Category Archives: Indonesian Art History

the Unsung Museum – highlighting issues challenging Indonesia’s on-going struggle for democracy

A miniture work "They Gave Evidence" by Dadang Christianto, collected by the Unsung Museum. Photo by Wirya Satya AdenatyaA miniature work “They Gave Evidence” by Dadang Christianto, collected by the Unsung Museum. Photo by Wirya Satya Adenatya

 

The Unsung Museum (Museum Tanpa Tanda Jasa) is a landmark, travelling exhibition that is currently crisscrossing the country and features miniature artworks that are big on cultural significance. The exhibition highlights the most important issues challenging Indonesia’s on going struggle for democracy since the nation’s colourful, fledgling journey began. These issues include tolerance of minority groups, along with ethnic, ideologically and religious diversity, and collective harmony.

Taking a series of chronologically banned, destroyed, removed or censored artworks the Unsung Museum displays them in scaled-down miniature versions of the real things. Accompanying these mini-masterpieces are news articles from the time, together with amusing parodied public reactions and news media video installations.

“Art is no stranger to controversy; throughout its history it has presented works that have irked the moral guardians of the day,” said Yogyakarta based curator Grace Samboh, one of many members of the Indonesian contemporary art community who have initiated the Unsung Museum in an event that characterizes the social conscience and synergy of some of the country’s most relevant and motivated artists and activists. “Sometimes to see why an artwork that is deemed controversial, we need to see it from a different perspective, and what better way is there than to see it in miniature.”

An audience member at ROH Projects, Jakarta during the Undsung Museum - Photo Credit: Wirya Satya Adenatya.An audience member at ROH Projects, Jakarta during the Undsung Museum – Photo Credit/ Wirya Satya Adenatya

Beginning September 2016 at Jakarta’s ROH Projects, for 3 weeks the exhibition set out to inform, not only citizens, yet members of the Indonesian art industry, of the relevance of these pressing issues. The exhibition was next showcased in Central Java, at Yogyakarta’s Kedai Kebun Forum from late October running into November, then opening in West Java, at Bandung’s Ruang Gerilya, 15 December until 7 January 2017.

“We are retelling stories of several artworks that were once considered a ‘public nuisance’ during the Reformation Era because of three recurring reasons related to pornography, communism and SARA (ethnic, religion, race and inter-group relations) by three elements of the society (citizens/individuals, mass organizations and government),” Samboh said. “Based on these assumptions, several artworks attracted a variety of problems ranging from threats, restrictions, and even destruction.”

The country with the largest Islamic population on the planet, with Christian, Buddhist and Hindu religious minorities, however, is currently undergoing its most turbulent and disruptive period. The recent 8 May controversy at the Indonesian Islamic University’s Center for Human Rights Studies in Yogyakarta with the banning of paintings and poetry by members of the youth organization Pemuda Pancasila who enforced the closure of artist Andreas Iswinarno’s exhibition, Tribute to Wiji Thukul: Saya Masih Utuh dan Kata-kata Belum Binasa (I’m still complete and words have not yet been destroyed) on suspicion the works contained communism ideas, highlights the urgency of the Unsung Museum.

IMG_5400 Kredit foto Wirya Satya AdenatyaAt ROH Projects, Jakarta during the Undsung Museum – Photo Credit/ Wirya Satya Adenatya

“Bearing in mind a number of concerns about the stability of (ideas within) democracy, as well as democratic behavior in today’s society, our main question is: What does democracy mean to each and every one of us today, as part of the society, as citizens, and as someone who works in the arts?” Samboh said reflecting on the inspiration behind the exhibition. “We have adopted the concept of a mobile museum for the exhibition due to its informative nature and educational aspects, as well as its openness to the public.”

The mini works collected by the Unsung Museum include versions of: ‘Pinkswing Park’, a walled photomontage by Agus Suwage and Davy Linggar, exhibited at the 2005 Jakarta CP Biennale, it was deemed to be blasphemous by Islamic fundamentalists FPI who forced the closure of public access to the work, while demanding prosecution of the artists, and They Gave Evidence exhibited in 2002 in Jakarta by Dadang Christanto, a major ceramic series of standing, naked figures, in their outstretched arms holding the remnants of burnings, drownings, beatings and other human mutilations, victims of oppression, social injustice and political violence.

