Category Archives: Balinese Contemporary 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

Advertisements

“Dipping in the Kool Aid” highlights collaborations between contemporary artists & inmates of Bali prisons

Rodney Glick "Pixel Buddha" image courtesy of apexart Gallery New York                                           Pixel Buddha – Rodney Glick

 

What is the value of human life?

How does our society appraise personal endeavour, imagination and creativity when the priority of doctors and medical staff in hospitals is the preservation of life? Governments and penal systems assess prisoners as having little to contribute to community, some electing to terminate the lives of ‘serious offenders’ through capital punishment. Why is it acceptable for governments to execute people, while murder is illegal?

The exhibition “Dipping in the Kool Aid” relates to aspects of prisons and the incarceration system, and opened at Tony Raka Art Gallery, Ubud 4 March. It features the artworks of prisoners, artworks produced from workshops given by contemporary artists in Bali prisons, and independently produced works by some of the invited established and emerging Indonesian and Australian artists.

malaikat copy                                       King Kong’s Land – Malaikat

The works selected from a range of workshops, predominantly in the Klungkung Jail, East Bali, and the Bangli Jail, include installations, paintings, drawings and photographs, along with a painting by a member of the controversial Bali Nine inmates, Renae Lawrence.

“A function of prisons practically everywhere in the world ensures inmates are social outsiders, largely invisible to most citizens,” said Australian artist Mary Lou Pavlovic who organized and curated the exhibition. “Our central concern is to bring aspects of prison life to public view.”

The idea of the exhibition emerged from an art program Pavlovic helped establish with inmates at the Bangli Jail, Central Bali soon after the second round of prisoner executions were ordered by the President of the Republic of Indonesia Joko Widodo in 2015. “Our aim is to cherish and preserve life, the driving motivator for this entire project.”

Mary Lou Pavlovic and prison inmates Mary Lou Pavlovic with input from April, Exyl, Hendra, and Kadek,collaborative installation "Suspended Sentiments" Image courtesy of "Dipping in theSuspended Sentiments – Mary Lou Pavlovic and women inmates from the Klungkung and Bangli jails.

In April 2017 Pavlovic’s proposal written in response to the open call Apex Franchise Exhibition, sponsored by the apexart Gallery New York, offering funded exhibition opportunities, won. More than two hundred international art expert jurors had voted for her proposal to curate an exhibition in Bali about artists and prisoners collaborations arising from prison workshops. A non-profit arts organization in Lower Manhattan, apexart is funded in part by the Andy Warhol Foundation, and offers opportunities to independent curators and emerging and established artists, and challenges ideas about art, its practice, and its curation.

Highlights of “Dipping in the Kool Aid”, in which the cell formation is a theme of the exhibition’s presentation to emphasize the living space – life behind bars within a prison cell, include, the tiny, delicate folded paper birds “Terapi Origami/Orizuru” by Ridwan Fatkhurodin a.k.a. Kriyip on display, yet also given as symbolic gifts to attendees during the opening ceremony, Kenyut Djunaidi’s collaborative etched mirror self-portraits “Kamu Adalah Aku, (You are Me)” and Australian Rodney Glick’s humorously militarized carved wooden icon “Pixel Buddha”. Elizabeth Gower’s “365 Rotations” adds an ethereal element to the show. Multiple circular collages Gower and inmates forged from discarded packaging and advertising material form a constellation of wonderful geometric patterns.

"Angki Purbandono "Out Of the Box" Image courtesy of apexart                                Out of the Box – Angki Purbandono

Popular Indonesian artist Angki Purbandono presents an installation of photographs “Out of the Box” revealing his experience of ‘doing time’. Incarcerated for one year in Yogyakarta during 2013 for smoking marijuana, refusing to accept his imprisonment, Angki declared instead that he was undertaking an artist’s residency, and taught a guard how to take photographs. He also established the Prison Art Programs, a group of inmates and ex-inmates who exhibit art inside and outside the jail; some members are included here.

