Category Archives: Indonesian Contemporary Art

Citra Sasmita captures the Indonesian contemporary art spotlight

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

12697353_896845307096369_7827360737894318145_o                              Birth of Nothingness – Citra Sasmita


Words: Richard Horstman

Images: Citra Sasmita & Richard Horstman


Art eccentric – Ida Bagus Alit

Ida Bagus Alit                             The effervescent Ida Bagus Alit


The art world adores eccentric characters.

Lurking beneath the exterior of Balinese artist Ida Bagus Alits’ wacky persona is, however, a highly practical, compassionate and intelligent man. These traits meld into an effervescent personality that enchants everyone he meets.

Within the Balinese art world Gus Alit, as he is affectionately known, is a popular and unique figure; painter, sculptor, photographer, event organizer and art collective leader. A member of a well-known Brahmin high caste family in Denpasar, there is an aristocratic air about him, especially when attired in traditional costume and sporting his suave reading glasses. Yet one is not to be intimidated or coy within his presence, Gus Alit is as playful, and as friendly as a kitten.

Gus Alit’s passion for photography has drawn him along two distinctive paths. He is dedicated to documenting Balinese religious ceremonies around the island, capturing rare events, and the unique traditional costumes that characterize separate villages.  He does, however love to experiment with painting techniques upon printed images on canvas, striving to achieve new aesthetic results with his art photography.

Ida Bagus Alit, "No Doubt" 2014.                                No Doubt – Ida Bagus Alit

Grinning happily as he reveals images captured on his iPhone, his ever-ready pocket camera, Gus Alit explains one of the “secrets” of his photographic technique. The photos are of young Balinese women clad in traditional dress, glamorous and alluring – the iconic image of Balinese feminine beauty.

“At first they are shy, some even refuse to be photographed,” he says referring to his initial meetings with the models. “Yet I always win them over with a joke and my humor quickly sets them at ease.”   His photos recount the process of their transition from being restrained and rigid, to being relaxed and glowing in front of the camera. “Its important to make your models feel comfortable in order to capture and allow their inner beauty to shine.”

27797357_1905610429450254_2276016392130748197_o                              The Beautiful Balinese – Ida Bagus Alit

There are often visitors to Griya Satria Art House, Gus Alit’s family’s home on Jalan Veteran, opposite the bird market in Denpasar. They may be friends, family, or new acquaintances, locals and foreigners, all curious to see the collection of art on display set in lush tropical gardens while being enhanced by traditional Balinese architecture.   Recently more and more young couples, brides and grooms in traditional costume, stop by to be photographed by professional photographers, surrounded by Gus Alit’s unusual paintings and sculptures. The consequences are unique momentos that they surely will look back on with pride.

“This is a new era in photography,” Gus Alit says with a cheeky smile stretching from ear to ear.“ They now go from the Bali museum to Griya Satria Art House for their wedding photos.”

Of course Gus Alit jumps into the action and captures the couples in all their glory, as well. Often he will print the photo onto canvas then paint the background in his flamboyant style. If the subject is a friend he may gift them with the work, however many of his subjects upon seeing his creations, request to buy these unique images directly from him.

Ida Bagus Alit, "Friendship" 2011, acrylic on canvas                                   Friendship – Ida Bagus Alit

“What is important is not to copy,” exclaims Gus Alit. “True art must come from the heart.”

As the long serving president of B.I.A.S.A (Bali Indonesia Sculptors Association), he is a driving force in the promotion and preservation of traditional woodcarving, and contemporary sculpture in Bali. I question Gus Alit on the value of art collectives in Bali, which he believes are essential to the development of local art.

“As individuals or groups its important to know our strengths and weaknesses. Through this we will learn the ways and methods to move ahead. Learning is life long education,” he states with a wisdom that almost belies his jovial character. “As the head of B.I.A.S.A I take the time to visit each of the members and discuss with them their challenges and I help to provide solutions. B.I.A.S.A is like a big family to me.” Gus Alit is well versed in the concept of leadership with the heart.


