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Afghan artist’s “Iron Cocoon” a highlight of Jogja Art Weeks

"IRON COCOON" Amin Taasha - Image Richard HorstmanExhibition view – Iron Cocoon – Amin Taasha, 22 May – 7 June, Galeri Fadar Sidik,  ISI Yogyakarta

 

Indonesian and international art audiences visiting Yogyakarta during Jogja Art Weeks (JAW), a month long program of art events held throughout the Central Java, have a unique opportunity to observe a new direction in Asian contemporary art.

Iron Cocoon, the second solo exhibition by emerging Afghanistan artist Amin Taasha, open 22 May, Galeri Fadjar Sidik at ISI Yogyakarta, features a collection of ‘Abstract-Miniaturism’ paintings, presented together with audio compositions by Serbian composer Vanja Dabic, text, video and installation art, that may be observed individually, or as a whole.

Thoughtful SoulThoughtful Soul, 2018  – Amin Taasha. Watercolour, acrylic, ink, gold and sliver on paper 45 x 120cm

 

His compositions are a unique fusion of Asian cultural influences along with contemporary art ideas, featuring ancient script from Persia, Buddhist iconography, figures drawn from the 7th – 11th century miniature painting style of Afghanistan, along with Chinese ink modified calligraphy. Born in 1995 in Bamiyan Province in the mountainous central region of Afghanistan, Taasha draws upon a wealth of traditional art, where elements of Greek and Buddhist art were merged into a distinctive classical style known as Greco-Buddhist art, and then transforms this through the use of abstraction.

The decapitated Buddha is an ongoing theme throughout Iron Cocoon through which Taasha makes reference to the Taliban’s destruction of giant Buddhist statues found in his homeland. But while Forbidden, just one of nine of his larger vertical and horizontal monochrome scenarios makes direct reference to the violence committed by the Taliban, it is his central, and culminating installation, Witness that delivers the graphic evidence, and impact of the events that shocked the world in 2001.

"Witness" Amin Taasha - Image Richard Horstman                       Witness – Amin Taasha  Video installation

 

A circular line of earth becomes the frame for a short video documentary that reveals Taliban tanks and rockets firing at the giant Buddhist icons, while cultural experts lament the demise. A seated Buddha statue grounds the installation, ironically a headless observer, while suspended floating above, its decapitated head is taken away by a black crow inflight. Iron Cocoon is rich in symbolic metaphors, and the crow throughout the exhibition represents the powerful ignorant few that destroy important history and culture.

Within Taasha’s painting his mastery comes alive through his language of aesthetic simplicity. He balances the visual worlds of colour and form into perfect unions of the abstract, along with the recognizable form. He communicates on both the conscious and subconscious levels, through his Zen code of symbolic metaphors. His tiny figures at once connect us with the past while conveying wisdoms from an ancient time. Animals too play important roles.

"Untitled #10" Amin Taasha - Photo Richard Horstman Untitled #7 – Amin Taasha. Mixed media, gold ans silver on old book paper 13 x 19cm

 

Black is the predominant visual feature. It’s enigmatic potency functions on the subconscious level, creating a metaphysical realm with which to engage the audience. This blackness conjures up what the Buddhists refer to as the void – a place of commanding inner peace. Fine splashes of ink appear like smoke, and represent the eternal cycle of life. Gold and silver leaf are another important aesthetic feature, along with a measured array of dynamic colours, they function as powerful aesthetic tools.

Taasha moved to Kabul when the Taliban took over the area and began studying art in 2007, then in 2010 he attended the Kabul Fine Arts Institute where he has studied painting, miniature painting and calligraphy. In 2012 he was invited to participate in a workshop Seeking Study at the National Gallery of Afghanistan, as a part of the Documenta 13 international art project in Kabul. Two of his works were deemed to contain controversial subject matter and were prohibited from the exhibition by the Afghan Ministry of Information and Culture. Taasha was later subjected to police interrogation with the barrel of an AK-44 pushed to his head.

When The Sun Goes DownWhen the sun goes down – Amin Taasha. Watercolour, acrylic, ink, gold & sliver on paper, 45 x 120 cm

 

In 2013 Taasha moved to Central Java, receiving a one-year scholarship to study art at ISI Yogyakarta, the following year he was awarded a one-year scholarship at UNNES Semarang, and in 2014 received another scholarship at ISI, where he has been studying ever since. He has been exhibiting consistently for the past ten years in Afghanistan and Indonesia, as well as in Iran, Bangladesh, Lebanon, Indonesia, US, Canada, Germany and Italy. His works are in collections in the UK, US, Canada, Netherlands, Germany, France, India, Australia, Singapore and Indonesia. Iron Cocoon is his first solo exhibition in Indonesia.

The Iron Cocoon catalogue states, the concept of Taasha’s exhibition takes the metaphor of an armoured cocoon; a flexible protected shell that allows the person within to be able to transform, safe from the conflicts occurring outside. This is partially in reference to Taasha growing up in Afghanistan, a country synonymous with death and violence, and how art is able to first germinate in this environment, before being transposed to another country, where it can begin to grow in its new style.

