Category Archives: Balinese Woodcraving

Wayan Jana: new directions in Balinese woodcarving

In the background "Memory" 2016 - Wayan Jana. Image courtesy of TiTian Art Space   Memory, 2019 – Wayan Jana in Encounter at TiTian Art Space, Ubud

 

Balinese woodcarving has evolved during the past century with distinct stylistic developments marking its transition from the traditional genre to the modern and contemporary. Iconic figures Tjokot, Nyana, Tilem and Muja defined the landmark styles that have become the source of inspiration that many have followed.

Although minimalist adaptations to woodcarving began in Bali in the early 1930s with the influence of the Art Deco and Art Nouveau movements, the key pioneers being I Rodja and I Geremboeang from the famous woodcarving village of Mas, it was not until the mid 1950s that Ida Bagus Nyana (1912 – 1985) also from Mas, introduced minimalist carvings of the human body.

"Irama Hati (Heart Rhythm)" 2015 - Wayan Jana - Image courtesy of TiTian Art Space                     Irama Hati, 2016 (Heart Rhythm) – Wayan Jana

 

The major progressions that reveal the development of woodcarving are by I Tagelan (1902-1935) who produced an elongated composition of a woman in the mid 1920s from a long piece of wood given to him by Walter Spies who originally requested he produce two statues. I Tjokot (1886-1971) gained his reputation in the late 1920s for utilizing the timber’s natural expressive qualities and creating grotesque figures exploiting the dark side of Balinese mythology with his tough carving style.

Nyana experimented with mass, carving human characters shortening some parts of the body and lengthening others, creating plump forms with serene facial expressions. His son Ida Bagus Tilem (1936 -1993) furthered both Nyana’s and Tjokot’s innovations adopting abstract themes with philosophical or psychological content using distorted pieces of wood endowed with strong expressive powers. I Ketut Muja (1944 – 2014) made his initial statement with his interpretations of the Hindu god Hanuman, meticulously and delicately sculpting the monkey’s fur. He then went further by carving frightening figures that brought out the soul of the wood along with his own emotions and state of mind.

"Encounter" exhibition view at TiTian Art Space - Image Coutesy of TiTian Art Space                     Encounter – exhibition view at TiTian Art Space Ubud

 

The lack of attention from museums and galleries towards contemporary woodcarving recently has resulted in the genre being overshadowed by painters and others artists working in new sculptural media. Encounters, an exhibition of nine works by I Wayan Jana, open 11 May at TiTian Art Space in Ubud, reveals the wonderful potential of the medium when inspiration meets with remarkable creative ability. The emphasis of Jana’s works is upon relationships: relationships between people, relationships with mother earth and relationships with our creator.

In Encounter each of Jana’s compositions are characterized by a meeting of two people and take the form of fascinating and unusual abstractions of the pairing of two figurative forms. “Everything in this world begins with a meeting,” states Jana within the exhibition catalog. Born in Singapadu, Gianyar in 1969, Jana is the eldest son of I Ketut Muja and from a young age he apprenticed with his father and has been consistently carving ever since. In 1998, he started a new style of sculpture, devoid of the elaborate and extravagant details commonly found in the Balinese Baroque woodcarving tradition.

Balinese woodcarver Wayan Jana at work in his Gianyar Studio - Image courtesy Wayan Jana                         Wayan Jana at work at his studio in Gianyar

 

Spheres and series of protruding spikes, circular swollen shapes, jutting forms, and strange appendage-like things, hearts, heads and tails, Jana’s imagination brings to life creations that are always organic, yet at once other worldly. Nurtured and delightful outcomes of his inspirational themes that even include the Hindu gods.

Penyejuk Jiwa (Soul Oasis), 2019, 41 x 36 x 27 cm is arguably Jana’s most abstract work within Encounters, the artist’s fourth solo exhibition to date. A reclining form is propped upright by two limbs, and is highlighted by another that is pointing towards the sky. Collectively they appear as a grouping of wings or fans blades that instantly stimulate our imagination. Penyejuk Jiwa is seemingly propelled upward and may be seen ascending within the minds eye – according to Jana the composition is inspired by the peace and harmony of an adoring couple.