IMGP4843                                Sculpture by Ida Bagus Alit

Abstract and figurative wood cravings are a fusion of the rich natural rhythms of the timber intertwined with faces and figures. Although they are not always be beautiful, Gus Alit introduces imaginative possibilities, while adhering to a yin/yang theme. Some of his sculptures he paints in an outrageous manner that none dare to copy.

While contemplating his paintings the observer may wonder what on earth are these creations! Are they the musings of a complete oddball? His large compositions, some canvases measuring over 4 meters in width, each, however, have themes taken from his culture, for example Tri Hita Kirana, the Balinese philosophy of three fold harmony between man, nature and the gods.

Gus Alit’s paintings are as eccentric as is his personality. A fusion of bright colors, figures and forms, they are both surrealistic and dynamic at once. Adaptations from the Wayang Kulit shadow puppet-theater and traditional masks, his figures and faces have evolved into quirky, other worldly creatures. Akin to galactic landscapes that flow across the canvas his compositions express humor while accentuating that art should be fun to create.

IMGP4842                             Painting by Ida Bagus Alit

“To be a real artist you have to be free and strive to create your own works under your own responsibility.”

His C.V lists the exhibitions he has participated in over the past 40 years, numbering well over one hundred. Born in Denpasar 1947, Gus Alit’s works have been displayed in many countries, while his buyers come from every corner of the planet. In 2006 he participated in an artist in residency program, as well as having a solo exhibition at the Vermont Studio Center, USA. A self-taught artist, who regularly travels abroad, his initial childhood inspiration has come from studying his artist father, Ida Bagus Agung.

Watching him chiseling away at a carving, with an eye for detail, while being the picture of focus and determination, his wiry hands and arms are powerful, yet sensitive as well. Gus Alit values the virtues and importance of art and culture above himself, is an asset to the island, and a proud ambassador of the Balinese arts.

IMGP4855                                 Sketches by Ida Bagus Alit

Gus Alit welcomes visitors at Griya Satria Art House,Jalan Veteran, opposite the bird market in Denpasar.


Words: Richard Horstman

Images: Ida Bagus Alit, Monika Kiraly & Richard Horstman





Indonesian artist Ichwan Noor’s Abu Dhabi F1 exposé

Noor's works received large local and international media exposure. Image courtesy I. NoorInternational media shooting in front of Noor’s Beetle Sphere at the 2017 Formula One Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, held at the Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, 23-26 November, 2017.


Reaching out to new audiences, across diverse sectors of the society to attract greater appreciation and acceptance of art is an ongoing process for artists, and the art industry. In recent years the Indonesian contemporary art world has held successful events merging with the fashion and design worlds, gaining increased exposure and popularity for the leading brands, including fairs, galleries and the artists themselves.

Yogyakarta based artist Ichwan Noor, recently, had a unique opportunity to capture the attention of a perhaps an unlikely sector of the public – the international Formula One racing industry and F1 fans. He exhibited three of his sculptures at the 2017 Formula One Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, held at the Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, 23-26 November.

Upon invitation from the Yas Marina Circuit Noor exhibited three of his iconic works, inspired by the motor vehicle, in Art@Yas, a side program conducted at the main grandstand during the Middle East’s biggest international event. The final race of the 2017 calendar attracted a crowd of over 60,000 people. Noor’s creations enthralled the local and international audience, many of whom were amazed to see the classic, arguably the most recognizable four-wheeler on the planet, breathtakingly transformed.

Ichwan Noor's three works at Art@Yas, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates - Image I. Noor                         Noor’s works at the Yas Marina Circuit

Caste in aluminum, featuring original auto parts of the VW beetle, 180cm in diameter, Beetle Sphere, colored black, and Beetle Sphere, colored grey are a continuation of an on going series the artist began in 2011. First exhibited internationally at Art Basel Hong Kong 2013, the works feature the 1953 Volkswagen Beetle reconfigured in a variety of new shapes, including cubes and spheres. The Beetle Sphere features in the collections of several major national and private institutions in Indonesia, Australia (National Gallery of  Victoria), Germany, China, Turkey, U.S.A., Sweden and India. Noor’s third work, Got Wood, 2017, 495 x 180 x 150 cm, is a to scale replica of a F1 racing car constructed from scraps of mahogany and teak wood.

