Category Archives: Balinese Contemporary Art

Balinese art patronage – now & then

Balinese Kamasan Painting                                          Balinese Kamasan Painiting

 

Balinese painting has a rich and unique history dating back over 400 years. Originally the work of artisans from the East Javanese Majapahit Empire (13-16th Century), this special narrative style of painting expanded into Bali in 1343 when the Majapahit conquered Bali, introducing the Hindu culture, and institutions.

The collapse of the empire in 1515 led to the mass migration of the Majapahit aristocracy to Bali, and from the 16th – 20th centuries, the village of Kamasan, Klungkung, East Bali was the epicenter of classical Balinese painting. The art form thrived because its patrons were the highest-ranking kings of Bali. Patronage has played a defining role in Balinese art, and there are many fascinating stories about the development of the art, and the characters involved, both from the present, and the past.

Flora and fauna painting by Ketut Rudi of Lodtunduh                       Flora and fauna painting by Ketut Rudi of Lodtunduh

 

The Kamasan paintings feature two-dimensional compositions with imagery derived from the Wayang shadow puppet theater, one of the original story telling methods in the Balinese Hindu culture that may be traced back over 2000 years to India. Often depicting battles between the forces of good and bad, the narratives originate from the Hindu and Buddhist texts, and old Javanese-Balinese folktales.

The paintings decorate Balinese temples and adorn the houses of the aristocracy. They communicate about the philosophies of life, religion, ethics and morals, as well as flora and fauna and astrology, while serving to bring peace and harmony to society. Referred to as an ancient academic art, it differs from modern systems by placing more emphasis on contemplation, the role of the senses, meditation and direct application.

Art patron Colin McDonald with Lodtunduh bird artist Ketut Rudi (left)Australian collector and art patron Colin McDonald with the renown bird painter from Lodtunduh, Ubud, Ketut Rudi

 

The formation of the Dutch colonial state in the early 20th century had a massive, disruptive impact upon the Balinese social structures. Patronage was previously inherent to social belonging: the king, village, or clan commissioned a work from an artist, or a group of artists for some rice, or possibly a piece of land. Under foreign rule artists no longer worked solely for their palaces, yet had to contribute free manual labor, suffering loss of status, privileges, and the spiritual returns of working for royalty.

A revolutionary period of creativity began in Ubud in the 1930’s having a dramatic effect upon the traditional art, along with the lives of many Balinese. A new genre was born, Balinese modern traditional art, featuring the introduction of western techniques with more realistic iconography, and modern narratives to cater to a burgeoning market for souvenirs purchased by the initial wave of foreign tourists to visit Bali. Important patronage came from early western settlers, along with the Ubud royal family, who later in 1954 opened Ubud’s first museum, Puri Lukisan.

Art patron Colin McDonald with Made Budhiana Colin McDonald with Balinese contemporary artist Made Budhiana whom he has supported for over 30 years

 

A new era of private patronage began, post 1970’s, during the second wave of tourism, when successful art dealers became gallerists, and then museum founders in Ubud. Suteja Neka opened the Neka Art Museum, Agung Rai established ARMA, and Nyoman Rudana opened the Rudana Museum.

An important modern day chapter of art patronage is accredited to Australian collector Colin McDonald QC, who first visited Bali in 1983. “I was immediately arrested by the beauty of the landscape, along with the art, and was eager to return,” said McDonald, who at the time was a collector of Australian aboriginal art.

"Menyanyikan Hidup" 2012 - Made Budhiana                          “Menyanyikan Hidup” 2012 – Made Budhiana

 

Upon his first visit to the Rudana Gallery, McDonald was attracted to the natural, aesthetic, and spiritual qualities of the art. In 1984 he purchased his first Balinese paintings, one by the abstract expressionist Made Budhiana, and another by the Lodtunuh bird painter Ketut Rudi. McDonald later met and befriended the artists.

“I was especially attracted to gentle, insightful and spiritual temperaments of the two artists,” McDonald said. “After I visited Budhiana’s home and witnessed the depth and power of his work, I starting buying directly from him.”

