943-2016) and I Wayan Bendi (1952-) were the innovators, responsible for the stylistic developments that assisted the genre to become internationally renowned. The second decade of the new millennium has revealed fresh young talent, the fore bringers of another exciting chapter in Batuan painting.

"Tapak Dara - Unity Tapak Dara - Pilar Kebangsaan" Aris Sarmanta. Image Richard Horstman   Tapak Dara – Unity/ Tapak Dara – Pilar Kebangsaan, 2017 – Aris Sarmanta

History reveals that generally the most extraordinary works of Balinese traditional art occur while the artist is still young, with a sense of freedom, and time on their hands. After this marriage, family and cultural commitments take priority. There are also the pressures from the art world – collectors, dealers and gallerists and the money mechanism of market forces.

At twenty-two years of age I Wayan Aris Sarmanta, (b.1995) was the youngest finalist in the 2017 TiTian Prize, an award that honors talent in all genres of Balinese visual art. While his first major group exhibition was in 2013 in Ubud, it was his masterwork Pohon Kehidupan (Tree of Life), painted in 2015 that truly captured local art observer’s attention.

Open 13 May at TiTian Art Space Ubud, REBIRTH, Sarmanta’s premiere solo exhibition showcases his remarkable skills that are a continuation of the tradition of storytelling – the historical fundamental that defines Balinese art. The artist presents nine paintings rich in symbolic meaning, complete with an array of cultural icons that are some of the major visual features. His themes range from the light-hearted, to serious, some works with local and national social, and political references.

"Bulan Cinta (Moon Lovers)" Aris Sarmanta. Image R. Horstman                              Bulan Cinta (Moon Lovers) – Aris Sarmanta

Sarmanta explores a full gamut of colours out side of cultural conventions. He discovers hues through the complex and time-consuming skill of mixing, and then, according to traditional techniques he builds up the colour strength, layer-upon-layer. He adopts fresh colours; metallic bronze, grey, silver and gold adding potent, and shining aesthetic contrasts.

He experiments with and combines iconography from the centuries old Kamasan religious paintings, along with interpretations of rerajahan drawings. The special symbolic talismans imbibed with mysterious powers that may never be reproduced exactly, unless for ritual and sacred purposes. Together many elements combine to bring exciting new dimensions to his Sarmanta’s paintings, revealing a talent that defies his years.

Pohon Kehidupan, a detailed execution of a traditional work with his modern conceptual adaptations is divided into two equal halves, symbolizing both the earthly and heavenly realms. It emphasizes local philosophies that highlight duality, and that life is a complex inter-relationship between positive and negative forces. Visual and philosophical equilibrium is beautifully achieved in this composition that reveals the core principle of Balinese traditional aesthetics – balance and harmony – also the fundamentals to the Balinese way of life. The painting consumed one year of Sarmanta’s time to complete.

"Pohon Kehidupan" Wayan Aris Sasmanta, 2015, Image R. Horstman Acrylic on Canvas, 90x115cm.      Not For Sale – Tangis Amarah Pulau Kecil Baris, 2016 – Aris Sarmanta

History reveals the dilemma of tradition meeting with modernity, and the island’s natural environment and culture being threatened with development. Featuring a Balinese boy warrior (the Baris dancer) expressing both sadness and anger, his headdress depicts a scene of traditional Bali, while an emblem upon his chest reads “Sold Out”. In the foreground two small figures stand in opposition, one a Balinese man with a sign stating “Not For Sale”, the other a satirical character representing a businessman, in a suit and tie holding a brief case, complete with the facial features of a rat.

During his youth the budding artists was trained by his grandfather I Wayan Regug (d.2017), a member of the famous 1930’s Ubud based association the Pita Maha. In recent years, however Sarmanta has been a ‘beneficiary’ of the new Baturlangan Artists Collective of Batuan. Defining the new model of Balinese collectives that are contributing to the current era of renewal of traditional art, Baturlangan’s strong leadership style has a clear vision and mission. This is not only windfall for its members like Sarmanta, yet also for the future generations, via their program of regular workshops for school children.

Bulan Cinta (Moon Lovers) 2016, reveals Sarmanta’s confidence to expose his intimate side. Imagination fuses with memories of personal love experiences in a composition depicting heaven and earth, and featuring two young lovers floating about in various romantic situations. Planets, stars and asteroids, along with objects that combine traditional iconography fill the cosmic scenario, while metallic colours truly bring the painting to life.

Dewa's Pet (ink, tea & coffee on paper)                     Dewa’s Pet (ink, coffee & tea on paper) – Aris Sarmanta

Although young, Sarmanta has developed a strong social conscience. He cites social media as a powerful tool keeping him informed of important local and global events that impact the current social and political landscape. Tapak Dara – Unity/ Tapak Dara – Pilar Kebangsaan 2017, is a landmark work that reveals the extent of the artist’s awareness, along with his ability to combine his feelings into a composition that is relevant to all Indonesians.

Upon a brown background a large white plus sign is the prominent visual structure. It is the Balinese Hindu symbol for the spirit of unity, also of equilibrium, eternity and sustainability. It signifies the four pillars upon which the Indonesian national motto of Bhinneka Tunngal Ika, (Unity in Diversity) are founded. Sarmanta prompts us that the forefathers of the Republic of Indonesia (NKRI) have laid out four supporting concepts to create national unity, even though there is great diversity within the country.