"Harmony" 2019 - Wayan Jana Image courtesy of TiTian Art Space                                       Harmony, 2019 – Wayan Jana

 

While the gently curving shapes of Deringan Rindu (Longing), 2019 and Gairah Dara (Virgin Lust), 2019, take the form of elongated vehicles that we may envision traversing the oceans or zooming across the skies, Sehati (Soul Mate), 2019 and Sayang Menyayangi (Compassion), 2019 take on different proportions. Both appear immediately grounding, and aesthetically calming via the soul of timber’s spiraling and flowing grains, and the sculptures bulbous, full designs.

Irama Hati (Heart Rhythm), 2015, dimensions 36 x 9 x 38cm is the artist’s oldest work. At a glance it evokes an image of the seated form of the master Balinese dancer Ketut Marya, famously known as Mario, executing the Kebyar duduk, first created and performed in 1925. One delicate raised limb suggests Mario holding a fan, an essential visual element of the dance along with his body’s dynamic rotating rhythm. Jana further explains in the catalog that his works contain three elements: (1) two spheres that symbolize male (purusa) and female (predana), (2) hearts that symbolize love and (3) teeth and fangs that symbolize good and evil deeds.

"Penyejuk Jiwa (Soul Oasis)" 2019 - Wayan Jana. Image courtesy of TiTian Art Space             Penyejuk Jiwa, 2019 (Soul Oasis) – Wayan Jana

 

“In developing these forms I have certainly gone through many creative stages,” said Jana, who received his Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Indonesian Institute of Art (ISI), Denpasar.  “After a number of experiments I then found the concept of ‘the meeting’ that is the origin of life and of all living things on earth.”

“What motivates me is my search for my own distinct identity and style. This idea is present in the artists who already have their own work identity. Like Tjokot, Nyana, Tilem and Muja. Each style has its own unique characteristics,” he stated, and continued. “I want to be like my predecessors, with my sculptures having their own individual characteristic, namely the Jana style.”

Deringan Rindu (Longing) 2019                      Deringan Rindu (Longing), 2019 – Wayan Jana

 

“Jana is the first contemporary wood carver that TiTian has honoured with a solo exhibition,” said the Yayasan TiTian chair of the board of advisors Soemantri Widadgo. “He has introduced a new style and a marked departure from anything before him, including his own father. I believe he has the potential to be the next recognized master of Balinese woodcarving.”

Encounter continues through  until August

Open daily 9am – 5 pm (except Mondays)

at TiTian Art Space

Jalan Bisma 86, Ubud, Gianyar, Bali

http://www.titianartspace.com

 

Words: Richard Horstman

Images courtesy: TiTian Art Space & Richard Horstman

 

 

 

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Aswino Aji’s artistic observations of the ego in the face of the Balinese culture

Artist Made Aswino Aji & "Doors of Perception" Image R. HorstmanBalinese contemporary artist Made Aswino Aji and his work “Doors of Perception”

 

An acute sense of observation is an essential talent for a contemporary artist. The ability to scrutinize and reflect on one’s own conduct and thoughts, along with that of the collective, is a doorway to art rich in meaning.

For more than a decade Balinese artist Made Aji Aswino has been an avid onlooker and critic of the human character and behavior, especially what he has witnessed within his own society. His sketches, paintings, sculptures and installations focus upon the pitfalls of the human ego.

Painting by Made Aswino Aji Image R Horstman                                   Painting by Made Aswino Aji

 

Initially his paintings were dark and moody depictions featuring a central figure with an elongated nose that made reference to the tale of Pinocchio. A fictional character and the protagonist of the children’s novel The Adventures of Pinocchio written in 1883 in Italy by Carlo Collodi, then brought to life in popular culture in the 1940’s by Walt Disney, the tale describes when the child, Pinocchio, tells a lie, his nose consequently grows. Aswino Aji utilizes Pinocchio as a metaphor for the human condition, because, says the artist, “We often tell lies, and bend the truth.”

