Tag Archives: Neka Art Museum

Balinese art patronage – now & then

Balinese Kamasan Painting                                          Balinese Kamasan Painiting

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

Words: Richard Horstman

Images: Courtesy of Colin McDonald & Richard Horstman

The Art of Pengosekan Village

Ketut Rudi. 2010                             Birds of Lod Tunduh, 2010  – Ketut Rudi

Balinese traditional art is the art of story telling. Its ancient narratives bring to life tales from the sacred Hindu and Buddhist texts, old Balinese and Javanese folklore, and accounts of daily life. Its purpose is to promote harmony within the community via examples of proper moral conduct.

During the past century indigenous art has been revolutionized via the meeting with Western art techniques and ideas into a ‘new’ genre that became known as Balinese modern traditional art. This art form thrived due to the development of new tourist markets, driven initially by the first wave of foreign visitors in the 1930’s, who after holidaying on Bali wished to purchase a memento to bring home. A distinctive feature of Balinese modern traditional art is the different village styles, or ‘schools’ that evolved over time, each with its own individual creative verve.

Cosmic Circle - Dewa Nyoman Batuan                                    Cosmic Circle – Dewa Nyoman Batuan

Stories from the other side of the canvas – both triumphant and tragic – of the artists and the events behind the art have enriched the ‘aura’ of Balinese modern traditional art while endearing a global audience. This is a tale about the art and some of the characters that have distinguished the art from the village of Pengosekan.

Overshadowed by the more famous styles of Ubud, Batuan and Sanur, Pengosekan, one kilometre south of Ubud, has its own art history, complete with unique figures, and signature styles. The most celebrated of all Pengosekan painters is Gusti Ketut Kobot (1917-1999), accredited as one of the leaders of the post-war changes in Balinese paintings, he was also an influential art teacher. Some of Kobot’s finest works are mythological featuring characters from the religious narratives, while he also responsible for creating the prototypes for the scenes of village life that would be ceaselessly imitated for mass production as tourist art.

Gusti Ketut Kobot, "Triwikrama" 1986, Image couresty of Larasati                                 Triwikrama, 1986  –  Gusti Ketut Kobot

Kobot’s renditions of characters that still today are brought to life in the Wayang Kulit shadow puppet theatre are executed with extraordinary attention to compositional balance. According to the Balinese paintings that achieve perfect visual equilibrium indicate the artist’s excellent skills, and his strong connection with the divine. Brahma on Wilmana, Kobot’s painting of the Hindu god of creation riding the monster headed mythical bird Wilmana, on permanent display at the Neka Art Museum in Sanggingan, Ubud is fine example of his talent.

Structured with outer layers of decorative patterns the central characters appear framed and effortlessly poised, Wilmana wears a magic protective poleng (black and white checkered cloth) around the waist to avert harmful forces, since it has positive white and negative black in balance. Kobot is renowned for such depictions, honing them to the height of refinement. He is acknowledged as one of the masters of the original Ubud artist’s cooperative, the Pita Maha that thrived between 1936-1945, helping establish Balinese modern traditional art.

Gusti Ketut Kobot."Scene from Ramayana Story" 50x70cm                         Scene from the Ramayana story  –  Gusti Ketut Kobot

The inhabitants of Pengosekan were predominantly farmers, tending the agricultural fields surrounding their village. In the process of breaking away from the orthodox subject matter that featured in their paintings, the artists began to look outside of the conventions for new creative inspiration, and started paying more attention to nature.

A signature style developed in Pengosekan during the 1960’s featuring images of local flora and fauna painted in fresh pastel colours. At first the artists focussed on depicting bird life set within beautiful scenarios of forests and trees, others then explored nature close-up, their compositions highlighting an array of insects, often grasshoppers or butterflies rendered in great detail.

Pengosekan Style                              Pengosekan fauna and flora style

One of the finest practitioners of the flora and fauna style is Ketut Rudi who was born in Lotonduh, just south of Pengosekan in 1943. His works were commissioned and collected by the second President of Indonesia, Suharto (1921-2008) and hang in the Presidential State Palaces around the country. Rudi often painted at the State Palace in Tampaksiring, Central Bali, while Suharto was on retreat from the nation’s capital city, Jakarta. To ease his mind Suharto would often sit for hours watching Rudi at work.

Another painter, Ketut Liyer (1924-2016) was a local village priest (pemangku) who painted agricultural scenes and the sacred cloth amulets known as rerajahan. Liyer, who was also a paranormal and ‘healer’, shot to international fame via the Hollywood movie Eat, Pray, Love released in 2010 and starring Julia Roberts. Liyer’s paintings occasionally come up for auction at the twice-yearly Larasati Bali art sales held in Ubud.