Also collected are miniatures of a public artwork by Nyoman Nuarta that Islamic organizations protested against stating they were representational of Christian iconography and was consequently dismantled from its site in West Java in 2010. As well, an artwork by Galam Zulkifli that was removed in 2016 from the new Terminal 3 complex at the Soekarno-Hatta airport in Jakarta. Zulkifli’s enormous 200 x 600 cm painting includes iconic figures in the development of the Indonesian nation. Seri Ilusi # The INDONESIA IDEA was taken down in order to avoid a polemic on social media as one of the portraits in the painting featured DN Aidit, the former chairman of the Indonesian Communist Party.

An audience member during the opening of the Unsung Museum at ROH Projects, Jakarta - Photo Credit: Wirya Satya AdenatyaAn audience member during the opening of the Unsung Museum at ROH Projects, Jakarta – Photo Credit/ Wirya Satya Adenatya

“Within conversations surrounding these artworks, the conclusion is often misunderstanding,” Samboh explains. “The arts community considers the dismissal of these artworks were due to some people having misunderstood or failed to understand altogether. In fact, quite often the misunderstandings come not only from those who dismiss these artworks but also from the arts community itself.”

“The Unsung Museum is not an attempt to point out rights and wrongs. In light of democracy, we want to poke people’s awareness on equality of knowledge upon rights and obligations of the various elements in the arts community—within art disciplinary context.”

Along with Samboh the Unsung Museum is initiated by Aliansyah Chaniago, Fajar Abadi RDP, Jim Allen Abel, Julian Abraham ‘Togar’, Maryanto and Tamara Pertamina, while inviting other people, and aspires to continue inviting more people over time. “The Unsung Museum has already received strong public response,” Samboh said. “We are now compiling the feedback, and the topics are being discussed in the hope that we can publish a book on views of our recent democracy through the art publics’ perspective.”

“Our mission is to rekindle discussions about democracy in the Reformation Era with the arts community whilst not closing itself from the involvement of other members of the community.”

An audience member photographs part of the Unsung Museum- Photo by Wirya Satya Adenatya

The Unsung Museum is scheduled to continue in Medan, North Sumatra, and Makassar and Manado in Sulawesi early in 2018.

 

Words: Richard Horstman

Images: Wirya Satya Adenatya

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Celebrating Indonesian Modern Art: the Painting Collection of the Presidential Palace of the Republic of Indonesia – Senandang Ibu Pertiwi

headpic_orig                         The National Gallery of Indonesia, Jakarta

The 2016 inaugural presentation of the Painting Collection of the Presidential Palace of the Republic of Indonesia, 17/71, Goresan Juang Kemerdekaan (The Brushstrokes of the Independence Struggle),  2-30 August at the National Gallery of Indonesia, Jakarta, highlighted the relevance of art and culture to the nation. Officially opened on 17th August by the current Indonesian President Joko Widodo, on the 71st anniversary of the proclamation of independence, the exhibition featured 28 paintings from the collection of over 3000 works assembled by Indonesia’s founding father President Sukarno.

It  featured scenes of the independence struggle by Indonesian maestros such as Affandi, Sudjojono and Raden Saleh alongside pictures of iconic Indonesia by painters such as Srihadi, Rudolf Bonnet and Walter Spies. The painting collection hangs in all six of the Presidential Palaces in Java and Bali.

20170811_135559          Nyi Roro Kidul (Queen of the South Seas) 1950 – Basoeki Abdullah

20170811_140437                         Lelang Ikan (Fish Auction) – Itji Tarmizi

Following on from last year’s historic event which attracted over 30,000 visitors to the National Gallery, the second edition: Senandang Ibu Pertiwi (Songs of the Mother Land) open 2 -30 August as part of the 72nd anniversary celebrations of Indonesian independence. It showcased 48 works by 44  artists from the 19th and 20th centuries with a variety of themes including landscapes, tradition, mythology and religion.