"Good Friday" Wayan Wirawan“Good Friday” 2018 painted by Wayan Wirawan on Good Friday at Colin McDonald’s residence at Lodtunduh, Ubud

 

The process of becoming an art connoisseur is driven by a thirst for knowledge, and meeting and learning from other collectors and experts. McDonald frequented the Rudana Gallery, and later the Neka Museum, and there he met important Indonesian collectors who were willing to share about their passion.

McDonald started collecting contemporary art and he loved to immerse himself in the local art community. Today he owns more than 400 pieces, sketches, drawings paintings, installations and sculptures. In 2011 he went on to establish, in conjunction the Northern Center for Contemporary Art in Darwin, the “Artist’s Camp” for Indonesian and Balinese artists to visit the Northern Territory of Australia to interpret the landscape and the indigenous culture.

"Easter Sunday" Wayan Wirawan            “Easter Sunday” 2018 by Wayan Wirawan for Colin McDonald

 

“Art is a celebration of life, and a great companion. It speaks of cultural and religious tolerance, and the importance of ceremony,” McDonald said, who found art a perfect refuge from a stressful law career. “The Balinese artists have an extraordinary sensitivity to seeing the world and the universe with an intelligence and receptivity to both the seen and unseen worlds. The western world, however, often neglects this, and this reflects the spiritual gaps within western contemporary culture, along with their struggles.”

 

 

Words: Richard Horstman

Images: Courtesy of Colin McDonald & Richard Horstman

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Bali’s GWK Statue completed after almost three decades

Image courtesy PT. Siluet Nyoman Nuarta

The epic tale of the Garuda Wisnu statue at the Garuda Wisnu Kencana (GWK) Cultural Park in Jimbaran, South Bali will soon reach its finale. In a monumental saga that stretches back to its conceptualisation in 1989, including the on and off progress of its construction, the sculptures creator, Balinese artist Nyoman Nuarta, has confirmed the project will be completed in early August.

“By the 4th of August this extraordinary combination of art, technology and science will be complete,” Nuarta recently announced. “This nation will have a new cultural icon, that, despite taking more than 28 years, and without help from the Indonesian governement, showes that private sector can contribute greatly to the nation and state. It is a special gift to celebrate the nation’s Independence Day on the 17 August, 2018,” added Indonesia’s most celebrated sculptor.

GWK Image courtesy PT. Siluet Nyoman Nuarta

Originally scheduled for completion in March 2019, in mid 2017 Nuarta was given a new deadline by the Indonesian government. The statue, which is the second tallest in the world, must be finished before October 2018 when IMF and World Bank delegates converge on Bali for their annual meetings to be held 8 -14 October. As a part of their itinerary a dinner will be held for the delegates at the GWK Festival Park, a vast field surrounded by limestone cliffs, within the sprawling 60-hectare cultural park.

In April a special ceremony officiated by the Governor of Bali, Mangku Pastika celebrated the installation of the statue’s 529th module, the Mahkota Dewa Wisnu – the 3.5-ton crown of Wisnu that is covered with gold-platted mosaics. A total of 754 modules of the statues outer skin, made of copper and brass sheeting, each weighing on average 800 kilograms, complete the installation.

Photo courtey PT. Siluet Nyoman Nuarta

The project has occupied as many as 120 experienced wielders working on site to re-assemble the modules before they are lifted up by two cranes and bolted onto the outer steel frame of the statue by workers who specialize in high altitude construction. “During the initial stages of the statues design there was no available technique to enlarge the difficult and complicated three-dimensional forms, nor was there any computer software that could do this,” Nuarta said. “Therefore, I had to find the solution to the problem. Finally, in 1991 we found a theory, and along with the birth of Autocad software we could move forward.”

Rigorous scientific integrity testing has been undertaken on all the construction materials and the statue itself, even taking earthquake resistance into account with the pedestal being able to withstand up to 8 on the Richter scale. Wind tunnel tests have indicated the statue, the largest in Indonesia, could withstand winds speeds of up to 259 nautical miles per hour.

side elevation GWK statue - image courtesy PT. Siluet Nyoman Nuarta

Standing 121 meters at the top of the Ungasan ridge, 271 meters above sea level and with a wingspan of 64 meters, the skin surface area of the statue reaches two and a half hectares or 25,000 m2, during the evening the statue will be a unique feature of the cultural park with its special lighting arrangement that was built-in Singapore. The statue will sit on a pedestal, or building base, which will function as a restaurant serving up to 500 people. There will also be a museum and a viewing gallery that will allow panoramic vistas of the rest of South Bali.