During the landmark 2013 exhibition “Irony In Paradise” by the Balinese art collective Sanggar Dewata Indonesia (SDI) at Ubud’s Agung Rai Museum of Art, Aswino Aji exhibited an eye-catching and imaginative sculpture that was highly critical of his Balinese culture. He adopted the topic that had been the focus of his paintings and sketches, this, however, was his first thematic venture within the 3 dimensional form.

Made Aswino Aji, "Under the Shades 2", 2013, mixed media                             Under the Shade, 2013 – Made Aswino Aji

 

Under the Shade” featured the head of a Pinocchio like-figure carved from wood with a long nose extending out and upwards to form the pedestal for a Balinese religious ceremonial umbrella, which was positioned above his head. A controversial work, such direct criticisms of the local culture are rarely seen within Balinese art. When commenting about the work Aswino Aji said, “Many Balinese Hindu people live under the shade of their own culture while behaving contrary to its philosophies.”

In the most important international exhibition of Balinese contemporary art in 2016 that showcased the finest emerging talent of Bali, “Crossing: Beyond Baliseering, held in December at FortyFive Downstairs Gallery in Melbourne, Australia, Aswino Aji exhibited the monumental wood carving installation, “Doors of Perception”. Spanning four meters wide, by two and half meters high, his representation of a traditional doorway into a Balinese house created over a six-month period. It featured eerie figurines and faces of monsters that are his representations of the darker elements of the ego. Included also were some of the typical iconography to be found in traditional Balinese carvings.

Detail of "Doors of Perception" Made Aswino Aji. Photo R. Horstman                                 Detail of “Doors of Perception”

 

The vibrantly painted creatures adorned the work along with his Pinocchio character – a reflection on the pretensions and lies of everyday Balinese society the artist witnesses.The dynamic colours of the outside of the entrance represented varieties of ‘disorderly’ human personalities, while the inner side of “Doors of Perception” reflected life’s dualities, painted in subdued monochromes and representing the ‘peaceful’ personalities.

Ego Invasion”, 2018, Aswino Aji’s most recent installation is themed upon the candi (Balinese temple gates) and is a commissioned art work for Soundrenaline – Soul of Expression GWK Bali, 8-9 September 2018, a music and youth cultural event held at the GWK Cultural Park in Jimbaran. Created within a whirlwind one-month period at his studio, Aswino Aji employed wood carvers from his family in Silakarang village, Gianyar to help carve the icons and build the structure. With dimensions measuring over three meters high by three meters wide, one of the strengths of this work was in its design, engineered to be simply and quickly dismantled and reinstalled.

Detail of "Doors of Perception" Image R. Horstman                                   Detail of “Doors of Perception”

 

According to the Balinese Hindu belief system outside the temple the ego is free to be expressed with individual autonomy, once a person passes through the temple gates, however, the ego must be disciplined and restrained. This practice, according to the artist, is being ignored. “The ego can be our greatest enemy, or our dearest friend. In daily life man often plays with his ego, its dualities can be mutually supportive,” Aswino Aji says. “Sometimes the ego’s self righteousness dominates, while other times it remains hidden away. In my minds eye the ego is a monster – man is a monster!”

Born in 1977 in Silakarang, Aswino Aji is the son of the wood carver, renowned contemporary artist and gallerist Wayan Sika. Following in his father’s footsteps he studied fine art at ISI Yogyakarta, the Indonesian Institute of Art in Central Java, were he resided for five years. Aswino Aji has taken authentic motifs, patterns and forms from traditional architecture and sculpture and has presented them within the contemporary art realm, while making relevant social statements. In doing so he has made new inroads in Balinese woodcarving and an important contribution to the development of Balinese contemporary art.

"Ego Invasion" 2018 Made Aswino Aji. Photo R. Horstman                             “Ego Invasion”, 2018 – Made Aswino Aji

 

"Ego Invasion" 2018 Made Aswino Aji. Image R. Horstman                                   Detail of “Ego Invasion”

 

 

Words: Richard Horstman

Photos: Richard Horstman