The son of an aristocratic Javanese schoolteacher and his high caste Balinese wife Sukarno was born in Surabaya, East Java, in 1901. From 1921-26 he studied at the Institute of Technology in Bandung,  West Java, graduating as an engineer, focusing on architecture. As the founding father and first President of the Republic of Indonesia, a position retained for almost 21 years, Sukarno was responsible for transforming the physical landscape of the capital city of Jakarta with public art.

1_2_orig“Pribite Nevesti” a painting that depicts a traditional Russian wedding by Russian artist Egorovick Makowsky.

Sukarno was an art lover and a great supporter of Indonesian modern art and Balinese traditional art amassing huge collections. While he enjoyed close relationships with many  artists he was also a talented painter. During his presidencey art was seen as a tool to help build the spirit and character of the nation.

Pribite Nevesti is the first painting that greets visitors upon entry into the foyer of the National Gallery. Painted by Russian artist Egorovick Makowsky (1839-1915) it is believed to be more than 125 years old, and depicts traditional Russian wedding. The painting was given to Sukarno as a gift during his visit to Russia by the leader of the Soviet Union, Nikita Khrushchev. It was exhibited at the Kremlin in Moscow before being brought to the Bogor State Palace in West Java and put on display.

A01_DSCN4907 CRW_9464_Basoeki Abdullah_Pemandangan Flores        Pantai Flores (On the Shores of Flores Island) 1942 – Basoeki Abdullah

20170811_140513              Keluarga Nelayan (Fisherman’s Family) 1950 – Renato Cristiano

Entering the display room the first theme is Nature’s Diversity and features a  variety of  landscape paintings, twelve in number, that immortalize the dramtic and beautiful scenary of Indonesia.  One of the highlights is Pantai Flores (On the Shores of Flores Island) 1942, by Basoeki Abdullah, the painting was originally a watercolor on paper by Sukarno, that was replicated into an oil on canvas work on request by Sukarno. The scene of the beautiful Flores landscape was captured  while he was exiled on the remote Ende Island between 1934 – 38 , sentenced by the Dutch East Indies Colonial Government.

Another highlight was Harimau Minum (Drinking Tiger) 1863 by the father of Javanese modernism Raden Saleh (1811-1880) who after living in Europe for 20 years studying with various european artist, became a portrait painter for the aristracy. The painting portrays a mystical atmosphere that is rich in symbolism and depicts a tiger drinking from a river.

20170909_100327                 Harimau Minum (Drinking Tiger) 1863 – Raden Saleh

20170811_110652                 Works dispalyed within the theme of Nature’s Diversity

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The collection of works themed Mythology and Religion offer insights into the historic and cultural influences that have evolved throughout the country over the centuries helping to define Indonesia.

According Senandang Ibu Pertiwi  curators Asikin Hasan, Amir Sidharta, Mikke Susanto and Sally Texania, the exhibtion catalogue: “The archipelago is not only a region that has numerous myths containing mystical and anthropological values, but also a locus that has created elements appropriated by almost all of the major religions in the world. The major kingdoms that prospered in Java, Sumatra, and other large islands are a melting pot for teachings whose artefacts we can still find today.”

Arguably the most iconic painting  within the mythology theme is Nyi Roro Kidul (Queen of the South Seas) 1950 by Basoeki Abdullah, a story that is often described in paintings. In Yogyakarta, there is a widely known story about Nyi Roro Kidul, who is depicted as a beautiful woman and ruler of the South Coast and seas. The myth describes that Kidul is found of the colour green, so the local people and careful not to wear this colour when they venture out into the southern ocean for fear of being taken by the Queen of the South Seas.

20170811_135321                       Offering to the Gods – Gusti Ketut Kobot

20170811_140233                                         Theo Meier

20170811_135453                                   Ida Bagus Made Poleng

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Words & Images: Richard Horstman

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gunarsa(DK)

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

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

Sketch in black ink- Gunarsa

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

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

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

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Words: Richard Horstman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nuarta & GWK’s Mission for World Peace

gwk-nuarta-visnu-statue-image-richard-horstman             Vishnu Under Construction at Nuarta’s Bandung Studio

 

During the past few years an unusual eyesore has slowly grown upon Bali’s Pecatu Bukit peninsula landscape, a massive concrete and steel foundation that now projects up over 80 meters into the sky.