According to Noor’s artist statement, “The idea behind my sculptures emerged from a insight towards objects that are products of a ‘transportation culture’, which induce signs of spiritual emotion – to behold a vehicle is to have a ‘magical’ or supernatural identity. By combining the techniques of manipulation and substitution, the sculptures form tends towards a realistic distortion allowing fresh interpretations about the object, and a shift in observation creating associative meanings.”

“The VW is familiar to almost everybody across the globe, no matter their age or social status. I see the VW Beetle as one of the most successful designs,” said the artist who graduated from the School of Visual Art at the Indonesia Institute of the Arts (ISI), Yogyakarta, and is a Professor of Fine Arts at the University of Yogyakarta.

F1 fans enjoy Noor's "Got Wood" a wooden replica of a F1 racing car            F1 fans enjoy Noor’s “Got Wood” a wooden replica of a F1 racing car

The works creation process involves Noor first making a polyurethane mould of a genuine Beetle carving a spherical polyurethane replica of the vehicle’s body and then casting it in aluminum. A separate spherical interior is produced and fitted to the cast exterior. The sculpture is then painted, fitted with acrylic windows and genuine trim pieces including lights, wheels and tyres.

Got Wood, (also called boyhood, manliness, or manhood) the artist said, “represents a set of traits, mannerisms, and characteristics associated with boys and men. Speed is an captivating symbol for some men who have great courage, while being a symbol of masculinity for strength, competition, courage and adventure.”

“As we all know, the Indonesian art infrastructure is still fragile so I try to take advantage of existing global infrastructure. With a limited local and world art markets it is important that artists interact with people beyond the artworld and exhibit in public spaces outside of the current gallery and museum system in order to make breakthroughts into new markets and art colections,” said the artist who was born in Jakarta in 1964, and is renowned for his large-scale sculptures of hybrid human, animal and technological forms, working with bronze, stainless steel, aluminum, various used materials and resin.


The Middle East is no longer foreign to modern art with a lot of modern art being purchaseded by collectors from the region. In the world of contemporary art collections, however, collectors from this region are still lagging behind collectors from Asia. “For me the most important thing is to create a new art map outside of the map that is understood by Indonesian artists. Professionalism, of course, within the globalized art world is a necessity.”

“There is a serious and massive effort from the UAE to participate in the flow of the contemporary art world, which is directly related to their strategy that to raise the prestige of their country. This certainly will create many opportunities for Indonesian artists,” Noor adds, and suggests, “ artists should take the littlest of opportunities of getting involved in the global art infrastructure, and anything goes is a most appropriate expression for contemporary art works that we can take on the positive side.”


Words: Richard Horstman

Images Courtesy: IchwanNoor







Upcoming exhibition highlights the collaborations between contemporary artists and inmates of Bali prison

Inmates involved in art workshops at Klungkung jail. - Image Mary Lou Pavlovic              Inmates participating in art making workshop at Klungkung jail.


In early April this year Australian contemporary artist, Mary Lou Pavlovic, was advised by the apexart gallery New York that the proposal she’d written in response to their open call Apex Franchise Exhibition, offering four funded exhibition opportunities, had been successful. Pavlovic ranked third out of almost four hundred proposals from sixty-one countries. Over 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.

Apexart is a non-profit arts organization in Lower Manhattan, NYC, funded in part by the Andy Warhol Foundation, that offers opportunities to independent curators and emerging and established artists, and challenges ideas about art, its practice, and its curation.

“I received an email advising me to contact the apexart Director, Steven Rand, who said he had good news,” Pavlovic said.   “So I thought I’d better call Apex and tell them of a hoax someone was running about them. Then, when I called, to my surprise, they confirmed that I had been selected, and that it wasn’t a hoax at all!”

From 2012-16, when in Bali, Pavlovic had been a regular visitor to inmates inside Balinese jails where she had witnessed the humanitarian benefits of art programs. “Prisoner’s lives are placed on hold and their space confined to the parameters of a prison. I realized, although prisoners couldn’t physically move very far, they could travel great distances with their imaginations by participating in arts activities,” said the artist who lives and works between Bali, and Mittagong, Australia, and completed a PhD at Monash University, Melbourne.