“The target is to attract 6,000 tourists per day,” Nuarta said, then continued. “Hopefully, Garuda Wisnu Kencana will serve as a reminder to Indonesians and the international audience, throughout this divisive period about our cultural roots as a tolerant and multicultural nation.”

Image Courtesy of PT. Siluet Nyoman Nuarta

 

Words: Richard Horstman

Images courtesy: PT. Siluet Nyoman Nuarta

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Balinese contemporary artist Budi Agung Kuswara: putting arts real values into perspective

21231555_207954026407213_6957891409753761884_nArtist Budi Agung Kuswara (lower, left of center) with staff, friends and patients of Rumah Berdaya

 

Art plays distinctive and irreplaceable roles within the development of a healthy society. Art offers us opportunities to be inspired, become more educated and aware, as well as to observe the thoughts and feelings of our fellow-man. The best contemporary art is essential to our well-being, having something important to say about the era we live in. Due to the onslaught of globalization, however, the financial values of art are becoming increasingly prized, over the real, functional values of art.

Balinese artist Budi Agung Kuswara represents the vanguard of emerging contemporary artists in Bali today who are reshaping the genre. What is significant about this artist, however, is his passion for how art can transform and bring greater meaning to individual lives, while building resilient communities.

26903979_1656075377748886_2074571056155799779_nVisitors at the gallery of Rumah Berdaya looking at art work by “Skizofriends Art Movement”

 

‘Kabul’, as he prefers to be known, was born in Sanur in 1982. From the age of twelve he worked beachside selling souvenirs to tourists, and he learned to surf the pristine waves that race along the coast’s outer reefs. Surfing inspired his deep connection with the forces of nature that influence his physical and non-physical worlds. His father was born in Klungkung, East Bali, the Classical art epicentre of the island. He was raised into the custom of Kamasan painting, the living tradition of story telling art used to decorate the island’s temples and the houses of the aristocracy, and serving to convey peace and harmony within Balinese society.

As a child painting was a readily accessible mode of expression, nurturing and playful, a medium through which Kabul could later explore his feelings, and ideas about identity and life. “My perspective was different to the traditional cultural identity and I came to understand that I didn’t fit in with the mainstream,” Kabul said. “So I learned to follow my own path.”

Anonymous-Ancestors    Anonymous Ancestors – art work by Budi Agung Kuswara for 2018 UWRF

 

The path of an outsider is one of duality – of freedom, yet of isolation as well. Kabul’s solitary experiences eventually led to feelings of lack of confidence; at times he felt depressed. His love of art became an increasingly vital activity – a guiding creative force. Motivated by the desire to share and inspire positive change Kabul wished to capitalize upon what had manifested during his personal struggles while he was a youth – his knowledge of art as a practical tool for self-transformation.

“I am inspired by the intervention of art into the public sphere and how it can become increasingly meaningful by responding to problems and needs of society,” Kabul said. “Through my own psychosomatic experiences I understand art is a potent medium for healing and self-empowerment.”

IMG_4668Art making at Rumah Berdaya – Budi Agung Kuswara with “Skizofriends Art Movement”

 

Kabul became aware of a community rehabilitation initiative established in 2015 by Rai Putra Wiguna, a psychiatrist at the Denpasar Regional Hospital, along with some of his patients. In response Kabul went on to create the Skizofriends Art Movement” in 2016, a group that focuses on both art therapy, and life-skills training programs for local men and women with schizophrenia. “I am committed to eliminating the stigma attached to people suffering from mental illness, while promoting their inclusion in society,” he said.

Following on from the success of Kabul and his colleague’s lobbying of the Denpasar Government Skizofriends Art Movement” in 2017 became a part of the Denpasar City Health Department Care Program, and is still ongoing. “By introducing a simple, sustainable model of how an organized art program can beneficially function for people, we immediately gained the government’s support,” Kabul said. The group was then offered an abandoned building in Jalan Hayam Waruk (next door to the Bali Bakery in Renon) that became “Rumah Berdaya”.