Straddled by an enormous crane, the unlikely structure will be the pedestal for an icon of unprecedented proportions, that according to its creator, Balinese sculptor Nyoman Nuarta, represents the cultural identity and character of the Balinese and Indonesian people, while embodying Indonesia’s longing to contribute something of significance to the global community.

Yet this landmark project by the award-winning sculptor, responsible for numerous monumental public artworks throughout Indonesia and abroad, including the “Arjuna Wijaya” statue in Jakarta’s main avenue, has evolved beyond any expectations to be the most challenging of his illustrious career.

DCIM100MEDIADJI_0012.JPGThe Enormous Pedestal for Nuarta’s Garuda Wisnu Statue at GWK Cultural Park, Jimbaran

 

“Along with big dreams, will come big challenges,” Nuarta said, about upon his visionary artistic project; the GWK Cultural Park, and the trials he has encountered during the process of realisation over the last 25 years. “Despite the years of delays this project has taught me to be patient and to never give up on my dreams.”

“The GWK idea first came to mind in the late 1980’s,” recalls Nuarta, who was born in Tabanan in 1951 and left Bali upon graduating from high school for West Java to study sculpture at Bandung’s ITB. “Its development has had to sustain the paralyzing effects of a political regime change, a nationwide financial crisis, conflicts within the project’s management structures, and more.”

“Cultural heritage alone will not sustain the Bali tourism industry. We need a place where our heritage can be both protected and also be developed,” said Nuarta, aware of the distinctive creative potential of Bali and the future possibilities of contributing something completely different to the sphere of global art.

construction-of-gwk-statue-at-nuartas-studio-bandung-image-pt-siluet-nuarta                             Nuarta’s Team at work in Bandung

“Bali is always welcoming to new cultures and artistic expressions from around the world. I envision GWK Cultural Park to be a place where Balinese thinkers and artists could showcase their works and have creative dialogue with their counterparts from across the globe.”

“The concept also includes the GWK World Cultural Forum, with its goal to introduce different cultures of the world through our mission to educate people to become more understanding towards other cultures,” Nuarta said. “In the end our objective is world peace.”

Set upon a 60-hectare limestone escarpment the GWK Cultural Park, owned by the public company PT. Alam Sutra with an 18% shared controlled by the PT. Bali Tourism Development corporation, first began construction in 1996. It’s concept was devised by the GWK Foundation that was headed by two ministers of the then Suharto government, Nuarta and a few individuals and businessmen close to President Suharto. Nuarta was then commissioned by Suharto to build a giant statue at GWK of the Hindu God Wisnu perched upon the back of his sacred cosmic vehicle, the mythical Garuda bird.

gwk-sculpture-installation-image-pt-siluet-nuarta                Nuarta’s Team at Work at GWK Cultural Park, Jimbaran

The 75-meter-high Garuda Wisnu statue, with a wingspan of 64 meters is made of copper and brass sheeting, stainless steel framework and skeleton, and is being constructed by PT Siluet Nyoman Nuarta, with its 200 personnel from various academic and cultural backgrounds, in Nuarta’s Bandung workshop. The sculptures outer skins, measuring 22,000 square meters, and the stainless steel framework are to be cut into 700 components and then transported overland by 400 individual truck journeys to Bali.

On location the statue will be forged together then mounted on the pedestal, the total height of the finished monument will be 126 meters, 30 meters taller than America’s Statue of Liberty, while its volume will be 11 times greater.

“I use the image of Garuda and Wisnu as a symbol of courage and loyalty. Wisnu is responsible for cosmic balance and harmony of all life.” The statue, Nuarta said, “Symbolizes a universal calling to all global citizens to play their part in nurturing and protecting the Earth.”

the-groundbreaking-ceremony-at-gwk-23rd-augustThe Ground Breaking Ceremony at GWK Cultural Park, Initiating the Start of Construction

Nuarta’s prominence as a sculptor began shortly before graduating from ITB, after winning the Indonesia’s Proclamator’s Monument competition in 1979. He was then appointed by the committee to build a statue of the nation’s founding father Soekarno. In 1977 he had joined  the revolutionary “Gerakan Seni Rupa Baru Indonesia” (the Indonesian New Art Movement) regularly participating in their collective’s exhibitions.

