Tag Archives: Sanggar Dewata Indonesia (SDI)

Posthumous tribute to Balinese artist Sukari a highlight of Jogja Art Weeks

"Dialog" 2005 - Nyoman Sukari, 150 x 250cm, oil on canvas. Image Richard Horstman                                   Dialog, 2000 – Nyoman Sukari

 

Balinese Hindu ritual is a fascinating and potent fundamental of a distinct traditional culture that, through its philosophies seeks to embrace a universal sense of harmony between all people, the environment and the divine. It incorporates a belief system that places equal emphasis on both the physical and non-physical aspects of the world and the dualistic nature of life.

In the compelling finale to the opening ceremony of Trajectory: Posthumous Solo Exhibition of I Nyoman Sukari, 26 July 2019 at Taman Budaya Yogyakarta (TBY), Yogyakarta, a display of ceremonial ritual set a unique and electrifying atmosphere that continued throughout the evening. Ni Nyoman Aryaningsih, the widow of the late and renowned painter, accompanied by a gamelan ensemble and a traditional flute, sang the Bramara Ngisep Sari mantra. In this sacred practice, that included a special dance performance by Aryaningsih and family members, the presentation of offerings and incense, Sukari’s spirit was called to return from the heavens to the earthly plane in order to witness the exhibition.

Audience at TBY during Sukari opening - Image Richard HorstmanThe audience at TBY during the opening of Trajectory: Posthumous Solo Exhibition of I Nyoman Sukari.

 

One hundred and thirty-eight of Sukari’s works, 50 oil paintings, 13 pen drawings on canvas, 29 watercolour and acrylics on paper, 35 pencil sketches on paper and 11 mixed media works on carton from the private collections of Dr Oei Hong Djien, Lin Che Wei, and Aryaningsih went on display at TBY. This monumental and practically designed presentation, which included a timeline of significant data and photos set over 50 meters of wall space, took Sarasvati Art Management three years to organize. It is held in conjunction with Jogja Art Weeks (JAW) – a two-month-long program of exhibitions and events conducted throughout Central Java in support of Indonesia’s leading contemporary art festival ArtJog MMXIX Common Space, open 24 July – 24 August at Jogja National Museum.

Beginning from his school days SMSR (1986-1990) until his final years of creativity in 2009, the collaboration between Sarasvati Art Management, OHD Museum, the Sanggar Dewata Indonesia (SDI) art collective, and Aryaningsih, features works spanning Sukari’s entire, award-winning career. It is set out chronologically from his school years to art college at the Indonesian Art Institute (ISI) Yogyakarta, the art collective Spirit ‘90 era, his career peak in 2002 – 2003, his solo exhibition in Gajah Gallery Singapore, and then the final stages of his career in 2008 – 2009.

Nyoman Sukari self portrait in ink on paper circa? Image Richard Horstman                        Self-portrait, ink on paper by Nyoman Sukari

 

Symbolically layered with meaning, and loaded with atmospheric energy, Sukari’s paintings are a meeting point between the sekala and niskala – the physical and non-physical worlds according to the Balinese philosophies. Curated by Suwarno Wisetrotomo and Gede Arya Sucitra, lecturers at ISI Yogyakarta, where Sukari was an outstanding student, Trajectory highlights the three defining creative periods of his career.

“In considering and understanding the creativity and philosophy in Sukari’s paintings it is necessary to know who he was, where he came from, and what his social-cultural environment was. What his cultural experience was, why he painted, and what he painted,” writes Arya Sucitra in the exhibition catalogue. The seventh of nine children, born 6 July 1968 in the remote village of Ngis, Manggis, Karangasem, East Bali, Sukari grew up to become accomplished in traditional music playing gamelan, and the suling flute, as well as dancing, singing. Traditional Balinese wisdom and values were the foundations of how he lived his life within his family, community, and artistic contexts.

Sukari Saat Melukis                       Nyoman Sukari at work in his Yogyakarta studio

 

“Sukari created works that departed from the traditional arts of his forefathers with a ‘new’ technical approach – expressionism, freeing himself from the details, yet still being able to place the mystical atmosphere within his works,” continues Arya Sucitra. “Working in Yogya, where he lived and studied from 1991 – 1995, gave him the opportunity to reread and explore the space between tradition and modernity, between the old and the new, and between those who were close to the niskala.”