Dewa Put Mokoh, 2006, Acrylic on canvas 60x90cm.                                      Dewa Putu Mokoh, 2006

Dewa Nyoman Batuan (1939-2013) was an icon within the world of Balinese art. Painter, entrepreneur and artist community visionary, he was graced with an effervescent personality. Batuan had a dream for his village that manifested into the Pengosekan Community of Artists in 1970.  Through his entrepreneurial endeavor he helped establish international markets for the local paintings and was able to contribute enormously for the well-being of the community of poor farmers, many who became painters to supplement their family income. Batuan’s contribution to the development of Balinese modern traditional art was to fuse traditional narratives within the Buddhist structural icon of the mandala, designing compelling, unique, and highly original works.

His older brother, Dewa Putu Mokoh (1934-2010) broke free from the restraints of Balinese art to introduce personal and intimate visual stories of another side of life that was often quirky, lurid, and even taboo. Simplified forms dominated his compositions, a self trained artist, Mokoh’s works boarded on both the modern and contemporary, simplifying and extending the range of images in Balinese art, especially with his close-up focus on intimate scenes.

I GAK MURNIASIH - SEMBAHYANG 104 - AOC - 170 x 100 cm - 2004                                   Gusti Ayu Kadek Murniasih

Pengosekan became the adopted home for the most important woman artist in Indonesian art history, Gusti Ayu Kadek Murniasih (1966-2006). Murni came from Tabanan, Central Bali to study with Mokoh. She rose from the life as a child of a farmer, poor and uneducated to the ranks of artistic distinction. Her father sexually abused her at the age of nine. Murni’s minimalist figurative/surrealistic style featured powerful coloration while communicating via the language of the sub conscious. Her outsider art is confrontational, daring and even violent, yet always electrifying. Murni’s work broke significant grounds into the social taboos of gender politics and feminism.

 

Words & Images: Richard Horstman

 

 

The Bali Art Scene 2016: The Final Six Months Overview

15878100_120300001416662373_1113857188_oBudi Agung Kuswara with patient from Rumah Berdaya, a community based psycho-social rehabilitation center utilizing art as a tool for creative solutions.

 

The concluding six months of events on the 2016 Bali art calendar were exceptionally busy; the following are some of the highlights of the closing half of the year:

In late May contemporary artist Budi Agung Kuswara, co-founder of Ketemu Project Space, began his special art project in Denpasar, co facilitated by a professional psychiatrist at “Rumah Berdaya”, a community based psycho-social rehabilitation center utilizing art as a tool for creative solutions. The project continued throughout the year providing activities for people with schizophrenia to encourage social interactions through art making, productivity and independence while expressing their ideas and thinking.

Skizofriends Art Movement will be an ongoing program following on from the success of Budi and colleague’s lobbying of the Denpasar Government to become supporters. In 2017 it will become a part of the Denpasar City Department Health Care Program, while Skizofriends Art Movement was involved in activities at the Denpasar Festival 2016 28-31 December at Lapangan Puputan, Denpasar.   Budi must be congratulated on this initiative aimed at empowering individuals and building community through engaging the public through the potent creative forces of art.

made-valasaraValasara’s Konstruksi semesta, semesta yang teralienasi menpertanyakan kediriannya dalam ekspresi tunggal.

Made Valasara made a conspicuous presence during ArtJog 9’s Universal Influence 27 May opening at the Jogja National Museum in Yogyakarta, Central Java. Being the only Bali based Balinese artist invited to exhibit his work was both an honour and an excellent opportunity for exposure to large national and international audiences. Valasara’s installation, konstruksi semesta, semesta yang teralienasi menpertanyakan kediriannya dalam ekspresi tunggal, a series of 25 individual works of various sizes, overall dimensions of 230 x 520cm stood out for its originality.

Adopting the canvas as a standalone medium, along with sewing techniques, he layers and fills the canvas to create 3 dimensional embossed and debossed compositions. His small white figures, presented behind glass revealed his evolving technique with the innovation of his debossed works. Valasara’s attention to narrative development too, revealed an engaging Balinese narrative.

widyantara-i-gede-late-hero-115-x-81-cm-acrylic-on-canvas-2015Gede Widyantara’s Last Hero 2016 which may be viewed upside down to reveal a demonic face.

Traces Under the Surface: Batuan Painting Exhibition, 3 June -31 July at TiTian Art Space, Ubud explored artistic lineage that evolved in the renowned village of traditional painting, Batuan. The exhibition focussed upon the teacher/student relationship following on from Nyoman Ngendon (1906-1946), a multi talented artist and innovator who experimented with perspectives, creating “unreal” 3 dimensionality within the early rigid framework of the Batuan paintings. Ngendon’s great distinction was that he believed in sharing his techniques, while persuading his students to break with traditions and become art innovators themselves.

Traces Under the Surface featured the lineage of Wayan Taweng (1922-2004) who learned to paint primarily from Ngendon, beginning at the age of eight, and later teaching his sons Ketut Sadia (b.1966), Wayan Diana (b.1977) and Made Griyawan (b.1979), along with others. Paintings by the fore mentioned Balinese artists, and Taweng’s grandson Gede Widyantara (b.1984) proved to be some of the finest examples of the Batuan genre and its process of innovation. Widyantara’s talent, that belies his age, reveals that the future of Batuan painting will indeed by exciting.

imhatthai-suwwathanasilp-murnis-temple-mixed-media-human-hair-thread-wood-glue-31-x-18-x-10-cm-image-courtesy-of-ketemu-project-spaceSleeping Murni by Thai artist Imhathai Suwatthanaslip, made with Murni’s hair.