Having grown up close to nature Nuarta learned the importance of guarding the harmonious relationship between man and the creator, humanity with nature, and the relationships among mankind themselves. His artworks often reflect this important Balinese Hindu philosophy of Tri Hita Karana.

After a 16 year delay in August 2013 another chapter in the GWK statue’s construction began, then early in 2015 the pedestal’s erection ground to a halt. This year, however it has witnessed steady development, with the statue expected to be completed by 2018. When completed GWK Cultural Park will include a museum built within the pedestal, a cultural park and integrated tourism facilities.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Garuda Wisnu Statue Under Construction at Nuarta’s Bandung Studio

Words: Richard Horstman

Images: PT Siluet Nyoman Nuarta

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wayan Karja: From a ‘Young Artist’ to Balinese Visionary

p21iwayan-img_assist_custom-511x337                                                       Wayan Karja

Within every Balinese village there is a tale or two to be told.

The association between the master and pupil has played a vital role in the development of Balinese traditional art. The bonds amid teacher and student, father and son, or among relatives have enabled the sharing of ideas, support and tuition. Such relationships helped categorize Balinese art by village styles or ‘schools’.

In the late1920’s – 30’s, Balinese art was being revolutionized and adapted for foreign tastes. The two-dimensional Hindu narratives, Kamasan or Wayang paintings met head on with western aesthetics and the results were dramatic. The development of tourism created large markets for these new paintings, and localized schools of art, such as the Ubud, Sanur and Batuan schools, came to the fore.

20160804_184737                                                “Cosmic Energy 2016”

Fast forward to 1959 when Arie Smit, an accomplished Dutch artist living in Penestanan began sharing art materials with, and teaching young boys in the village. This was the beginning of the “Young Artists” style, and at its height there was about 300 village practitioners. Colorful and fresh, it was very popular in the 1970’s as tourism was enjoying a revival. Penestanan has a distinctive artistic history of its own.

This tale however, is about a painter, art educator and administrator from the village who has succeeded in creating a unique artistic voice within the framework of Balinese modern art.

Wayan Karja’s earliest memories are of sitting in his father’s lap with a paintbrush in hand.

“My father often guided my hand through sketches or marked areas within a composition that I would fill in with color,” Karja says. “I was very lucky to grow up in a thriving art environment, every member of my family within the compound was painting, even the women too. This intense activity was inspirational.”

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Born in Penestanan in 1965 Karja’s natural ability and birthright automatically sealed his fate. Determined to learn more about art he received a wealth of local and international art education. Karja studied in Switzerland in 2008-11 painting abstract landscapes, while in 1997-99 he undertook an art scholarship at the University of South Florida, USA. At the School of Fine Arts, Denpasar, 1981-85 he broadened his knowledge of art theory and international art, and then at the Udayana University in Denpasar, 1985-1990 delved into impressionism and abstraction, and was inspired by Monet, Van Gogh and Matisse.

From 1978-81 Karja studied the Ubud style learning about light, shade and the anatomy. As a child he was introduced to the master pupil association and trained for many years under the watchful eye of his father Ketut Santra who gave him his indoctrination into the “Young Artist” style. “There were no galleries at that time so the buyers came direct to the artist’s home. At the age of 10 I sold my first painting,” Karja recalls.

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In 1994 upon visiting a museum in Switzerland Karja had his most profound art experience. One that began his love affair with modern art. He observed a pure red composition by the American abstract painter Mark Rothko.

“Is this what they call art?” Was Karja’s cynical response.

Yet by the time Karja had completed his tour of the museum the significance of the work was understood. Rothko’s work leapt out from the walls and “spoke” to him unlike any other artist had previously done. Rarely had an Indonesian artist adopted color as their sole message, least of all the Balinese.

“Balinese art is about tight configurations of patterns, details and narratives yet I was always driven to search into its philosophies.” Karja’s journey eventually led him to a deep exploration of cross-cultural thinking and he began combining the philosophy of the Balinese Hindu Mandala colors with modern western techniques. Karja’s initial response to the colors and movement of his environment (landscape and culture) had been based on emotion, yet the impact of Rothko and other western painters demanded from him a new sense of selfexpression.