A character of many contradictions Sukari had the distinction of having a sold out show at the Spirit ‘90 exhibition at Purna Budaya Yogyakarta when he was a student at ISI Yogyakarta. In a rare artistic journey, at the beginning of his career his works were priced highly, then at the end of his career, due to lack of market popularity, his works were priced low. A visionary and versatile artist, along with being a crucial art provocateur, and art community leader, during the exhibitions of the collective Spirit ‘90 in 1994 & 1995 Sukari’s paintings were partly responsible for the Indonesian art market boom beginning at the campus level. The artist chose to, however, distance himself from the chaos of the boom that continued on until 2000. At times he refused to sell his works to art collectors.

"Orang Gila" 2000 - Nyoman Sukari, 150 x 200 cm, oil on cnvas. Image Richard Horstman                               Orang Gila, 2000 – Nyoman Sukari

 

Highly expressive with dynamic brushstrokes, Sukari’s oil paintings are powerful insights from the darker angels of his psyche. Black and greys, golden browns, touches of white and red to achieve dramatic contrasts, his compositions are often a collision of imagery and non-descript forms. Many of his works feature menacing eyes and faces gazing out from swirling masses of energy. Immediately confronting, these works are not for the faint-hearted.

Sukari’s narratives vary from the cultural, mythological and the surreal, to his reflections upon Indonesia’s social and political upheaval during the finale of President Suharto’s New Order Regime, observations and contemplations about life, mortality, and his spirituality. Just a few of his awards include the 1993 ISI Yogyakarta best painting, the 1994 Affandi Adi Karya Art Award for best painting, and in 2000 the Lempad Prize from Sanggar Dewata Indonesia (SDI).

Exhibition co-curator Gede Arya Sucitra discussing Sukari's pen on canvas compositions - Image Richard HorstmanExhibition cocurator Arya Sucitra during a discussion about the watercolour paintings of Nyoman Sukari

 

While Trajectory’s content is dominated by darker themes Sukari’s ‘lighter’ sensibilities come to the fore within his works on paper in watercolour, ink and acrylics. His sketches and watercolours on paper and canvas have never been publically exhibited. A few small ink compositions feature minimalistic imagery that appears floating upon the white expanses of paper – here we embrace the gentler essence of the painter.

“The final years of Sukari’s career were his most contemplative and philosophical,” states Arya Sucitra. “His Niskala Drawing Series 2008 – 2009, featuring complex compositions in pen on canvas are an important aesthetic landmark emphasizing his spiritual journey while revealing an undeniable pull for him to become a holy man or priest.”

The works feature forms rendered in horizontal and vertical structures that create distinct relationships with the upper and lower supernatural worlds, along with his own magical iconography derived from the sacred rerajahan symbols, and his ideas about his spiritual responsibilities. Perhaps his finest masterpiece is Menunggu Cuaca, 2008, a stark composition depicting a fisherman waiting for fine weather so that he may return to the ocean. In this symbolic reflection upon patience, Sukari’s reveals his intuitive musings about the closing episode of his life.

Pen sketch on paper by Nyoman Sukari, circa 2008-2009. Image Richard Horstman               Pen drawing on paper, circa 2008 – 2009 by Nyoman Sukari

 

Sukari passed away 12 May 2010 in Bali after battling with a two-year illness. He leaves behind an inspiring legacy underlining his commitment to his family, culture, creative life purpose and building community through the power of art. Trajectory: Posthumous Solo Exhibition of I Nyoman Sukari, which continues through 12 August at TBY, honours one of the true, late masters of Balinese art.

"Trunyan Series" 2007 - Nyoman Sukari. Image Richard Horstman                         Truyan Series, 2007 – Nyoman Sukari

 

"Menunggu Cuaca" 2008 - Nyoman Sukari, 145 x 200cm, oil on canvas. Image Richard Horstman                          Menunggu Cuaca, 2008 – Nyoman Sukari

 

Detail of watercolour composition on paper by Nyoman Sukari , circa 2008 - 2009 - Image Richard Horstman        Detail of watercolour composition on paper, 2007 – Nyoman Sukari

 

"Mantan Pemburu" 2009 - Nyoman Sukari, acrylic on canvas. Image Richard Horstman                          Mantan Pemburu, 2009 – Nyoman Sukari

 

Words & Images: Richard Horstman

 

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

Words: Richard Horstman

Photos: Richard Horstman

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gunarsa(DK)

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

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

Sketch in black ink- Gunarsa

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

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

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

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Words: Richard Horstman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Walking a Unique Path – Wayan Sika

sika-profile

Wayan Sika smiles as he contemplates his new-found freedom. “On Friday 1st October 2010, after a 34 year association lecturing part-time at ISI (Institute of Fine Arts) Denpasar, I have decided to retire.” Like many others Sika dedicates himself to his family and community; however, the breadth of his accomplishments defines him as truly unique within the realms of Balinese art.