A naudience members engages in Taasha's work while litening to the audio composition by Vanja DabicAn audience member engages with a painting while listening to an audio composition by Vanja Dabic.

 

Taasha, who exhibited in The Death of Contemporary Art, a group exhibition along side leading Indonesian artist Heri Dono in 2016 in Yogyakarta, is a part of a group of post-contemporary artists. Iron Cocoon follows on from his two sold-out exhibitions in Bangladesh and Iran this year. Taasha’s sensitivity connects with the deepest levels of our psyche, touching the soul. Works of extraordinary precision – beautiful and serene – Iron Cocoon reflects maturity that belies the artist’s years.

Amin Taasha - Image Richard Horstman                                        Amin Taasha

 

Forbidden Forbidden – Amin Taasha. Watercolour, acrylic, ink, gold & silver on paper. 45 x 120 cm

 

 

Iron Cocoon

Open daily 22 May – 7 June,

Galeri Fadar Sidik,

ISI Yogyakarta

Jalan Parangritis, Sewon, Bantul Yogyakarta

 

Words: Richard Horstman

Images: Courtesy Amin Taasha & Richard Horstman

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Paradise lost & new frontiers: Gede Mahendra Yasa’s landmark investigation into Balinese painting

"Tamiang" GMY 2011Tamiang, 2011, 150 x 200cm – Gede Mahendra Yasa. Exhibited in “Post Bali”

 

After the fall of President Suharto and the New Order Regime in 1998 Indonesian artists enjoyed new liberties, and their art became increasingly social and political in content. Representing a new generation of the Balinese avant-garde, Gede Mahendra Yasa was inspired by the freedoms of the post refromasi era, and dared to investigate his Balinese roots like no other artist had previously attempted – he questioned the popular ‘narratives’, along with the status quo. What transpired at the beginning of the new millenium has evolved into an ongoing project – a unique, yet essential, exploration into Balinese painting.

Born in 1967 in the island’s former capital of Singaraja, Mahendra Yasa grew up within a ‘multi-cultural’ environment where the Balinese Hindu’s had the freedom to choose a more open interpretation of cultural life. They were not subjected to the religious and cultural structures that were ‘imposed’ within the Gianyar regency during the 20th century, while it was being honed into a pro-Dutch colonial model of a ‘living cultural museum’ to stimulate tourism.

"Priest" GMY 2011Priest, 2011, 150 x 200cm – Gede Mahendra Yasa. Exhibited in “Post Bali”

 

Mahendra Yasa studied architecture and mechanical engineering in Surabaya, East Java from 1986 to 1988, yet he discovered this to be too limiting, being more attracted to the expressive freedoms of painting. He then began his autodidact journey, and an intensive learning into the history and discourses of Western painting.  Between 1998-2002 he formally studied at the Indonesian Art Institute (ISI) Denpasar where he analyzed his practical and theoretical Balinese art knowledge.

Bali is generally considered to be exotic, and is stuck in a past cultural era. Balinese art is perceived as secondary, as a craft, and not as a legitimate part of Indonesian modern art history. These issues have arisen due to the dense bias of ethnography and anthropology (orientalist in nature) in determining the understanding of Bali, especially during 1920’s – 1930’s within the ‘golden age’ of Balinese development when Balinese traditional art was shaped as a colonial political tool – and this frustrates Mahendra Yasa.  An atheist, Mahendra Yasa was an avid detractor of the local culture, and took a critical stance to the art practices in Bali. This compelled him to continuously investigate and then seek out new frontiers in Balinese painting, in a career long pursuit into its thematic and aesthetic distinctions.

7 Magnficent Masterpieces #1, 2011, 200x150cm Newspaper Collage chinese ink on canvas7 Magnificent Masterpieces #1, 2011, 200 x 150cm, Newspaper Collage & Chinese Ink on Canvas – Gede Mahendra Yasa. Exhibited in “Post Bali”

 

“My entry point is from the contemporary, but using the traditional identity of painting,” he once said. In Post Bali, his landmark 2014 exhibition at ROH Projects, Jakarta, Mahendra Yasa adopted a unique methodology to other Indonesian contemporary artists, driven by his powerful intellect, and an obsession with painting, he delved into local Balinese issues from a western conceptual art perspective. Painting for the artist is not only about the object – it can function as a philosophical and analytical tool.

Post Bali combined an array of western and Balinese painting styles through which Mahendra Yasa revealed his investigation of the complexities of Balinese painting. He utilized various appropriations in his works that have been internationally recognized as modern or contemporary art masterpieces. The exhibition unfolded with photo-realism paintings from 2010 depicting scenarios of Balinese life. It continued via the acclaimed traditional Batuan narrative style of painting, with miniature photo realistic characters as the code through which he explained key parts of Balinese, Indonesian and Western art techniques and history. Within these works he also explored traditional techniques of making canvases, and Chinese ink painting.