“Balinese abstraction developed in the 1970’s yet it was different to the western model. Most of our creations are deeply rooted in traditions including icons, symbolic and non-symbolic elements, as well as philosophical and spiritual aspects of the Balinese way of life.” Karja’s direction evolved through intellectual endeavor, “Allowing my work to become simpler and more spiritual,” Karja says.

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Karja’s technique involves building layers of color, often in drips and with the use of watered down medium often creating swirling and dynamic organic forms. The works may be subtle and shimmering, or powerfully vibrant. They are always inviting, meditative and mysterious, creating aesthetic contrasts between the landscape and the cosmos.

“There is no separation between art and life,” Karja says. “Life is color and my physical and spiritual journey is to become an accomplished colorist painter.”

His contribution, via teaching, to the development of Balinese art has been substantial. Karja began in 1990 at the School of Fine Arts in Ubud and then at the Indonesian Institute of the Arts (ISI) in Denpasar where he continues teaching to this day. Over the years he has taught locally and abroad holding various positions, from 2002-04 as head of the Fine Arts Dept., Indonesian College of the Arts (STSI), Denpasar and from 2004-08 as the Dean of the Visual Arts Department at ISI.

“I enjoyed and benefited from this experience,” he says. “However being an administrator took me away from my artistic dreams.”

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Karja has exhibited in many international countries and frequently travels locally and abroad giving lectures, speeches and engaging in collaborative projects. At his family’s guesthouse Santra Putra in Penestanan is his gallery and studio, along with a space open to the public for workshops and events, where he teaches tourists and often hosts exhibitions by young local artists.

“Journey to the Unknown” Karja’s March 2015 exhibition in Jakarta showcased 42 paintings created between 2010-15 was an outstanding success. “The audience’s response was excellent, nonetheless I experienced an unexpected sense of liberation. I realized to complete a procession from childhood through to adulthood, my transition from a world of freedom to one dominated by mental activity, in order to sustain my creative journey I have to return to a childlike state.”

“I have now opened a new door with the motto – play, flow and free. I am invigorated and my works reflect a new joy,” Karja says.

“Now I am learning how to play again.”

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http://www.wayankarja.com

Words: Richard Horstman

 

 

Opening Doors On Indonesian Art History Discourse – YOS 2016

20161022_163626Leading Indonesian artist Entang Wiharso shares with the audience about his creative journey at Black Goat Studio during the YOS 2016 Focus Tours.

 

As a platform for dialogue and collaboration the annual Yogyakarta Open Studio (YOS) program supports the development of new knowledge and documentation on contemporary art studio practice. It provides the public and arts community with exposure to an array of artists working in a variety of fields at various stages in their career.

Artist studios’ are essential sites of engagement revealing details of the creative practice that cannot be seen elsewhere. They give insight into an artist’s environment and state of mind, highlights with whom they interact and their strategic approaches to developing their careers. Beginning in 2013, each year Yogyakarta based artists are invited to open their studios while examining a specific theme. YOS 2016’s theme is “Artists Engagement With Art History”.

20161021_120624Lugis Studio, the creative hub and printing making facility of artists Muhlis Lugi open to the public during YOS 2016.

 

As the study of the development of the visual arts, art history involves understanding the social, political, and intellectual context of art in relation to its cultural origins. Art historians attempt to answer in historically specific ways questions that relate to style, meaning, visual and discursive function, and artistic practices.

“Indonesian art is fully part of the global art scene, so its historical analysis – its development and writing – are more pressing than ever before,” said YOS Director Christine Cocca.

“We selected art history as this year’s theme because of the pivotal, but perhaps neglected position it has in Indonesian art discourse.”

“YOS 2016 wishes to jump-start the conversation about qualification and look at how aspiring Indonesia art historians go about gaining the education they need in a country that still doesn’t offer a degree in art history,” she adds.

20161022_133106Australian artist Sally Smart describes some of her creative processes with the audience at Studio Sally Smart during the YOS 2016 Focus Tours.