Three meters by three and a half meters wide, luminescent and sparkling with life “Suspended Sentiments”, features over 1700 individual cells with flowers, leaves, nuts, berries, butterflies, bugs and Christmas decorations embedded within epoxy resin. Pavlovic’s wall installation, the outcome of workshops for women in Klungkung and Bangli Jails is beguiling in beauty and simplicity, yet rich in emotion.

31052365_10155177701881916_4372840048123445248_n                                   Forgiveness #2 – Mangu Putra

“Physical power is defeated by wisdom,” said renowned Balinese painter Agung Mangu Putra of his composition, “Forgiveness 2”. Inspired by an iconic image, originally popularized by Indonesia’s founding father, President Sukarno, who was photographed bowing to his mother, the state symbolically begs the pardon of not only a mother, but of a citizen, instead of the usual power dynamic in which citizens bow before the state. Mangu’s Putra’s painting reveals a state official – a soldier – bowing and begging forgiveness of his mother, who has taken away his gun.

“American jail slang for entering uninvited into a conversation, the phrase “Dipping in the Kool Aid” pays tribute to the discrete Javanese tradition of Pasemon,” Pavlovic said. Reflecting on Indonesia’s revolutionary era of political art that began under the authoritarian President Suharto’s New Order regime (1966-1998), artists and journalists used an indirect form of satire to criticize the government. Pasemon is elegant because it touches the conscience,” she continued. “Correcting without embarrassing authority.”

30706637_10155177599011916_7359454426228064256_n                Terapi Origami/Orizuru  –  Ridwan Fatkhurodin a.k.a. Kriyip

“Values expressed in this exhibition contrast with aspects of the government’s treatment of prisoners recently in Indonesia. Pasemon has created a space for us in which our political positions are clarified without scratching the wound.”

30741219_10155177702336916_1128266463887491072_n              365 Rotations  –  Elizabeth Gower with inmates from Bangli Jail

30703717_10155176985641916_986154805040775168_o               View of “Dipping in the Kool Aid” at the Tony Raka Art Gallery

 

30708338_10155177599166916_6226232579398303744_n        After Hit n Run  –  Herman Yosef Dhyas Aries Utomo (a.k.a. Komeng)

 

Dipping in the Kool Aid”

Open to the public daily 10am – 5pm,

4 – 31 March 2018

Tony Raka Art Gallery,

JI.Raya Mas No. 86 Mas, Ubud, Bali.

 

Words: Richard Horstman

Images courtesy: apexart Gallery New York, Mary Lou Pavlovic & Bima Basudewa

Fostering Positive Indonesia Australia Relations through Cultural Exchange

Sudibia_Alice Springs                                          Alice Springs – Made Sudibia

Vast and dramatic, yet empty, it’s colours and moods potent, and ever changing – the Top End is one of the world’s extraordinary natural environments. Visitors to the Northern Territory (NT) of Australia are overwhelmed by the space, power, and beauty of this remote and ancient terrain. Until recently, this pristine landscape remained unchartered territory by Indonesian artists.

The Artist’s Camp is a special, biannual initiative that began in 2012, with origins tracing back to the late 1970’s. It has been designed to introduce Indonesian artists to an array of NT landscapes and aboriginal cultures in order to engage and creatively respond to the indigenous environment and people. The 2015 Artist’s Camp has been the most ambitious project to date, with nine foreign artists, mostly Balinese, staying five weeks and traversing the NT 1500 Km’s south from Darwin to Alice Springs and Uluru (Ayers Rock), and crossing the waters north of Darwin to Melville Island.

A view of some of the artwork on display at the NCCA           A view of some of the works by Indonesian artists on display at NCCA

The artists visited and lived with diverse aboriginal communities where they learned about the local cultures, while also painting with the local artists. Touring in the region not only necessitates commitment and preparation, yet also in some instances, special permission from the authorities. Acquiring the deepest insights into the character and wisdom of this foreign environment only became possible along side the indigenous people.