7 Magnificent Masterpieces #2, 2012 Acrylic on canvas 200x150cm7 Magnificent Masterpieces #2, 2012, 200x150cm, Acrylic on Canvas – Gede Mahendra Yasa. Exhibited in “Post Bali”

 

Contemporary Art in Paradise Lost, Mahendra Yasa’s enormous 75 x 300 cm epic which included multiple scenes in the one work, taking the artist over a year to complete, was juxtaposed against his dual panel Pollock-esque abstract expressionist works. Post Bali explored three distinct realizations of Bali through different painting styles and ‘tests’ to what extent it is able to interact with materials and ideas familiar to contemporary art. The exhibition can be read as a chronological progression of his work and represents the start of a project that has now become much larger and more complex in nature. Post Bali has defined Mahendra Yasa as one of the few, truly important Balinese contemporary artists, while confirming his position within Indonesian art history.

"Silver Acrylic Paint on Face #2" GMY 2012 Silver Acrylic Paint on Face, #2, 2012 –  Gede Mahendra Yasa (self-portrait)

 

In early June 2018 the following interview was conducted by Richard Horstman and Gede Mahendra Yasa.

 

RH: Since early 2000 you have been driven by the need to question the popular ‘narratives’ and the status quo within Balinese art.

Why did you begin doing this?

GMY: In 2001, only 3 years after reformation and the fall of the new order regime, Indonesian artist enjoyed new freedoms, and political art came to the fore. For a few decades Sanggar Dewata Indonesia (SDI), Bali’s oldest and most influential collective which began in 1970, held power over the art scene. For me, however, they represented the new order regime, with much of their approach to art continuing on from the Dutch colonial methods. I was determined to change the game here in Bali.

The-Death-of-Gatotkaca. 1500x200. 2013The Death of Gatotkaca, 2014, 150 x 200cm – Gede Mahendra Yasa. Exhibited in “Post Bali”

 

RH: As an art provocateur it was essential to ask important questions in order to be able to move forward, as well as to inspire others to be more analytical and critical. Within the sphere of Indonesian and Balinese art, however, there is no culture of criticism, and such an approach is seen as confrontational. You had to move ‘out of the comfort of your studio’ and into the public forum to be heard.  Was this difficult to do?

GMY: Yes, at the beginning it was very difficult. But slowly the art public accepted my criticism.

RH: The formation of collectives has played an important role, while helping you in the exploration of your ideas. (This first began with the Klinik Seni Taxu. The young artists of Taxu reacted to the institutionalized “authority” over Indonesian art which prevailed during in the 1990’s – 2000. They were driven to promote the development of a Balinese art outside the traditional parameters of Balinese religion and culture and were active between 2001-06 releasing publications and exhibiting. In 2001, as students at the Indonesian Art Institute (ISI) Denpasar, the Taxu group received funding from ISI to hold an art event they titled, Mendobrak Hegemoni (Shattering the Hegemony).

"Paradise Lost" GMY Chinese Ink on Kamasan Canvas 2014

Paradise Lost #2, 2014, Chinese Ink on Kamasan Canvas – Gede Mahendra Yasa

 

What occurred was a protest featuring abusive comments in various languages about the commercialization of art. They attacked copies of major artists works and produced effigies of the artists as mummies, posters proclaimed ‘art is dead’. The event shocked both the singled out artists, and the ISI authorities during an era when the pressures of the New Order Regime were still heavy. The protest was of national significance because Bali had become a key site for the formation of ideas about Indonesian art).

Can you explain why the Taxu group came about and what were their aims?

GMY: Bali has traditions like the banjar system of communal organization. I learned from the influence of the foreign artist during the 1930’s – 1940’s (Spies and Bonnet) and Nyoman Ngendon from Batuan, and in wider context from the first Indonesian community based artist groups (PERSAGI & LEKRA). I understood that organizing groups, following in the tradition of making “schools” of artists was a more strategic and quicker way to achieve goals. This belief pushed me to find artistic idioms for the groups to function as a“glue” (Social realism for Klinik Seni Taxu, and abstraction for Nu-Abstract, his latest collective which began in 2017).

"Between Me,You and the Bedpost #2 Mahendra YasaBetween Me, You and the Bedpost #1. 2014, 100 x 163cm – Gede Mahendra Yasa, Exhibited in “Post Bali”

 

RH: More recently the Neo-Pitamaha has been formed. Can you share more about this collective?

GMY: The origins of the Neo-Pitamaha began after my 2011 solo exhibition in Milan, Italy because of problems with my “identity” as a Balinese painter. I began to think a lot about my artistic roots, and then started to explore Balinese painting (focussing on painting from the last century – the Classical style referred to as Kamasan, and the Batuan traditional style). I believed that the Classical and traditional styles had come to a dead-end. And then I challenged myself to contemporize what the academic artists (especially the Yogyakarta Indonesian Art Institute (ISI) alumni) thought was impossible. And I proved them wrong! In 2013 I “assembled” a new group to push this idea further.

RH: Can you share please the ideas behind your series of paintings made between 2012 – 2018 which began with 7 Magnificent Masterpieces #1 & #2, and continues on with Origen’s Gambit?