A unique, palpable buzz welcomed the opening of Merayakan Murni (Celebrating Murni) 16 July at Sudakara Art Space, Sanur. The project, which gathered local and regional artists to create works in response to the legacy of the iconic female Balinese artist I GAK Murniasih (1966-2006) “Murni” proved to be one of the most anticipated Bali art events of recent history. Some of the highlights were works by artists Illa from Singapore, renowned Dutch “Indonesian” artist Mella Jaarsma, Imhathai Suwatthanaslip from Thailand, along with Punia Atmaja and Citra Sasmita from Bali.

Murni was an artist of rare quality, unequalled in Indonesia at least. Along with such reverence comes great emotional attachment to the artist by her many friends and admirers, the exhibition therefore was not without critics. Some critics stated the Sudakara venue was too small and the exhibition included too many international artists, and as a consequence failed grant enough space in order for Murni’s ouvre to be fully appreciated by the audience, many of which had yet to be exposed to her work.

Others thought the exhibition overly ambitious, attempting to achieve too much, too soon, while the film about Murni could have represented a more positive theme. Event organizers Ketemu Project Space, along with their young and energetic team proved, however that their presence on the Bali art scene is indeed exciting, with enormous, yet to be realized potential.

20160703_112528                            At The Point of View#4 – Radwin Nurlatif

At The Point of View opened Friday 1 July at Santrian Gallery Sanur, with Radwin Nurlatif presenting one of the most outstanding photography exhibitions of 2016. Curated by Rifky Effendy, the exhibition captivated not only for its high standards of technical quality and presentation of superbly beautiful aesthetic and conceptual images (giclée prints on Hahnemühle photo rag ultra smooth 305 gsm), yet in the simplicity of some of the digital images that wonderfully contrasted women with nature, or women in surreal compositions.

kemal-ezedine-2016-asj-image-richard-horstmanKemal Ezedine was represented by Edwin’s Gallery Jakarta at Art Stage Jakarta 2016

The presence of Balinese artists at Indonesia’s two international art fairs held in Jakarta, Art Stage Jakarta 5-7 August & Bazaar Art Jakarta 2016 25-28 August help to consolidate Bali’s growing presence on the Indonesian art world, which during recent years has tended to be dominated by artists from Java and West Sumatra. While Art Stage, among its hundreds of exhibitors featured only three Indonesian Bali based artists, Agung Mangu Putra, Made Valasara and Kemal Ezedine (along with Ashley Bickerton), Bazaar Art Jakarta, on the other hand featured the work of 13 artists.

From the traditional genre was Nyoman Meja (b. 1950, Ubud), others artists present were Nyoman Gunarsa, Made Wianta, Nyoman Erawan, Agung Mangu Putra, Gede Mahendra Yasa, Wayan Kun Adnyana, Teja Astawa, Kemal Ezedine, Ketut Moniarta, Tang Adiawan, Putu Wirantawan, Wayan Mandiyasa and Ketut Sumadi. Erawan’s installation at the Mon Décor Art One booth provided a strong contrast to what was on display at the fair, while being deeply engaging.

mangu-putra-pura-puncak-mangu-2016-oil-on-canvas-200x300cm                Pura Puncak Mangu 2016 – Agung Mangu Putra

Paskal Gallery’s acute eye for display, allowing attendees from a distance to be captured by the alluring and mysterious qualities of the 190 x 290 cm oil on canvas composition Pura Puncak Mangu, by Agung Mangu Putra confirmed why he is regarded as one of Indonesia’s most respected painters. His scene of a group of Balinese people praying at the remote mountain top temple in Buleleng was one of the highlights of Bazaar Art. The Neo Pitamaha collective made a strong presence at Bazaar Art with works exhibited by four artists and Jakarta’s Edwin’s Gallery confirmed their confidence in Kemal Ezedine by dedicating their entire booth at both fairs to the Ubud resident artist.

Sanur based Swedish painter Richard Winkler, also present at both fairs represented by Zola Zulu Gallery of Bandung, also enjoyed strong sales with his eye-catching and technically brilliant ‘utopian Bali’ compositions. Sotheby’s presented contemporary works by Mangu Putra and Mahendra Yasa in the preview of their Hong Kong Autumn Sale, while Sidharta Auctioneers presented Gunarsa and Meja, and ISA Art Advisory presented modern works by Arie Smit (1919-2016) and Adrian Le Mayeur (1880-1958).

ida-bagus-made-nadera-fajar-mengjingsing-1949                   Ida Bagus Made Nadera – Fadjar Mengjingsing 1945

A landmark event in the history of Indonesian modern art, held from 2 – 30 August at Jakarta’s National Gallery of Indonesia was 17/71, Goresan Juang Kemerdekaan (Brushstrokes of the Independence Struggle). Presenting 28 paintings from the collection (over 3000 works) assembled by Indonesia’s founding father President Sukarno the exhibition was opened on August 17th, on the 71st anniversary of the proclamation of independence by the Indonesian President Joko Widodo.