35151724_10216609420728479_6691008827497644032_o           “Skizofriends Art Movement” with artworks at Rumah Berdaya

 

Meaning house of empowerment, “Rumah Berdaya” began as a meeting place for people with schizophrenia, so they could learn new skills, interact and express themselves. Its focus is to create opportunities for the patients to constructively engage with the public, while helping them to regain their status as useful and productive members of society.

From 2002 Kabul spent thirteen years living in Yogyakarta, studying fine art at the prestigious Indonesian Art Institute (ISI), here his work became more politically and socially driven. Charmed by Orientalism and how exotic images led to supposed attitudes and ideas of Bali by westerners, in 2013 Kabul started using an old printing technique to experiment with, and explore his ideas about cultural identity, while creating new inroads in Balinese contemporary art.

Golden-Farmer                            Golden Farmer – Budi Agung Kuswara

 

With his life partner, Singaporean artist Mintio, they are the creative force behind Ketemu Project, in Batubulan. A visual art collective and social enterprise hybrid with a focus on social and international engagement, Ketemu burst onto the scene in 2015 during a critical period in the development of contemporary art infrastructure in Bali, injecting important fresh energy into the Bali art world.

Look out for Kabul’s art “Anonymous Ancestors”, on exhibition, and featured on all promotional media, in the upcoming 2018 UWRF, 24-28 October.

http://www.budiagungkuswara.com

 

Words: Richard Hostman

Images coutesy: Budi Agung Kuswara & Skizofriends Art Movement

 

 

 

 

 

Recognizing extraordinary Balinese artistic talent: the 2018 TiTian Prize

2018-003-D-SUWIDIARTA I KETUT-END AND THE BEGINNING-120 X 100 CM                                       Beginning and End – Ketut Suwidiarta

 

The Bali art infrastructure is undergoing important transformation. This renewal is a timely, yet long and unique process. The intended outcome, however, will be a sustainable art eco system on the island with the benefactors being new buyers, seasoned collectors, art lovers, the curious, and of course the artists and the industry as well.

The infrastructure currently comprises of galleries, museums, art spaces, artist studios, cultural centers, the traditional, and digital media, along with the art schools, institutions and foundations. Art awards and competitions are an essential, supportive part of any art infrastructure. They are renowned for discovering and showcasing noteworthy emerging artists and launching their careers. The exposure to gallerists, curators, collectors, the media and local and international audiences provides excellent networking opportunities, and makes the task of being “discovered” much easier.

2018-034-D-ADI WIRAWAN-MERINDUKAN BALIKU YANG DULU-120 X 120 CM                           Merindukan Baliku Yang Dulu – Adi Wirawan

 

The nine finalists and winner of the second annual TiTian Prize were announced in Ubud, 29 January 2018, during the second anniversary celebrations of Yayasan TiTian Bali (YTB). A new and visionary art foundation, inaugurated on the 80th anniversary of the founding of the famous Ubud based artist collective the Pitamaha, YTB is setting out to change the art landscape in Bali. TiTian, meaning bridge or “Stepping Stone” in the Balinese language, with its annual program of exhibitions, awards, workshops and book releases, is an experimental playground and launch pad. In essence it serves as artist incubation.

“Bali has a vast cultural heritage that is at risk due to the disruptions caused by modern technological, social and cultural changes sweeping the world,” says the YTB Chairman of the Board of Advisors Soemantri Widagdo. “YTB will assist Balinese visual artists not only to navigate and survive this massive change, but to become successful art-entrepreneurs to benefit from and to be the drivers of the new opportunities of the 21st century creative economies in Bali and Indonesia.”

2018-033-D-ARI WINATA I NYOMAN-MENAGKAP RAJA BABI-150 X 200 CM                                Menagkap Raja Babi – Nyoman Ari Winata

 

The TiTian Prize is awarded to the most promising artist who demonstrates talent and courage in breaking new ground in Balinese art. This year’s finalists are Gede Suryawan, Ari Winata, Ketut Suwidiarta, Kadek Yuliantono, Made Suartama, Ida Bagus Suryantara, Made Wahyu Senayadi and Wayan Eka Mahardika Suamba. The TiTian Prize winner is the exciting young painter from Batuan, Wayan Aris Sarmanta.