 

Running 19 -23 October YOS 2016 collaborates with a group of local and international art historians whose work engages with Indonesian contemporary art. An essential element aligning artist, practice, thought and audience, a series of expert led Focus Tours giving visitors the opportunity for in-depth discussions about the artists’ work and studio practice is offered 22 & 23 October from 1-5 pm.

Participating art historians are Agus Burhan and Suwarno Wisetrotomo from Yogyakarta, Leonor Veiga, Portugal, Mary-Louise Totton, USA, Amanda Katherine Rath, Germany, Wulan Dirgantoro and Astrid Honold both based in Germany and Indonesia. Together they have developed a series of interviews with participating studios exploring artists’ engagement with the production, function and impact of the discipline on their practice. Seventeen artist’s studios situated around Yogyakarta will be open during YOS 2016.

“Indonesia has an extensive art historical record, but little art historical discourse is being done,” said Leonor Veiga, a PhD candidate at Leiden University whose dissertation The Third Avant-Garde: Recalling Tradition in Contemporary Southeast Asian Art analyses how contemporary art practices negotiate traditional arts in the region.

“Curators work reaches more artists than work of art historians which is problematic, leading to artists being cultural orphans with little understanding where their work may fit in art historical terms,” Veiga adds. “Grassroots initiatives like YOS 2016 create space for debate, and contribute to open discussions about essential issues.”

20161021_210858Suwarno Wisetromo, Entang Wiharso, Heri Dono, Fendry Ekel and Mikke Sustanto engaged in discussions on issues concerning Indonesian Art history at RJ Katamsi Galeri, ISI Yogakarta as a part of the YOS 2016 program.

 

“Through YOS artist’s studios became more alive and accessible; far from the image of mysterious,” said Suwarno Wisetromo, a professor in the Faculty of Fine Arts at the Indonesian Institute of the Arts (ISI) Yogyakara, and curator at the National Gallery of Indonesia, who pursed his PhD in History with a focus on art to try and achieve comparable qualifications.

“Participating studios have to work together with historians, conduct research and create relevant works. The artists are challenged to become the initiator. Providing an alternative ‘space’ and ‘approach’ to existing events such as the Jogja Bienale, Art Jog, and gallery exhibitions that are outside of curatorial and commercial platforms makes YOS significant, ”Suwarno adds.

Reflecting on sustainability Astrid Honold, who divides her time between Berlin and Yogyakarta said, “As a young country, Indonesia, very understandably has other priorities. Art, in a way, as important and existential as it might be, is a luxurious occupation. Other things come first. But then you get the market which thinks you can just jump over centuries of development of thought. Well you cannot.”

20161020_161205Open to the public during YOS 2016, Studio Jumaldi Alfi, featuring the work of well-known Indonesian international artist Jumaldi Alfi.

 

“I am excited to be participating in YOS 2016,” said Heri Dono, the founder of the Kalahan Studio and one of Indonesia’s most prominent international names. “YOS is important to the development of contemporary art in Yogyakarta.”

“Our priority is to examine issues in the art world through the artist’s eyes and experiences. Importantly, YOS lets the artists set the terms,” Cocca adds. Complete with online information, maps, and a program of expert guided studio tours YOS not only supports the development of art and cultural tourism in Yogyakarta, yet the Indonesian creative economies sector as well.

Participating artists include Endang Lestari, Sujud Dartanto, Entang Wiharso, Theresia Agustina Sitompul, Nia Fliam, Agus Ismoyo, Fendry Ekel, Deni Rahman, Lenny Ratnasari Weichert, Ivan Sagita, Komroden Haro, Lugas Syllabus, Noor Ibrahim, Eddi Prabandono, Sally Smart, Heri Dono, Jumaldi Alfi, Muhlis Lugis and Desrat Fianda.

yos-discussion-at-studio-kalahan-heri-dono-image-courtesy-yos-2016YOS Director Christine Cocca and Heri Dono giving an art presentation, a pre YOS 2016 event at Dono’s Kalahan Studios. Image courtesy YOS.

http://www.yogyakartaopenstudio.com

 

Words & Images: Richard Horstman