The Balinese artists immediately established strong associations with the aboriginals whose culture is similar to their own, being deeply rooted in the environment and the spiritual world – with parallel universal cosmological views. Their sensitivity to distinctions of the physical and the non-physical worlds of the Top End translated into potent, intuitive artworks.

#2                     A view of work by Indonesian artists on display at the NCCA

The Artists’ Camp Retrospective 2012-2015 Exhibition presented impressions of the NT’s iconic terrains by some of Bali’s most exciting contemporary artists at the Northern Centre for Contemporary Art (NCCA) in Darwin, open from 19 January – 15 February 2018. Thirty-five works and over one hundred photographs revealed the vibrancy and soul of the Top End, while highlighting artistic engagement with the landscape, and the aboriginal culture.

Officiated by the Chief Minister of the Northern Territory, Michael Gunner and the Indonesian Acting Consul Mohhamed Hanifa, the exhibition opened in classical Indonesian style with three hits from an old Javanese gong. The exhibiting artists were I Made Budhiana, I Made Sudibia, Ni Nyoman Sani, I Wayan Wirawan, I Made ‘Dalbo’ Suarimbawa, I Gede Gunada Eka Atmaja, and I Dewa Gede Rata Yoga (Balinese), and East Javanese female painter Suryani, along with Aboriginal artist Lionel Possum and Australian artist Rupert Batheras. The Chief Minister of the NT, the Australia Indonesia Institute, the Indonesian Department of Foreign Affairs and the Commonwealth Bank Indonesia have sponsored the event.

#5                             Art by renowned Balinese artist Made Budhiana

“Being the first exhibition for the year we wanted to start with an exhibition involving Asian engagement and engagement with Indonesia, in particular,” said exhibition curator, long time collector of Indonesian and Aboriginal art and former Director and Chairman of the Board of Museums and Art Galleries in the Northern Territory (MAGNT), Colin McDonald.

“We wanted to highlight the artistic perceptions and aesthetic interpretations by leading Indonesian artists of the landscape of the Northern Territory and responses to living in Aboriginal communities and Aboriginal cultures.”

“I am so glad to learn that those participating artists in the Artists’ Camp have come together to showcase their collaborative works. I can simply say by looking at the paintings that you have worked so well and shown excellent pieces that represent the uniqueness of the Northern Territory,” said Mohhamed Hanifa during his exhibition opening speech.

Some of the photos of the Artist's Camp and Made Budhiana's other ventures to the NT at the NCCASome of the photos taken during the Artist’s Camp by Balinese artists Wayan Wirawan & Made Budhiana on display at the NCCA

“I would like to especially thank Colin McDonald who has been bridging and maintaining relationships, not only between the Bali Provincial Government and NT Government, but importantly between the Indonesian/Balinese artists and Australian/Territorian artists.”

Delving into new visual and conceptual territories the artists created vital interpretations of the landscape, from the barren wilderness, to mountain ranges and desert springs, along with responses to aboriginal traditions and livelihood. Some of the highlights were “Munupi & Pukumani Pipes” painted on Melville Island, Wayan Wirawan’s reaction to burial poles of the Tiwi Aboriginal community of Pirlangimpi, Made Budhiana’s “In the Darkness of the Night” is his nocturnal observations of the aboriginals and how at night the greater spirit of the people became evident, and Suryani’s pulsating “Beswick-Darwin” capturing the essence colorful native flora.

Indonesian Acting Consul Mohhamed Hanifa, the Chief Minister of the NT Michael Gunner and Colin McDonaldIndonesian Acting Consul Mohhamed Hanifa, the Chief Minister of the NT Michael Gunner and Colin McDonald during the opening at the NCCA.

The photographs, taken by Budhiana and Wirawan, revealed a compelling story of the artist’s time in the NT as guests, and as impromptu Indonesian cultural ambassadors. From their many light-hearted moments to random snaps taken on the road, while exploring, and art making, to images of their meetings with the public, officials at honorary functions, and the aboriginal people.