Ida Bagus Made Nadera’s (1912-1988) beautiful 188 x 300 cm modern traditional composition Fadjar Mengjingsing made a special presence, along with works by Walter Spies and Rudolf Bonnet in an exhibition featuring scenes of the independence struggle by Indonesian maestros such as Affandi, Sudjojono and Srihadi alongside pictures of iconic Indonesia.

20160827_191628                                                  Arie Smit (1916-2016)

During the 27 August seminar at Ubud’s Neka Art Museum, a gathering of over 100 members of the Balinese art community, and distinguished guests Suteja Neka and Agung Rai, and paid homage to the legacy of the Dutch post-modern colourist Arie Smit (1916-2016). The iconic painter, who left a distinguished mark in the history of art in the region, passed away 23 March, only days short of his 100th birthday.

Renowned for his vibrant landscape paintings and scenes of Balinese village life Smit is a much-loved artist; his work forms part of collections in Indonesia, and throughout the world.

He started teaching painting to young boys in the village of Penestanan in 1960, beginning the “Young Artists Style”, while at its height there were more than 300 practitioners. He helped transform the village, and prosper economically, being both an art teacher and a father figure to the village. Smit’s passing is a monumental loss to the canon of Southeast Asian art, while the Young Artist Style is one of the most exciting developments in Balinese art in the later half of the 20th Century.

made-wianta-receives-the-award-from-bali-governor-mangu-pastikaMade Wianta receives the Bali Mandara Parama Nugraha 2016 Award from the Governor Mangku Pastika.

A special 30 August ceremony at Taman Budaya Cultural Center Denpasar by the Bali Government honoured local figures who have made important contributions to Bali. An icon of Bali contemporary art, internationally renowned, Made Wianta (b. 1949, Tabanan) received the Bali Mandara Parama Nugraha 2016 Award from the Governor Mangku Pastika in highest appreciation of promoting Bali through contemporary art.

14642015_1359257894086482_2982552466485278854_n

Often overshadowed by the southern regencies of Gianyar, Badung and Tabanan, Buleleng is not only home to a unique Balinese art history (Van Der Tuuk in 1845 and his commissioning of Balinese artists work for his research into the first dictionary of the Balinese language), yet a community of talented artists. Exhibitions by artists from Buleleng are held annually in the southern regencies, and on 22 October Qilin – Membaca Social Budaya Warga Pecinan Kota Singaraja (Socio-cultural readings of Singaraja’s Chinatown Residents) opened at Neka Art Museum in Ubud, and continued for one month.

Based upon curatorial research led by Hardiman, from the Art Department of UNDISKHA University in Singaraja, along with his young team of Made Susanta Dwitanaya, Dewa Gede Purwita, Ketut Wisana Ariyanto and Gede Panca Gautama, into the culture of the Chinese Tionghoa community, the group exhibition delved into spiritual and religious practises, artefacts and there traces, stories from their literature, and portraits of figures from the community. Of the many highlights were the eight collective works, including Spreading Qilin, an installation of terracotta Chinese dragon characters.

20161023_161947A Brutal Contrast of Concrete and Kamasan Painting combined street art along with paintings from selected emerging local talent from Batuan, Ubud, Tabanan and Denpasar.

Cahyendra Putra and the Neo Pitamaha Invite You To: A Brutal Contrast of Concrete and Kamasan Painting opened 23 October will be recorded in the annals of Balinese art history. The outsider exhibition, which in many ways was noteworthy, was underpinned by a long-awaited and fresh approach to presenting art in Ubud, outside of the conventional gallery, art space and museum format.

This collaborative project, organized by Kemal Ezedine, features street art by artists from Bali & Jakarta, along with paintings from selected emerging local talent from Batuan, Ubud, Tabanan and Denpasar. Set within the gutted interior of a building, twenty young artists revealed their interpretation of the famous Bali 1930’s Pita Maha artist’s association in dynamic contemporary art that challenges the establishment. Highlights included works by Wayan Budiarta, Wayan Aris Sumanta and street artists Ego, Saf, Ola, and Slinart.

20160817_111722                                      Bali LandscapesWillem Kerseboom

Bali Landscapes by Dutch painter Willem Kerseboom opened at TiTian Art Space, Ubud 28 October (continuing until late January 2017). Kerseboom, who shares his time between Holland/Belgium and his home North Bali presented acrylic landscape compositions of a rare quality. His imaginary, abstract snapshots, are deeply engaging, while being a fine creative contribution to the long line of Dutch artists who have been inspired by Bali.

jiri-kudrna-light-plane-photography                             Light Plain Photographs – Jiri Kudrna

Ubud based Swiss engineer and software developer Jiri Kudrna, a pioneer in experimental photography has made major contributions to the development of contemporary photography. Kudrna’s contributions to Age of Photography #2, open 15 – 28 November at the National Gallery of Indonesia, Jakarta were from his inventions that created Light Plain Photographs (LPP), and his three interactive installations, Space – Time Variations.