"Contemporary Art in Paradise Lost" 2012-2014, 300x75 cmContemporary Art in Paradise Lost, 2014, 75 x 300cm – Gede Mahendra Yasa. Exhibited in “Post Bali”

 

GMY: I wanted to contemporize the Batuan painting style emphasizing the full compositions, with no empty spaces. Complete with the dualities and horror, the dense and decorative style – very Balinese. Unlike the Dutch miniatures such as Brueghel, Bosch, for example, who use the linear perspective. I use the bird eye’s view perspective, like the Batuan artists. I then realised that the series could be used for telling stories about art history (Balinese, Indonesian and global art history). My inspirations came from the American painter Mark Tansey, and also the comic genres, such as Marvel and DC Comics, and how they make alternative universes. I wanted to mimic their method to create my own universe – an art history universe.

Remember this miniature epic series has taken 6 years to develop, so many things have happened. This is on going, and in the near future, in the third phase of this series I plan my approach to be more a linguistic or semiotic exploration. I will “illustrate” a lot of “ideas” about imagery, icons, logos and symbols. Here, I have been influenced by Xu Bing a main land Chinese painter.

"Yasa Perburuan Rusa" GMY 2014                        Yasa Perburuan Rusa, 2014 – Gede Mahendra Yasa

 

RH: You have a long and ongoing relationship with abstract painting. In 2017 you formed the collective NU-abstract to explore further Balinese abstraction and the collective will be exhibiting at NADI Gallery in Jakarta in early July. Do you find exploring your feelings within this genre is the perfect creative pursuit while other concepts need certain periods of time to fully develop and to be successfully executed and expressed? Does this help you to achieve a type of ‘balance’?

GMY: Yes, I need to balance my other painting series as they demand too much logic. There is, however, another reason. I formed the NU-abstract group because there are some Islamic fundamentalist art groups (Rumah Warna, Khat, Khilafah art networks) in Yogyakarta, and Hijrah in Bandung, who want to use non-figurative painting as a tool to forbid the making of imagery of “living creatures”. They twist modern abstraction for their own political benefits while intercepting the potentiality of this new Indonesian art trend. I want to stop their ideas of controlling and polluting the Indonesian art world.

"Yasa Spiral Frame" GMY 2014                              Yasa Spiral Frame, 2014 – Gede Mahendra Yasa

 

Mahendra Yasa along with Neo-Pitamaha co-founder Kemal Ezedine set out to strategically impact upon the Indonesian contemporary art world in 2016 by participating in high level exhibitions and art fairs in Bandung, Jakarta and Yogyakarta. Their presence was especially visible during the two international art fairs, Art Stage Jakarta 2016 and 2016 Bazaar Art Jakarta that attracted large national and foreign audiences.

The Neo-Pitamaha have taken their name from the legendary 1936 artists association established in Ubud during a revolutionary period when traditional art was being modernized for the new and expanding international market – the Pitamaha’s oversaw the successful development of this new genre of art that helped communicate the Balinese culture around the world. The Pitamaha was formed by the prince of Ubud Tjokorda Agung Sukawati, Bali’s modern master Gusti Nyoman Lempad, and the expat foreign artists Walter Spies, and Rudolf Bonnet.

"BipolarDemons" GMY 2017, 200x160Bipolar Demons, 2107, 200 x 150cm – Gede Mahendra Yasa. From the NU-abstract series and exhibited in the group exhibition “Celebrating Indonesian Portraiture” at OHD Museum Magelang, Central Java, continuing through until 8 October 2018.

 

With their ideology deeply rooted in the historical development of Balinese art during the past century, and with a new discourse about Balinese art the Neo-Pitamaha reinterpreted this art form from a contemporary art perspective – retaining the principles involved with the techniques and methods. By opening this to new viewpoints they awakened a new spirit and introduced a fresh model of possibilities into Balinese art.

 

After Paradise Lost 2014-2016In May 2016 at Christie’s Hong Kong Asian Contemporary Art Day Sale “After Paradise Lost” (2014) by Gede Mahendra Yasa sold for HKD 1,240,000 (USD 158,000), well above the estimated price of between HKD 350,000 (USD 44,500) – HKD 500,000 (USD 63,500).

 

Origen's Gambit" GMYAt Christie’s Hong Kong Asian Contemporary Art Day Sale November 2017, Gede Mahendra Yasa’s painting “Origen’s Gambit” (2016-2017) realised HKD 1,750,000 (USD 220,000), selling well above the estimated price of HKD 380,000 (USD48,000) – HKD 550,000 (USD70,000).

 

Gede Mahendra Yasa’s painting After Paradise Lost has been selected as one of the 15 finalists in the Signature Art Prize. The award, which is presented every three years, is organized by the Singapore Art Museum and sponsored by the Asia-Pacific Breweries Foundation. The winner will be announced at an award ceremony on June 29, and the works are currently on exhibit from May 25 to Sept. 2 at the National Museum of Singapore.

 

 

 

Words: Richard Horstman

Images: Coutesy of IndoArtNow, Gede Mahendra Yasa & Richard Horstman

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

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

 

What is the value of human life?