“What has stood out to me,” McDonald said, “Is the effortless way that the Indonesians interacted with the Aboriginal people, the positive synergy that evolved and the Indonesian’s immense appreciation for the indigenous traditions and art of the Top End.”

Made Budhiana_"In the Darkness of Night."                                  In the Darkness of Night – Made Budhiana

 

Sani Tiwi landscape                                       Twi Landscape – Nyoman Sani

Wayan Wirawan "Honeymoon Gap". Image M. O'Riordan                                 Honeymoon Gap – Wayan Wirawan

Balinese artists Wayan Wirawan, Made Budhiana, Ni Nyman Sani with Australian Artist Rupert Betheras at the NCCA 23 Jan 2016, Image Budhiana copyBalinese artists Wayan Wirawan, Made Budhiana and Nyoman Sani with Australian artist Rupert Berteras at the NCCA.

 

Words: Richard Horstman

Images: Made Budhiana, Richard Horstman, Colin McDonald & Maurice O’Riordan.

Bali’s street art maverick Julien Thorax

 

IMG_3344                                             Julien Thorax

 

Bali is a rich and unique optical feast. Yet the ominous visual pollution of billboards and advertising, unchecked development and urban sprawl, traffic, fumes, and idle trash makes for an uber serious contrast. Street Art, however is radically transforming the urban landscape of the island. Resonating out from once lifeless edifices, vibrant and alluring images capture our attention, and ignite the imagination. Street art beautifies, informs, inspires, and confronts, while momentarily gifting our sensitivities some vital relief.

Street art fanatic and collector Julien Thorax grew up in Switzerland and then worked across Europe in the corporate world until 2015 when he uprooted and exited for Bali. Owner of the urban art gallery and art supplies store ALLCAPS in Canggu, Julien is the founder of the Tropica Bali Street Art Festival (the urban culture, street art and music event held in Canggu July 2016 & 2017). He is also one of the organizers of the wildly successful new addition to Indonesia’s leading international art fair Art Stage Jakarta 2017 – Off The Wall Jakarta: Europe – ASEAN. Set within 3000 square meters in the Sheraton Grand Jakarta Gandaria City Hotel, Off The Wall Jakarta paired some of Europe’s hottest street artists along with budding ASEAN talent, injecting some urgently needed pizzazz into the exhausted art fair model.

Art by midaskid                                                   art by midaskid

A new urban youth culture has quickly evolved and is now thriving on Bali. The meeting of the art & design, surf, graffiti, mural and hipster communities into a new local/international subculture – its catalyst is the street art scene. LifeasArtAsia corners the prime mover behind Bali’s burgeoning Street Art scene – Julien Thorax:

LAA: Pease share a little about your mission?

JT: Firstly, I want support some of the local artists to make them more visible on the global street art scene, while making Bali a happening destination for graffiti and street artists from around the world. Via ALLCAPS I want to establish an internationally recognized urban art gallery and community space. My endeavor is that within 3-5 years the Tropica Bali Street Art Festival will be the biggest International Street Art and Graffiti Festival in Southeast Asia.

I also want to show local people that graffiti is not always vandalism but can be a beautiful form of modern art, along with utilizing murals and events to spotlight environmental issues, or to support NGOs.

DCIM101GOPROGOPR5850.                                         Allcapsstore & art space in Canggu

LAA: What was the idea behind creating the Bali StreetArt website?

JT:  I wanted to help to connect all the local people and communities involved in “Urban Art”, the mural “komunitas” from Denpasar, the graffiti artists, and the stencil artists, who were more or less all working independently from each other. Graffiti boys hanging out with graffiti boys, stencil artists working alone, mural artists staying within their communities in Denpasar. I tried, and succeeded into bringing them under one banner.