Reincarnation                      Reincarnation, 2017 – Aris Sarmanta


REBIRTH, continuing through until 15 July 2017

TITIañ Art Space

Jalan Bisma, Ubud, Bali

Open 10 am – 7 pm
Ph: +62822-14-400-200

Words & Images: Richard Horstman








Nyoman Gunarsa (1944 – 2017) One of Bali’s Poineering Modernist

335-maestro_lukis_nyoman_gunarsa_meninggal_dunia_dok_youtube-696x341             RIP Nyoman Gunarsa – One of Bali’s pioneering modern artist

With the recent passing of Balinese artist Nyoman Gunarsa on the 10th September 2017 an important chapter of Balinese art comes to a close. His legacy as an artist, art lecturer, art collective leader and museum owner, however, will be long lasting. Born in Klungkung, East Bali in 1944, Gunarsa was the first post war Balinese artist to rise to national prominence. His contribution to the development of Balinese art as one of the pioneering modern expressionist painters was in the exploration of form, rather than the narrative.

Gunarsa’s energetic style of applying paint to canvas with spontaneous, gestural brushstrokes was likened by some to a musical conductor, and he was affectionately known as the maestro. Raised nearby to the village of Kamasan, which during the 16th – 20th centuries was the epicenter of Balinese Classical art, Gunarsa was renowned for his dedication to the art of his forefathers. Academically trained, he quickly matured as a realism painter, yet in the 1980’s his fresh approach to depicting the characters from the Wayang Kulit shadow puppet theater broke new aesthetic grounds in Balinese art.

nyoman gunarsa, 2006 water color on paper. 115x161cm.Barong Dance,Gunarsa’s dynamic paintings emphasized the energy and movement that typified Balinese performance and ceremony.

The foundation of Balinese art is drawing. The strictly governed rules and techniques that characterize the Classical style begin with the sketching of the composition, the drawing of the fine black ink outlines of all visual information, and the coloring in of figures, forms and motifs. Originally these were collective works completed by a group of artists, as a communal offering of gratitude to the Gods. The application of color involved controlled brushstrokes, layered until the desired results are achieved – a brushwork technique akin to drawing, or penciling in the colorful hues.

Gunarsa’s signature style was an adaptation from western art, in which the individual’s innovative ideas, emotions and energy are omnipotent. Freedom and power of expressive, often minimal brushstrokes defined his visual approach. Gunarsa captured a fresh sense of dynamism in his interpretations of iconic scenarios from the Balinese Hindu legends, along with his revolutionary method of capturing traditional ceremony and performance, especially beautiful women dancing. Fusing his cultural knowledge with elements of expressionism and abstract painting immediately set his work apart from that of his contemporaries.


Colorful, pulsating movement and vitality categorize Balinese ceremony, performance and dance. This has been a source of inspiration for artists over many generations, yet never had a painter captured the seen, and unseen elements of energy, with Gunarsa’s colorful vibrancy. Form along with the decorative elements of Balinese Classical painting took on wonderful new life, and an exciting, newfound match for the unique, real visual spectacle was born.

As an art lecturer at Yogyakarta’s ASRI (Academi Seni Rupa Indonesia) during the late 1960’s and into the 1970’s Gunarsa was a catalyst to great change. He shared his vast knowledge and enthusiasm with a new, young generation of Balinese artists, the first to venture outside of their cultural structures and restraints, to be academically trained in Central Java. These were the formative days of Balinese contemporary art. Via their fresh approach to exploration and expression using new and unusual media they transformed Balinese philosophies, rituals and symbols into an exciting new visual language.


Gunarsa helped establish Indonesia’s longest running artist collective, Sanggar Dewata Indonesia, SDI (Workshop of the Gods) in 1970, inviting his Balinese students to form the new association. SDI grew to create a social collective to coordinate artistic activities, exhibitions and organize debates on art outside the institutional teaching framework. It offered its members freedom to collaborate and create without having to fear being labeled as supporters of certain political parties, during a highly politicized era of Indonesian history.

While the influential 1936 – 1945 Pita Maha artists collective redefined Balinese traditional art with modern aesthetics for the burgeoning tourist market, SDI set about redefining from the artist’s perspective based on the search for new ideas, self-expression, and national identity. This new art movement laid the foundations for the future, while inspiring many young artist to study in Yogyakarta, and Balinese contemporary art evolved to reveal its own distinct ‘voice’ in world art, while spawning generations of talented artists.

Sketch in black ink- Gunarsa

During the 1980’s – 1990’s Gunarsa and others such as Wianta, Sika, Djirna and Erawan enjoyed national and international success. Gunarsa opened the Museum of Contemporary Indonesian Painting in Yogyakarta in 1989. His next milestone was in 1994 when the Nyoman Gunarsa Museum of Classical Painting opened next to his residence in Klungkung. In the 3-storey venue he combined his own works with Classical paintings from the 17th – 19th centuries. Dedicated to the preservation of this unique art form Gunarsa acquired scarce works, including ones painted on rare ulantaga bark paper.

Artifacts, stone and woodcarvings, traditional furniture, masks, sculptures and a collection of sacred ceremonial kris add to the historical significance of his museum. In August 2017 the Indonesian President Joko Widodo attended an official reception at the museum in Gunarsa’s honor. As an international, multi award winning artist Gunarsa held solo exhibitions in more than ten foreign countries.


A landmark celebration of Balinese art was held from July – October 2012 at Gunarsa’s museum, The First International Festival of Classical Balinese Painting. The festival included works from collections of seven other countries, along with the participation of some of the world’s leading foreign authorities on Balinese Classical art. “Classical Balinese paintings have been admired world wide since the European society first became acquainted with the East in the 15th century,” said Gunarsa. “And since then other countries have searched out these masterpieces to enrich their cultural references because of the extraordinary implied messages, philosophies, and counsels about the life of the Balinese.”



Words: Richard Horstman