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

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

malaikat copy                                       King Kong’s Land – Malaikat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

31052365_10155177701881916_4372840048123445248_n                                   Forgiveness #2 – Mangu Putra

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Dipping in the Kool Aid”

Open to the public daily 10am – 5pm,

4 – 31 March 2018

Tony Raka Art Gallery,

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

 

Words: Richard Horstman

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

A lens on the mysterious – Windee Winata

17349626_10209059632832607_6493271523895940897_o                                                Image by Windee Winata

 

Bali is an extraordinary visual experience, equalled by few other locations on earth. From the spectacular, shimmering landscapes, to the architectual and sculpturally magnificent structures and monuments, the grandeur of festivals and ceremonies, and the grace of the Balinese. It is vibrant and rich in photogenic subjects that incite wonder and euphoria, that continually seduces strangers, the experienced visitor, and expats alike.

There is, however, another essential element that few photographers confidently express, a mysterious realm that is not visible, but certainly can be felt. According to the ancient Balinese beliefs of sekala – niskala, we live equally in two worlds – the visible or conscious world sekala, and the invisible or psychic world niskala. Indonesian photographer Windee Winata’s serene landscape images capture the veiled dynamic of a unique life force, and arouse contemplation of the one of the most compelling aspects of the Island of the Gods.

19388435_10209811917719259_8115866998175820987_o                                                Image by Windee Winata

“Excited about an upcoming trip to Egypt, Greece & Turkey, I bought my first film SLR camera in 1996,” says Winata, who at the time was studying automotive engineering at the Technical University of Berlin. The camera became an immediate fixture to his body and he indulged in his newfound passion, while temporarily neglecting his studies.

“Married with a secure position at the Mercedes-Benz Technology Centre in Sindelfingen, even before the final exam of my degree, life was good. The arrival of my first child then dictated photography had to take the back seat,” says Winata, who was born in Denpasar in 1974. “Returning to Indonesia thinking Bali would be a nicer environment for our daughter to grow up, I concentrated my hobby into a profession, and with my wife established the PhotoFactory, a wedding photography business in Denpasar.”

29872510_10211990003690047_3534173479682265435_o                                                 Image by Windee Winata

“Cutting a long story short, one thousand plus clients, success, and years later I began to suffer from depression. Intuitively I rediscovered the joy of creativity and began focusing on fine art photography.”

Less is more is born from the simple aesthetic design values of Zen Buddhism – the Japanese philosophy states that things are left imperfect to allow the mind’s eye to make the space complete. Within Winata’s landscapes the compositions are stripped to the barest of design elements, often predominated by a blue-grey monochrome mist – appearing to visibly pulsate. The sparse iconography may include distant temple structures, mountains or palm trees, the outlines seemingly echoing within a shadowy haze.

29060330_10211844218565510_6090354740303961588_o                                               Image by Windee Winata

Space is the dominant feature, characterized by abstract voids that overflow with ambience – evocative and serene. Within this realm we access deeper levels of consciousness, and temporarily our minds are set free. Creating an interlude within the blur of lineal time, Winata freezes the moment – transforming it into the eternal.

“I long for simplicity in life, and this is reflected in my photographs.”

“The locations I choose to photograph are a consequences of my need to escape, and be alone – a personal journey of solitude that is my safe haven. I gravitate to airy, beautiful places that seem to bypass my brain and resonate with my heart.”

20246444_10210120804521236_1588455552162941195_n                                                  Image by Windee Winata

Of his technique Winata says, “The images are captured with a single long exposure which is unpredictable, yet I bask in the feeling that I cannot fully control the outcome. The images I love seem to only emerge when the universe takes over. The process feels more like a fulfilling collaboration. The results often surprise and delight.”

My experience of Winata’s images is thrilling, and indulgent. With senses fully engaged the power of suggestion kicks in – I revel in the unseen. Bali is unique and somehow gifts us with greater awareness and insight, which I thoroughly entertain. For me, however, the invisible world is not overwhelmed by the mysterious, as I fill it with the gods and deities of the Balinese Hindu pantheon, along with an abundance of fantastic imaginings, and wonderful possibilities.

29060106_10211852018440502_1566899207596044322_o                                                Image by Windee Winata

“Being a wedding photographer has given me high mileage, which helps when doing my fine art work,” Winata says. “While they are very different disciplines, when I click the shutter button, I’m transported to a happy place. Wedding is exciting, but fine art, to me, is how I live my life.”

“My works are the way I connect with the unknown. When I’m out there, it feels like a union, or as a Balinese priest once said to me when viewing my images: “The small universe meets the big universe.” The outcome is the image – it’s never about the visible setting, but rather the spirit.”

17436133_10209139494389096_3344828269058569652_o                                                   Image by Windee Winata

28061495_10211594030270959_7481044953276066991_o                                                Image by Windee Winata

 

Instagram @windeewinata

 

Words: Richard Horstman

Bali’s street art maverick Julien Thorax

 

IMG_3344                                             Julien Thorax

 

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

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

Art by midaskid                                                   art by midaskid

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

LAA: Pease share a little about your mission?