Next was to include the international artists visiting Bali. For me, Bali StreetArt is all the “Urban Art” created on the walls of Bali, irrespective of the artist’s origin (Balinese, Javanese, Australian, French, whatever), this is what we achieved with Tropica Festival, among others. And ALLCAPS has become a central meeting point for all urban art artists, and fans.

The side effect is that many of these artists, with their different backgrounds and various creative friends and communities are bringing a lot of other sub or alternative cultures into the movement; musicians, DJs, tattoo artists, skaters etc. All feel confortable coming to ALLCAPS, or to our events because they are sure to meet some of their friends and have a good time. This was happening before I arrived, but we are key into making it bigger and more visible.

DCIM101GOPROGOPR5854.                                                       Allcaps

LAA: Is the Bali street art scene an art movement, or a social movement?

JT: This is more an art movement at the moment that is slowly becoming a social movement. Yet this will take time.

LAA: What role is social media playing in this urban art development?

JT: Social media plays a key role, especially in a developing country like Indonesia where the majority of people use smartphones. Instagram is popular because it is easy to use, to connect, and to share. Street art and graffiti artists and fans are making big use of this application. This is directly influencing the way people paint and create murals.

Until recently artists painted murals only in “visible”, prime locations. Nowadays they are keen to paint anywhere, as long as they can get a good “Instagram shot”. They don’t really care if the wall will be seen, or the mural is going to stay up for years. With Instagram they can share instantly to the multitude of global followers. Bali gets visibility and interest on the global scene because of social media due to the unique images we post, such as murals on the beach and in the middle of rice paddies.

27992857_735606626647128_7980862004421731372_o    Allcapsstore – Bali’s premiere graffitit and street art supply center & art space

29872441_765503400324117_7393250604400613416_o                       Some of the friendly, professional staff at Allcapsstore

DCIM101GOPROGOPR5852.

 

https://balistreetart.org/

 

Words: Richard Horstman

Images: Courtesy Allcaps

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

apapun yang terjadi, hidup harus dijalani#1, water colour and ink on paper, 37 cm x 55 cm, 2012
                           Apapun terjadi, harus jalan, 2013  – Wayan Upadana
 Can you imagine icons of the Balinese culture represented reclining, cheerfully in a bathtub or bowl, drenched in luscious, liquid chocolate? The idea makes the eyebrows rise, while stimulating the  taste buds too.
These unusual figures, sculptures by Balinese contemporary artist Wayan Upadana are, however, expressed not only to incite our curiosity, yet also in order to make important statements. Under the spotlight is the meeting of two opposing worlds, that of the artist’s traditional culture along with the modern, And according to the artist, there are critical related issues that require immediate attention.
Iwayan upadana 'the process' 2012 Video instalation in sculpture ( Polyester resin, spray paint                         The Process, video installation, 2012 – Wayan Upadana
Art is a mysterious medium, perhaps one of the most misunderstood of all human
expressions. Somehow in the process miraculous and unimaginable creations become manifest. Often from sources completely unknown. In the case of Wayan Upadana, how does this young artist’s imagination and creative prowess arrive at works so fantastic, yet relevant as well?
“Contemporary art in Bali is still growing,” says Upadana. “Yet to avoid becoming stuck and rehashing ideas, local artists need to pursue new experiences and learning prospects
– they need to invest in traveling outside of their island.” In the process of creative development it is essential for young contemporary artists, living within the
restraints of their Balinese Hindu culture, to step outside of their communities and be introduced to new artistic landscapes, ideas, freedoms and alternative cultures. Not to mention have the opportunity to access different and higher standards of education.
Tanah Sekolah Dasar, G-5, Oct 2013, Tony Raka Art Gallery
                                           Tanah Sekolah Desa, 2013 – G5
“My love of Balinese traditional art and culture inspired me as a child to draw and paint. I am continually fascinated by the array of creative expressions people are able to invest energy into. Yet it wasn’t until studying painting in high school that I began to dream of becoming a professional artist,” says Upadana. “In 2000 I saw an important exhibition by Indonesia’s most respected art collective, Sanggar Dewata Indonesia (SDI) in a museum in Bali. This had an enormous impact upon my future visions.”
In 2001 Upadana moved from Bali to the city of Yogyakarta, Central Java, the cultural capital of Indonesia, driven by his dream of becoming an SDI member, and a desire to learn of new cultures. To become a member of SDI Upadana had to study art at the prestigious Yogyakarta ISI, the Indonesian Art Institute.
scream, water colour and ink on paper,28 cm x 56 cm 2012
                                         Scream, 2013 – Wayan Upadana
What we foreigners may perceive as a mere relocation to the neighboring island of Java is in fact something few Balinese ever consider contemplating because the Balinese culture is very much focused on systems of cooperation between families and the community, while offering social and religious security.
ISI molds artists of distinction, and somehow the character of their creativity is easily recognizable. Renown for producing some of the most important experimental Balinese artists, spearheaded in the 1970’s by the likes of Gunarsa, Wianta and Erawan, ISI Yogya, for those with the opportunity and the desire, is a pinnacle, and one of the most popular destinations of the Indonesian art education system.
21457620_1190157641128184_2350840054727607781_o
                                        Wayan Upadana 2017