 LPP’s are fantastic images using a plain of light and a camera to record photographs with unique optic effects – a fusion of the four-time space dimensions – while the subject is housed within a dark room and participates within their own unique photographic procedure. Kudrna’s Space – Time Variations were very popular with exhibition audience who created over 1800 pictures in four days, and were also able to upload the images onto social media platforms.

Power Playing works by Arum & Ida Adi.jpg                      Power Playing – Images by Arum & Ida Adi at Lingkara

Lingkara Photography Community of Denpasar is an alternative platform for contemporary photographers in Bali. Over recent years Lingkara have presented a range of quality collaborative exhibitions and events. Driven by a small core group of dedicated artists Lingkara not only strive to support the collective, yet seek out professional opportunities by engaging with and representing artists via product development and management.

Power Playing opened 20 November presenting mostly large-scale works by Candra Mpu Glimblond, Christina Arum, Ida Adi, Ismail Ilmi, Rudi Waisnawa and S.R. Awy. While the artists individual techniques involved varying processes, such as re printing images, painting, collage with the help of additional tools, mirrors, candles and magnifying tools to make impressions, the final large-scale results which were applied to the walls were a single photograph without digital enhancement. Lingkara are making important contributions to the development of contemporary photography in Bali and Power Playing was a very strong collective showing, while Arum’s technically labor intensive work was one of the highlights.

mangu-putra-2016-puputan-badung-the-fall-of-badung-kingdom-2-oil-on-canvas-370-x-150-cm         Puputan Badung 1906 (The Fall of Badung Kingdom # 1) – Agung Mangu Putra

Agung Mangu Putra: Between History and the Quotidian ran from 25 November – 12 December at Singapore’s Gajah Gallery. Mangu Putra continues his research into critical Dutch colonial events that shaped Indonesian and Balinese history. Highlights were Puputan Badung 1906 (The Fall of Badung Kingdom # 1& 2) 2016 & 2014, compositions pieced together from archival accounts and images into enormous paintings up 370 x 1590 cm in size. The works reveal the story of the Dutch colonial army’s confrontation with the Kingdom of Badung in Kesiman, Denpasar in 1906 that resulted in the tragic puputan event (act of ritual suicide).

Mangu Putra’s investigation into these events are important because these events occurred during a crucial era of the nation’s history and theses events without more historical examination may become historical myths.

20170103_170338                     Ashley Bickerton‘s sculptures at Follow the White Cube

The Pop-Up gallery concept is new to Ubud, Bali and was successfully adopted by Honold Fine Art twice in 2016. Follow the White Cube opened 26 November at Italian artist Filippo Sciascia’s studio in Nyuh Kuning. The exhibition featured work by artists Jumaldi Alfi, Marco Cassani, Ashley Bickerton, Fendry Ekel, Bepi Ghiotti, Yusra Mantunus, Narcisse Tordior and Filippo Sciascia.

Set within a ‘white cube’ display areas that lent well to strong, yet conventional viewing experience, the works ranged from paintings through to sculpture, installation and video art presented exciting contrasts. While the spontaneity of the Pop-Up concept is a fresh and much-needed addition to the Ubud art scene.

doors-of-perception-made-aswino-aji                              Doors of Perception 2016 – Made Aji Aswino

CROSSING: Beyond Baliseering presented some of the finest emerging contemporary artist from Bali at Forty-Five Downstairs Gallery, Melbourne, Australia, open 6 December. Reflecting upon Bali’s visual and social culture while exploring themes of personal life experiences, environmental, social and political issues in the contemporary society, the exhibition showcased paintings, photography, sculptures, and large-scale installations.

In the most important international group showing of Balinese contemporary art outside of Indonesia that featured Art of Whatever, Made Aji Aswino, Budi Agung Kuswara, Citra Sasmita, Kemal Ezedine, Made ‘Dalbo’ Suarimbawa, Natisa Jones, Slinat, Made Valasara, Wayan Upadana and Yoesoef Olla, highlights included Aswino Aji’s monumental two-sided wood craving installation, Doors of Perception 2016, 250 x 300 x 80 cm, a representation of a candi (traditional Balinese temple entry), along with works by‘Dalbo’ Suarimbawa, Upadana, Slinart and Citra Sasmita.

5-kasper-x-nedsone-teges-ubud                                 Lukas Kasper& Nedsone at work during Way Up

Bali’s ever evolving street art movement is increasingly discovering new sights to enliven along the streets of urban Denpasar and within the villages of the Badung and Gianyar Regencies. Way UpStreet Art Collaboration Project initiated by Cata Odata, Allcapsstore and Lukas Kasper began in November 2016 and will continue through until the end of January 2017.