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

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

DCIM101GOPROGOPR5850.                                         Allcapsstore & art space in Canggu

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

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

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

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

DCIM101GOPROGOPR5854.                                                       Allcaps

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

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

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

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

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

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

29872441_765503400324117_7393250604400613416_o                       Some of the friendly, professional staff at Allcapsstore

DCIM101GOPROGOPR5852.

 

https://balistreetart.org/

 

Words: Richard Horstman

Images: Courtesy Allcaps

Imam Sucahyo’s Electrifying Outsider Art

Mimpi ke Night Klub - Imam Suchayo                              Mimpi ke Night Klub – Imam Sucahyo

 

In 1919 German psychiatrist and art historian Hans Prinzhorn (1886 – 1933) was assigned by the psychiatric hospital of the University of Heidelberg an unconventional task – to expand the hospital’s collection of art created by the mentally ill. When he left after a period of two years the collection had grown to more than 5000 artworks. The following year in 1923 Prinzhorn published his first, and destined to become highly influential book, Bildnerei der Geisteskranken (Artistry of the Mentally Ill).

Richly illustrated with wonderful, yet unorthodox artworks the book ignited the fascination of a few French avant-garde artists, while the art became the catalyst for the Art Brut Movement, founded in 1948. Nearly a century after Prinzhorn’s book was published, Art Brut, or what became known in the 1970’s as Outsider Art, has taken the art world by storm.

Tired and Need REst                                 Tired and Need Rest – Imam Sucahyo

Enthusiastically embraced by the contemporary art world a succession of art fairs, biographies, retrospectives and collections have sprung up in Europe and North America during the past decade. Now this exciting genre is beginning to receive attention here in Indonesia.

The origins of Art Brut (works that were in their raw state, uncooked by cultural and artistic influences) may be traced to Jean Dubuffet (1901-1985) who understood how works by psychiatric patients fulfilled certain Surrealist ideals, in that they seemed to flow directly from the subconscious mind. Aware of the stigma attached to ‘insane’ or ‘psychotic art’ Dubuffet required a more dignified term in order for the refined cultural circles of the time to accept a collection of works by lunatics. Along with Surrealist artist André Breton, and critic Michel Tapié, together they wrote the Art Brut Manifesto in 1947. Outsider Art, coined in 1972 as a recasting of Dubuffet’s term into the English language, is the label that has stuck ever since.

My Angry Mom - Imam Suchayo                                      My Angry Mom – Imam Sucahyo

While the definition of this style has been a constant source of debate it was generally accepted that it’s creators are not only untrained but often had little concept of a gallery or even any other forms of art other than their own. The art had no relation to developments in contemporary art at the time, yet it was the innovative and powerful expressions from a variety of individuals who existed outside recognized culture and society.

The profile of an Outsider Artist often includes a traumatic childhood, a history of institutionalization (orphanage, asylum, prison), a stunted education, subsistence jobs, yet a person with a ceaseless drive to create art. The summary is completed by a discovery story; a tale of someone with cultural connections then bringing the outsider into the art world.

Installation by Imam Suchayo               Installation at Cata Odata Art House by Imam Sucahyo

Imam Sucahyo’s life has been a series of ongoing struggles that inspire his prolific creativity. A self-taught artist born in Tuban, East Java in 1978, Imam’s first encounter with the art world was through a neighbour who was a painter. His imagination was sparked at a young age, however, when at elementary school he observed images of paintings by the Indonesian expressionist master Affandi in a library book.

Affandi’s unrestrained freedom would become a potent stimulant for Imam to explore his eccentric painting style. Intuitively he followed his own path into art making while being rejected by the local art community that favoured only conventional styles. During adolescence, with no interest in attending school and influenced by his peers Imam started to experiment with drugs and alcohol. His years of abuse led to psychosis, hallucinations and paranoia. Art became Imam’s sanctuary to calm his troubled mind.

Painting by Imam Sucahyo. Image R. Horstman                                        Artwork by Imam Sucahyo

In his early 20’s confronted with poverty and other issues, Imam had to endure sudden family tragedies. In order to cope with suffering and loss he often avoided social interaction, eventually impairing his ability to verbally communicate. Picking up odd jobs here-and-there in various cities helped sustain his life, all the while art was his foundation, a tool of reconciliation, his visual diary recording every event of his journey, both good and bad. Without it, Imam may have become lost in his self-imposed exile. One of his favourite past times was listening to the local folklore, these stories would then merge with his own experience into his art.

“Art is the most loving place, accepting of all my flaws. It accommodates my feelings wholeheartedly, and never demands or requests me to repay that which has been given to me,” Imam said. “Devotion grows so we may complete each other and I can merge as one with my art. My work is a learning place and a mirror so that my life is more meaningful. My art is my pal who securely guides me through every day.”