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

Living in Yogyakarta presented Upadana with challenges that helped to strengthen
his character, amongst them working to support his studies and living costs carving stone sculptures and doing whatever tasks he could to earn money. The “friction” created by the multi cultural fusion of Indonesian ethnic groups unique to Yogyakarta provided fertile grounds for contemplation and ingestion of creative ideas. Looking from the outside in, Upadana became increasingly sensitive to the social and environmental changes confronting Bali. He learned to become the observer, and via his art, a critic of his own Balinese culture.
20161206_170532
                                                   Wayan Upadana
The pig is an icon of Balinese culture, yet for Upadana this animal serves as a metaphor for the Balinese people. In works such as his quirky, yet comical sketches on paper with water color from his 2013 exhibition GloBaliasi, the pig is the embodiment of the dualistic nature of life confronting Balinese youths living between modern and traditional cultures. In his sculptures featuring pigs, reclining in Balinese ceremonial bowls covered in chocolate, the pig becomes a humorous communicator of critical ideas.
What Upadana is suggesting is that his people are too quick to enjoy the material spoils of globalization without enough consideration to the increasing environmental, social and personal impacts and conflicts that money and modern development bring to Bali.
15272172_988995764577707_7693382795529819053_o
                      Si Gendut Pencari Tuhan, 2016  – Wayan Upadana
A decade in Yogya has made a definitive impact upon Upadana and helps to explain why he is capable of creating art of such a unique quality. Born 1983 in the small village of Saba, Blahbatuh, Gianyar, this experience for Upadana, who began exhibiting in 2002, has enabled him to achieve notable career results. For example, finalist of the 2011
BaCAA (Bandung Contemporary Art Award) and the “UOB Art Awards – Painting of the Year 2011”, and in 2013 again a finalist at the BaCAA, and finalist of the 2013 Trimata
National Art Award. Justifiably Upadana is regarded as one of the most promising young artists in Bali today.
During his time in Yogyakarta Upadana formed bonds with other fellow Balinese art students that led to the birth of the art collective G-5. Consisting of five graduates of ISI
Yogya, all born in Gianyar, who resided in the city for 10 years, or more, G-5 became one of the most exciting group of emerging artists in Bali. Whether producing art on his own or along with G-5, Upadana’s talent is never far from the national spot light, continually catching the eye of critics, art lovers and collectors as well.
20161206_170546
                             Euphoria Globalasi, 2010 – Wayan Upadana
dsc-0679_orig
The Desire of Gravity, 2017 – Wayan Upadana.  Exhibited at the 13th annual Sculpture by the Sea, March, 2018, at Cottesloe Beach, Western Australia.
Words: Richard Horstman
Images: Wayan Upadana & Richard Horstman

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