The project was born through the meeting of Cata Odata and Australian artist Lukas Kasper beginning with the idea to contribute vibrantly to Ubud’s street areas and to collaborate with nine street artists from Bali on 20 walls. Local artists include Nedsone, Kmis3, Lezart, Slinat, Yapstwo, Sleeck, and 1escv. The event included the Way Up online map on the website and the 17 December Spray Jam workshop, and Kelas Belajar sharing session 18 December at Cata Odat, and the #UbudScavengerHunt. 17 December through 11 January which will include a prize to the winner.

http://way-up.cataodata.com/follow-the-map.html

putu-wirantawan-2016                  Contemporary Art from Bali – Installation by Putu Wirantawan 2016

Contemporary Art from Bali opened 15 December at LAF (Langgeng Art Foundation) Yogyakarta, and continues through until 31 January 2017. Curated by Rifky Effendy and Gede Mahendra Yasa the show featured some of the finest contemporary artists currently working in Bali, foreigners, Indonesians and Balinese: Ketut Susena, Ketut Samadi, Made Aswino Aji, Teja Astawa, Natisa Jones, Wayan Mandiyasa, Ketut Suwidiarta, Putu Wirantawan, Ashley Bickerton, Marco Cassani, Filippo Sciascia, Ketut Moniarta, Kemal Ezedine, Wayan Upadana, Made Valasara and Rodney Glick.

Overshadowed by the traditional art scene, and often overlooked within the context of the Indonesian art world contemporary art and the art infrastructure is on the rise in Bali. Making an important statement within the context of Indonesian contemporary art, in the Javanese cultural and creative heartland with its ever-evolving art infrastructure and eco system, this exhibition is the most important collective showing of contemporary art from Bali held in Indonesia in 2016.

20161230_175209                        Inside of Being  – Installation by Pande Ketut Taman 2016

The 30 December opening at the Tony Raka Art Gallery punctuated the end of 2016 and friendship and creative achievement by four Balinese contemporary artists, alumni of the Indonesian Art Insititue SI Yogyakarta. Inside of Being highlighted the talents of Putu Sutawijaya, Made Sumadiyasa, Made Mahendra Mangku & Pande Ketut Taman, artists who have shared friendships for over 30 years, while at the same time during their individual careers making significant contributions to the development of Balinese art. The exhibition, which includes paintings, both small and large-scale, and installations will continue through until 30 January, including an Artist’s Talk from 3pm 5 January at Tony Raka Art Gallery.

Such a report would not be fully complete without highlighting the stoic efforts of Warih Witsatsana and his small army of dedicated assistants at the Bentara Budaya Bali Cultural Center. Their consistent weekly programs throughout the year are a shining light in the support and development of Bali’s thriving creative culture.

With an emphasis upon education via lectures, discussions, presentations and hands on workshops, especially for the younger generations, Bentara Budaya’s one of a kind model is an inspiration to other aspiring art and cultural facilities on the island. 2016’s broad range of events, including numerous collaborations with international artists, institutes, and organizations highlights their open platform to global cultural expressions, while underlining Bali’s internationally renowned welcoming attitude to foreign cultures and creative expressions.

Words: Richard Horstman

Images: Richard Horstman & various photographers

 

 

 

 

The Legacy of Arie Smit 1916-2016

20160827_191628The Death of Dutch Colorist Arie Smit 23 March 2016 is an Enormous Loss to The Canon of Southeast Asian Art.

 

During an August seminar at Ubud’s Neka Art Museum, a gathering of over 100 members of the Balinese art community paid homage to the legacy of the Dutch post-modern colourist Arie Smit (1916-2016). The iconic painter, who left a distinguished mark in the history of art in the region, passed away 23 March, only days short of his 100th birthday.

Renowned for his vibrant landscape paintings and scenes of Balinese village life Smit is a much-loved artist; his work forms part of collections in Indonesia, and throughout the world. Characterised by rapid movements with dense mosaics of color, allowing only scenic images to emerge in abstract forms, Smit’s compositions resemble an impressionist-pointillist style, and have been dubbed “Poems of Color.”

painting-by-arie-smit-image-richard-horstman                                        “Rhythms of Life” 1990

Drafted into the Netherlands army, sent abroad and stationed with the topographical service in Batavia, now Jakarta, Smit first set foot in the Dutch East Indies in 1938. Previously he studied art at the Academy of Arts in Amsterdam. In 1942 with the out break of World War II he was imprisoned by the invading Japanese army, later being shipped to Singapore, Thailand, and then Burma to undertake forced labour.

In 1950 Smit returned when the Dutch acknowledged Indonesia’s sovereignty after the revolution of Independence (1945-1949), becoming an Indonesian citizen. He settled in Ubud in 1956. Enchanted by the tropical light and landscape he roamed throughout Bali, reputedly moving house 36 times. Smit became the most important stimulator of painting on Bali, post Second World War.