Art by Imam Sucahyo. Image Richard Horstman                               Artwork by Imam Sucahyo

Contemporary artists Djunaidi Kenyut grew up on the streets of Surabaya, is a long time friend of Imam’s, and he is the co-founder of Cata Odata Art House in Ubud, Bali. Kenyut has been a pillar of support during Imam’s artistic journey, and three years ago, Kenyut along with his partner have taken on the responsibility of managing Imam and introducing his work to the international art world.

The phenomenal rise of social media portals Facebook and Instagram have within in a few years enabled a new virtual art world to thrive outside of the highly competitive traditional world of galleries, museums, dealers and hardcopy print media. This has opened the door for many artists, especially here in Indonesia where the art infrastructure is lacking and many have difficulties entering the gallery system, along with finding opportunities to exhibit their work.

Art by Imam Sucahyo Image by Richard Horstman                                  Jagat Mawut at Cata Odata Art House

Through Facebook Imam’s work has gained attention from international Outsider Art audiences, attracting buyers from Indonesia, France and Australia. In 2016, his artworks were exhibited in Espace Eqart in Marciac, Outsider Art Fair in Paris, and the Outsider Art Biennale Fair in Museum Ephémères in Rives, France. Recently the Borderless Art Museum NO-MA, Japan visited Cata Odata to observe Imam’s work.

Imam’s memories and ideas come alive in Jagat Mawut (Ravaged World), a collection of over seventy paintings, installations and sculptures feature in his first solo exhibition in Indonesia. Imam’s thrilling and potent art is testament to the wonders and magnificence of creativity, highlighting the resilience of the human spirit. Open 3 October at Cata Odata, this excellent show continues until 4 November.

Art work by Imam Sucahyo - image R. Horstman                          Artwork by Imam Sucahyo

 

Jagat Mawut (Ravaged World) – Imam Sucahyo

3 October – 4 November 2017

Open Monday to Saturday 10am – 7pm

Cata Odata Art House

Opposite the Pura Dalem Temple,

Jalan Raya, Penestanan Klod, Ubud, Bali, Indonesia

Tel: +6281212126096

https://www.facebook.com/cata.odata

 

Words & Images: Richard Horstman

 

Previewing Larasati’s Traditional, Modern & Contemporary Art Auction, Bali, 8 October 2017

Lot 549 Nyoman Meja "Subali & Sugriwa" 1997 Image courtesy of Larasati                               Lot 549: Subali & Sugriwa – Nyoman Meja

 

Art auctions are an exciting and accessible way to grow your collection. For the curious observer and new buyers auctions are fascinating processes that give insight into the art world that is often perceived to be opaque, mysterious, and even intimidating. Auctions allow opportunities for new buyers to enter the market often at amounts well below gallery prices and cheaper than purchasing directly from the artist’s studio.

Larasati Auctioneer’s upcoming 8 October 2017 Traditional, Modern and Contemporary Art auction to be held in Ubud, Bali offers eighty lots of fine art for sale in varying categories including Indonesian and Balinese art, and catering to the budgets of new buyers, intermediate collectors, and the connoisseurs.

Lot 532 Arifein Neif "Balinese Temple" 1992 Image courtesy of Larasati                                Lot 532: Balinese Temple – Arifein Neif

Since February 2016 real-time Internet bidding has been available through the Larasati website opening the auction to a global audience. Real-time Internet accessibility allows prospective buyers to follow along observing hammer prices to assess the situation of the market and level of interest of a certain class or individual lot, while also allowing for bidding strategies to be revised.

A feature of the twice-yearly Larrasati auction is always the fascinating array of Balinese modern traditional paintings available for sale; the genre that evolved through the influence of the Pitamaha Artist’s Association established in 1936 in Ubud to oversee the growth of this art style catering for new burgeoning markets that quickly developed during the first wave of tourism to embrace Bali.

Lot 546 Nyoman Kayun "Suasana di Desa" 2008, Image courtesy of Larasati                              Lot 546: Suasana di Desa – Nyoman Kayun

Two works of interest by masters of the Pitamaha are Lot 565, Perebutan Tirta Kamandalu by Anak Agung Gde Meregeg (1912-2000) with an estimated price between Rp.60,000,000 – 80,000,000, and Lot 575, Sang Hyang Jaran by Tjokorda Oka Gambir (1902-1975) with an estimated price between Rp.20,000,000 – Rp. 25,000,000. These paintings offer excellent buying opportunities if purchased within the undervalued estimated prices. Both artists have had enormous influence on the development of Balinese art, Gambir one of the founders of the Ubud School of painting, while Meregeg, one of the first students of Walter Spies (1895-1942) is the grandfather of the celebrated Ubud painter A.A. Anom Sukawati.

New buyers have excellent opportunities to enter the market with Lot 505, Broken Triangle, 1990 by Made Wianta, which has an estimated price between Rp.5,000,000 – 7,000,000, Lot 510, Dua Wanita Jawa, 1988 by Bagong Kussudiardjo (1928-2004) with an estimated price of between Rp.6,000,000 – 8,000,000, and Lot 511, Figur Wayang, 1990 by Pande Gde Supada which has an estimated price of between Rp. 6,000,000 – 8,000,000. Both Wianta and Supada played formative roles in the shaping Balinese modern and contemporary art in the 1970’s.