Inmates artworks - flowers and berries set in resin.Image Mary Lou Pavlovicjpg

“Inmates could also learn valuable skills and undertake enjoyable activities to relieve the daily monotony of prison life.”

Pavlovic was also aware that practically universally a function of modern prisons is to hide prisoners away from the rest of society. An exhibition involving prisoners and artists, she thought, would help to break down this barrier. It would allow the public an opportunity to reflect on their own perceptions of prisoners and prisons, along with the prisoners the opportunity to be seen in the role of artistic producers, rather than solely as criminals, and of little value to society.

The upcoming exhibition, organized and curated by Pavlovic, Dipping in the Kool Aid, (American jail slang for entering uninvited into a conversation) will be held at the Tony Raka Art Gallery, in Ubud, Bali, in 4 – 31 March 2018. The show will feature the artworks of prisoners, artworks produced from workshops given by contemporary artists in the Bali prisons, and independently produced studio works by some of the invited artists relating to aspects of prison and the incarceration system.

Pavlovic is interested in taking the exhibition beyond a community type art show in which members of a social group are asked to express themselves through art, and the therapeutic benefits of that process becomes the exhibition theme. “Exhibitions displaying prisoners artworks are common, but I think that if our project’s aim was only to display prisoner’s artworks, regardless of their artistic capabilities, then professional artists may not need to be involved at all,” she said.

Inmates at Klungkung jail art making. Image courtesy M.L. Pavlovic                                    Inmates at Klungkung jail art making

“There are so many highly capable creative people in jails, and so I thought that a more interesting and challenging way to address the exhibition, than a straightforward community art show, would be through a type of artistic laboratory in which the artists and prisoners skills are equally valued.”

With these ideas in mind, Pavlovic invited foreign international artists and Indonesian artists to give a range of workshops predominantly in the Klungkung Prison, East Bali. The workshops began in August, continuing on until March 2018 prior to the exhibition. East Javanese artist Djunaidi Kenyut conducts workshops inviting inmates to etch their own portraits onto postcard size mirrors. The prisoners become active agents in shaping his idea, and the overall work. The outcomes are ghostly etchings with viewers reflected in them.

“In the Klungkung prison there are about 100 inmates of which there is one person who is very enthusiastic to participate in the workshops, and there are others who like to join in. But I am very happy to witness their passion to know and learn to try new activities such as drawing,” Kenyut said.

Pavlovic provides lectures for women inmates involving embedding living things, like flowers leaves and berries in resin, to preserve life. At the prisoner’s request the group have incorporated butterflies, yet as the program continues the prisoners will incorporate items into their works that are important to them, such as family photos.

Other workshops conducted include East Javanese artist Imam Sucahyo who is posting drawings to inmates requesting their input, and Australian contemporary sculptor Rodney Glick, who has invited prisoners to his cafe, Seniman, at the Tony Raka Art Gallery, for work experience and to learn about art.


Glick said, the Seniman coffee ethos is to create happiness. “What better way for people who crave freedom than to work a little and enjoy a coffee on the outside!” Other artists included in the upcoming exhibition are internationally renowned Indonesian artists Agung Mangu Putra and Angki Purbandono, along with the Prison Art Program founding members, and Elizabeth Gower, Alannah Russack and Pavlovic.


Dipping in the Kool Aid

Upcoming 3 – 21 March 2018

Tony Raka Art Gallery, Mas, Ubud


Words: Richard Horstman

Images: Mary Lou Pavlovic





Bruce Carpenter: presenting Indonesian art & culture to the world

BruceC-2a                                                          Bruce Carpenter


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

127446                                 Indonesian Tribal Art – Bruce W. Carpenter


Words: Richard Horstman


the 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
















DENPASAR2017 – highlighting the diverse creativity of Denpasar

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

20170719_151818                            Cover of the DenPasar2017 Art + Design Map

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

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

20170723_091217                       Dadian Ratu – Dian Suri in the DenPasar2017 Exhibition

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

DenPasar2017 Exhibition continues until 26 August.

CushCush Gallery (CCG)

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

Tel. (62) 361 484558


Words & Images: Richard Horstman