20160827_192255                              “Full Moon Ceremony” 1994

“The Balinese trust more in their feelings than which meets the eye,” said seminar speaker Suteja Neka, founder of the Neka Art museum, long time friend, and Smit’s art dealer. “Smit’s unique skill was in capturing the potent invisible elements of Bali in his dazzling colourful verve.”

“Smit had a different way of seeing Bali’s landscape compared with the other Western artists of the 1930’s-1950’s era,” said art observer, Indonesian Art Institute (ISI) lecturer, curator and artist Dr. Wayan Kun Adnyana. “Bringing a western perspective, similar to fauvism, through his personal interpretation colour became the language and entity to explore and communicate Bali’s tropical nature.”

20160827_192221                               “Galungan Holiday” 1996

“In 1960 Smit began sharing art materials with, and teaching young boys in the village of Penestanan, near Ubud. This was the beginning of the “Young Artists Style”. At its height there was more than 300 practitioners,” said international artist and ISI lecturer Wayan Karja, who was born in Penestanan in 1965. “He helped transform the village, and prosper economically; poor farmers turned into painters. Not only was he an art teacher, Smit was a father figure to the village as well.”

The “Young Artists Style” was fresh and exciting; 60’s Balinese psychedelic pop art that emphasized color, the denseness of pure decoration, with a strong graphic sense. Smit did not attempt to influence the style of boys work, only the subject matter of village life. At his home studio he was careful to keep his paintings out of sight so they were never copied.

During the tourism boom of the 1970’s the genre became enormously popular.

20160827_192357                                                “Orchids” 1991

Smit’s work comes in a wide range of formats, from small postcard sizes to works of 1.5 meters or larger. After the 2008-2010 Indonesian contemporary art boom that witnessed over inflated prices for up and coming artists, collectors shifted their focus to Indonesian modern art. Paintings by the old masters became popular, some of which were considered as undervalued.

In 2011 the market realized a record price for the most expensive work sold at auction by Smit at the March Larasati Singapore sale. “Balinese Village and Farmlands” sold for close to 5 times its estimated price at a high of US $ 124,000. At Christie’s Hong Kong Asian 20th Century Art Sale May 2015 Smit’s “Pura” sold for just over US $ 207,000.

20160827_192435                                 “A Tropical Garden by the Sea” 1999

Nowadays many of Smit’s works sell for modest prices within their estimates and under US $4,000. The Smit connoisseurs however, are very specific about their choices with some willing to compete bidding the prices up, determined to secure their desired trophy works.

During Sotheby’s Hong Kong Autumn Sales 2016 in the Modern and Contemporary Southeast Asian Art Day Sale 3 October thirteen paintings by Smit, ranging through the decades from the 1970’s – 1990’s, go under the hammer. They are sure to attract much attention from regional and international art collectors.

20160827_192122                                              “Low Tide” 1988

Believing that a painter’s style was, in short, his personality, Smit’s oeuvre reinforced his claim, reflecting traceable changes and developments over time. His aesthetics created a greater position for Bali within the context of Indonesian art.

Arie Smit spent his final days lying peacefully in bed at home in Ubud, despite his failing eyesight his mind remained clear. Famed for his “broken colors” style, his passing is a monumental loss to the canon of Southeast Asian art.

20160827_192147           “A Split Gate. Three Women and a Dog, And Two Heron Birds” 1999

The paintings pictured above are just a small part of the Arie Smit collection at the Neka Art Museum on Jalan Raya Sanggingan, Ubud.

 

Balinese Kamasan Paintings

Kamasan 1605 wayan Dogol, The charming of Mandara Giri, natural pigment on paper.“The Charming of Mandara Giri” 1605 Natural pigments on paper. Image courtesy of Museum Puri Lukisan

Imagine you are a master Balinese painter, and your King has recently commissioned you to create a work. As you sit down in front of a large cloth stretched upon a wooden frame with a pencil in hand, for a moment you contemplate the composition before beginning to sketch. The year is 1723. What would go through your mind?

Possibly you hear the clash and bangs of metallic instruments of a Balinese ensemble. You visualize the cloth in front as a giant screen, with an audience seated on the opposite side. And you imagine yourself as a dalang – a master puppeteer – manipulating puppets while bringing to life a mighty Hindu religious epic during a wayang kulit shadow theater play.

The roots of the wayang puppet theater, one of the original story telling methods in the Balinese culture may be traced back over 2000 years to the Indian traders who settled in Nusa Antara (Indonesia prior to being known as the Dutch East Indies) bringing with them their culture and Hindu religion. The wayang or classical style of Balinese painting is derived from the imagery that appears in this medium.

Kamasan Painting Image R. Horstman                                                     “The Death of Abismanyu”

The paintings were made on processed bark paper, cotton cloth and wood and were used to decorate temples, pavilions, and the houses of the aristocracy, especially during temple ceremonies and festivals. Originally the work of artisans from the East Javanese Majapahit Empire (13-16th Century), this style of painting expanded into Bali late in the 13th century and from the 16th – 20th centuries, the village of Kamasan, Klungkung, was the center of classical Balinese art, and hence the Kamasan paintings.