Lot 561 Dewa Ketut Rungan "Burung-Burung Surgawi" Image courtesy of Larasati                  Lot 561: Burung-burung di Surgawi – Dewa Ketut Rungan

For buyers prepared to hold works for a 10 – 20 period some good long-term investments are available here; Lot 564, Calonarang is an ink on paper work by the respected Sanur painter Ida Bagus Nyoman Rai (1915-2000) and has an estimated price between Rp.10,000,000 – 12,000,000. Lot 566, Mythological Scene is a stunning work by Dewa Nyoman Leper (1917-1984) with an estimated price between Rp.15,000,000 – 18,000,000. Nineteen-year-old Pande I Made Dwi Artha typifies the talented new generation of Batuan painters that promise an exciting future for the most loved and critically acclaimed genre of Balinese art. His dynamic and fascinating take on the culture of corruption, Lot 534, People Are My Toys has an estimated price of between Rp.7,000,000 – 9,000,000.

The connoisseur’s attention will be upon the later part of the auction, especially the final two lots by Ida Bagus Made Poleng (1915-1999). Lot 579, Kawan Rusa has an estimated price between Rp. 140,000,000 – Rp. 170,000,000, and Lot 580 Tari Baris is estimated between Rp. 150,000,000 – Rp. 200,000,000. Poleng is arguably the most talented Balinese painter of the 20th century. Lot 578, Panen Raya is a rare work by Dewa Putu Bedil (1921-1999) with an estimated price between Rp. 70,000,000 – Rp.90,000,000, and Lot 576, by Ida Bagus Made Nadera (1910-1998) Kehidupan Nelayan has an estimated price of between Rp.65,000,000 – 80,000,000.

Lot 559 Nyoman Gunarsa "Subali & Surgawi" Image courtesy of Larasati                          Lot 559: Subali & Surgawi – Nyoman Gunarsa

The recent passing of pioneering modernist Nyoman Gunarsa in early September was an enormous loss to the Balinese art world. Born in 1944 in East Bali, Gunarsa was instrumental in helping forge new paths in Balinese aesthetics with his own dynamic interpretation of the wayang figures of Classical Balinese painting. His legacy as an artist, art lecturer and art community leader – one of the icons of the island’s cultural landscape – however, will continue on through the generations of artists he has inspired. Lot 559, Subali & Sugriwa is an excellent work by Gunarsa that will attract attention and has an estimated price of between Rp.45,000,000 – 55,000,000.

Other works of note are Lot 532, by Arifein Neif, Lot 546, Suasana di Desa by Nyoman Kayun, Lots 549 & 550, by Nyoman Meja and Lot 561, Burung-Burung Surgawi by Dewa Ketut Rungan. Lot 558, by Arie Smit, Lot 574, Potret Wanita Bali by A.A Gde Sobrat and Lot 572, The Birth of Ganesha, by Gusti Ketut Kobot (1917-1999) with an estimated price between 65,000,000 – 75,000,000. Good works for mid level collectors include Lot 518, by Made Suarsa, Lot 526, by Gusti Agung Wiranata, Lot 540, by Ketut Tagen and Lot 568, by Dewa Ketut Ding.

Lot 579 Ida Bagus Made Poleng "Kawanan Rusa" Image courtesy of Larasati                           Lot 579: Kawan Rusa – Ida Bagus Made Poleng

Prospective buyers bidding over the phone, or via real-time Internet bidding who are unable to attend the previews days or auction are advised to contact Larasati and enquire about the colour reproduction accuracy of the images contained within the online catalogue to ensure that what they wish to purchase can be realistically appraised. The absence of reference to the condition of a lot in the catalogue description does not imply that the lot is free from faults or imperfections, therefore condition reports of the works, outlining the paintings current state and whether it has repairs or over painting, are available upon request.

Provenance, the historical data of the works previous owner/s is also important and is provided. An information guide including before the auction, during the auction and after the auction details, including conditions of business, the bidding process, payment, storage and insurance, and shipping of the work is also available. A buyer’s premium is payable by the buyer of each lot at rate of 22% of the hammer price of the lot.

Lot 576 Ida Bagus Made Nadera "Kehidupan Nelayan" 1950 Image courtesy of Larasati                          Lot 576: Kehidupan Nelayan – Ida Bagus Made Nadera

Open to the public at the Larasati Art Space in the Tebesaya Gallery the auction starts at 2:30 pm Sunday 8 October, while viewing begins from 11am 6 Friday.

The online catalogue is available at: www.larasati.com

 

Viewing:

Friday,           6 October   11am – 7.30pm

Saturday,   7 October     11am – 7.30pm

Sunday,     8 October     11am – 1pm

Auction: Sunday 8 October, from 2:30 pm

Larasati Bali Art Space at Tebesaya Gallery

Jalan Jatayu, Banjar Tebesaya, Peliatan,

Ubud, Gianyar Bali, Indonesia

 

Words: Richard Horstman

Images Courtesy: Larasati Auctioneer’s