“Keluarga Bumi”, 2017 (Earth Family), by Sarmanta, is a wonderfully imaginative, glowing ‘family portrait’ featuring the father, mother and child set within and a fertile, idyllic earth playground. Elements of Balinese traditional painting merge with modern and contemporary art genes. Striking color contrasts are balanced with a superbly poised composition, highlighting the strong narrative taken from the Balinese Hindu philosophies. Light hearted elements add to the painting’s story making it a delight to observe.

2018-016-D-ARIS SARMANTA I WAYAN-KELUARGA BUMI-100 X 80 CM   The Winner of the 2018TiTian Prize “Keluarga Bumi” by Wayan Aris Sarmanta 

 

“My painting visualizes the earth family along with the abundance of nature in a harmonic, caring, and self-sustaining relationship,” says Sarmanta, who was born in Batuan in 1995. And continues, “I experienced great pleasure, along with disbelief, upon being announced this year’s winner.”

Photographs do not do “Keluarga Bumi” justice, and the painting needs to be seen to fully appreciate the fresh new approach that is currently revolutionizaring the most loved and critically acclaimed genre of Balinese art – Batuan painting. Inspirational and humourous, Sarmanta’s work is pulsating, and full of life.

The YTB presentation also includes the third annual “Anugrah Pusaka Seni” (Art Heritage) Award to artists and a patron who have made extraordinary contributions to the Balinese Arts. The winners are A.A. Gde Meregeg (1907-2001), A.A. Gde Sobrat (1912-1992), Gusti Made Deblog (1906-1986), Dewa Nyoman Mura (1877-1950), Dewa Putu Kebes (1874-1962), and Gusti Putu Sodang (unknown – 1937). The Patron Award (Life Achievement) went to Prof. Drs. A.A Rai Kalam (1940-2017) who played a definitive role in the formation of the School of Art at ISI Denpasar.

2018-012-D-SURYANTARA IDA BAGUS-PALEMAHAN-125 X 120 CM                                   Palemahan – Ida Bagus Suryantara

 

For the first time this year YTB presented children’s prizes for age groups up to 12 years, and between 13 to 17 years of age. “The Titian Prize for children is to encourage the young generation of Balinese children to learn and continue the Balinese painting tradition,” says Widagdo. “The prizes are given in recognition, appreciation and encouragement, and consist of a certificate and art materials. In the future we plan to include a program of mentoring along with museum and studio visits.”

The 2018 TiTian Prize winner will travel to Europe to attend a Bali art exhibition in late fall this year in Leiden, the Netherlands. The exhibition will feature paintings by Sarmanta and Wayan Budiarta, also from Batuan, that have recently been acquired by the National Museum of World Cultures. The winner as well will tour major museums, art galleries and exhibitions in the Netherlands.

Sarmanta’s painting“Keluarga Bumi” is on display until the end of 2018 at TiTian Art Space, located at the end of Jalan Bisma, Ubud. Open to the public daily from 9am – 5pm, except Mondays.

2018-018-D-EKA MAHARDIKA SUAMBA-JIN KURAKURA-35 X 46 CM                            Jin Kurakura – Wayan Eka Mahadika Suamba

 

2018-006-D-YULIANTO I KADEK-RENAISSANCE IN BALI-90 X 70 CM                                   Renaissance in Bali – Kadek Yulianto

 

2018-001-D-SURYAWAN EKA PUTRA-DIALOGUE IN BLUE SEASON- 51 X 71 CM                           Dialogue in Blue Season – Gede Suryawan

 

2018-009-D- SUARTAMA I MADE- BATU TENGAH-80 X 80 CM.JPG                                      Batu Tengah – Made Suartama

 

TiTian Prize Childrens Art A- KETUT SANDRA GAUTAMA-NELAYAN-24 X 36 CM                TiTian Prize Children’s Art – Ketut Sandra Gautama

 

TiTian Childrens Prize - KADEK DWIKA DHARMA PUTRA-KEBERSAMAAN-22 X 32 CM .JPG                   TiTian Prize Children’s Art – Kadek Dwika Dharma Putra

 

2018-034-A- KADEK RIPA RYAN SUPUTRA-ANAK PANTAI-25,5 X 30 CM.JPG                       TiTian Prize Children’s Art – Kadek Ripa Ryan Suputra

www.titianartspace.com

 

Words: Richard Horstman

Images Coutesy: TiTian Art Space

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

“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.