The original works were a communal creation, the master artist shaped the composition, sketching in the details and outlines and apprentices added the colors. These works where never signed by an individual and considered as a collective expression of values and gratitude from the village to the Divine. Colors were created from natural materials mixed with water, i.e iron oxide stone for brown, calcium from pig bones for white, ocher oxide clay for yellow, indigo leaves for blue, carbon soot or ink for black. Enamel paint introduce by the Chinese a few hundred years ago were used on wooden panels of pavilions and shrines, or even upon glass.

The highly detailed, sacred narrative Kamasan paintings play an essential role within the Balinese culture functioning as a bridge communicating between two worlds, the material world humans inhabit and the immaterial world of the divine and demonic forces. The artist functions as a medium translating the esoteric and invisible into a comprehendible visual language and bringing greater understandings to the mysteries of life according to scriptures and philosophies. According to Dr Adrian Vickers, Professor of SE Asian Studies at Sydney University, “The key to Kamasan painting’s sense of beauty is the beautiful flow of line and the pure flat figuration.”

"The Turning of Mount Mandara" .Mangku Mura 1973, natural pigments on cloth, Photo -David IronsA Modern Kamasan Painting  “The Turning of Mount Mandara” Mangku Mura 1973       Image courtesy of David Irons.

For foreign audiences the paintings, however, present difficulties in their understanding. Without a concept of the landscape in Balinese paintings it’s about an arrangement of items on a flat surface akin to the shadow puppets against the screen in shadow theater. Unlike Western modern art where paintings generally have one focal point there is no central focal point to read the Kamasan narratives. Most of the paintings have multiple stories that may be read in all areas around the composition.

Looking at painting it is full with visual information to the extent that nothing stands out. Tight, generalized, often repetitive patterning, often of decorative motifs, and combinations of graphic patterns are distributed all across the surface leaving little or no blank areas. Ornamental elements, rocks, flowers motifs and painted borders indicate Indian and Chinese influence from Chinese porcelain and Indian textiles.

“Adherence to established rules about the relative size of parts of figures related to measurements in the human body – in the Balinese perspective each measurement is seen as a human manifestation of elements that exist in the wider cosmos. Correctness of proportions is part of being in tune with the workings of divine forces in the world. Colors are also codified.” says Adrian Vickers in his book Balinese Art Paintings & Drawings of Bali 1800-2010. “Form evokes spirituality.”

DSCF4755                      “Kumbakarna Attacked by Monkeys” Date Unkown. ARMA

The two dimensional Kamasan compositions generally depict three levels, the upper level is the realm of the Gods and the benevolent deities, the middle level occupied by kings and the aristocracy, and the lower third belongs to humans and demonic manifestations. Details in facial features, costumes, body size and skin color indicate specific rank, figure or character type. Darker skin and big bodies are typical of ogres, light skin and finely portioned bodies are Gods and kings. Rules control the depiction of forms; there are 3 or 4 types of eyes, 5 or 6 different postures and headdresses. The position of the hands indicates questions and answers, command and obedience.

The narratives are from the Hindu and Buddhist sacred texts – the Ramayana, Mahabarata, Sutasoma, Tantri, also from Panji – Javanese-Balinese folktales and romances. Astrological, earthquake and birth charts are also depicted. Major mythological themes are rendered in great symmetry, while these paintings contain high moral standards and function to express honorable human virtues to society with the intent to encourage peace and harmony. A beautiful painting communicates balance, aesthetically and metaphorically, and is equated to the artist achieving union with the divine.

Traditional Kamasan painting is not static and keeps evolving as subtle changes have occurred over time as each artist has their own style, composition and use of colour. It is common that new works regularly replace old and damaged works and hence Kamasan painting is an authentic living Balinese tradition.

DSCF4643                                 “Bharata Yudha”  1969  –  Tjokorda Oka Gambira

Where to See Kamasan Paintings in Bali:

Museum Puri Lukisan, Jalan Raya Ubud, Bali

Tele: +62 361 971159

Open Daily 9am – 5 pm.

ARMA Museum, Jalan Raya Pengosekan, Ubud, Bali

Tele: +62 361 975742

Open Daily 9am – 5 pm.

Neka Museum, Jalan Raya Sanggingan, Campuhan, Ubud, Bali

Tele: +62 361 975074

Open Daily 9am – 5 pm

Nyoman Gunarsa Museum of Classical & Modern Art

Jl. Pertigaan Banda No. 1, Takmung, Banjarangkan, Klungkung, Bali.

Tele: +62 366 22256

Open Daily 10 am – 5 pm.

Palalintangan Astrological Chart - Natural Pigments on Cloth                                                      Palalintangan – Astrological Chart

"The Gods of Eight Attacking Garuda," Pan Seken 2                           “The Gods of Eight Attacking Garuda”  – Pan Seken