“My father was a renowned wood-carver, many students came to his studio to study under him. For me this was a wonderful learning environment, and I too became a good wood sculptor.”

Born in the village of Silakarng, Gianyar, in 1949, formal art education began in SSRI (School of Fine Art Indonesia) in Denpasar, followed by 4 years studying painting at the Academy ASRI of Indonesian Fine Art in Yogyakarta. “I had become a competent sculptor and then I developed a strong desire to paint, I also wished to broaden my creative skills.”

mandala-2009-200-x-200-cm                                                  Mandala 2009

In 1970 along with Nyoman Gunarsa, Made Wianta and other students at the ASRI, Sika founded the Sanggar Dewata Indonesia (SDI) artists collective. These artists were young and dynamic, they loved to experiment with new techniques and aesthetic concepts. This was the prerequisite for artists who were invited to join this avant-garde collective.

After finishing his studies in Yogyakarta, Sika returned to Bali. Married at age 24 to lady from Yogyakarta with royal ancestry, he began a family and focused his energies on a furniture production business. “I specialized in creating individual, fine art pieces of furniture for the discerning buyer, featuring wood carving in the Renaissance Rococo style.”

“The business quickly grew and I employed more than 100 wood carvers. Indonesian government ministers from the Suharto era acquired this furniture for their homes and offices. All the while during this period I found time for my passion, I continued to paint.”

kasi-cinta-give-love-2008-150-x-200-cm                                               Kasih Cinta 2008

In 1982-83, Sika was summoned by the government to go to New Zealand and produce furniture for the Indonesian Embassy. Then in 1986 he traveled to Switzerland where he worked creating expressive carvings and bronze statues until 1987. He received an order in 1989 from a Museum in Basel to make a Barong (the Balinese sacred ceremonial artifact that represents universal benevolence) for their collection.

It was during this period when the head of the Christof Merian Foundation saw his paintings and invited him to join their program of International Exchange Artists. Sika’s premiere solo exhibition in Basel in 1989 was sold out. This then provided the personal belief required, and then he devoted more energy into his painting. “This was an exciting period, there was a momentum and my painting was improving, however, I had to return to Bali, my family required my attention, and so did my furniture business.”

“It was difficult for the SDI artists to find a location to exhibit their work in Bali and for this reason I founded the Sika Contemporary Art Gallery in Campuhan, Ubud as an exhibition venue. The gallery opened in 1996, at the time of the 25th anniversary of the formation of the SDI artists’ foundation.”

krishna-narayana-2009-300-x-200                                                     Krishna Narayana 2009

This non sales orientated gallery specializes in providing space to support regular exhibitions by talented young artists from Indonesia and around the world. The gallery has become a prestigious site with a reputation for showing work with a high level of creativity and innovation.

Sika was asked by the Christof Merian Foundation to select Indonesian artists to travel to Switzerland, to be sponsored by the foundation for 3 months. This allowed the artists to exhibit in the cultural museum in Basel and be exposed to galleries from London, Holland and Germany. Under Sika’s recommendation Nyoman Erawan, Made Budhiana, Made Djirna, Edi Hara, Made Wianta, Ketut Pandi Taman and Putu Sutawijaya all had the opportunity for international exposure. Today they are considered to be some of Indonesia’s finest contemporary art talents.

In 2001 Sika chose to step aside from the foundation and reassess his personal focus. “I had received a calling to dedicate myself to my spiritual journey. As an artist this was to have a profound affect and my work became more symbolic rather than being focused on harmony and composition.”

dewi-rati-2009-150-x-200-cm                                                          Dewi Rati 2009

He continued to organize group and community exhibitions as well as curating exhibitions and writing in books, catalogs, magazines and newspapers. His actions were also relevant in the development of new schools and kinder gardens in Bali. Sika had a series of health problems that saw him comatose on 3 occasions, once in 2003, again in 2006 and finally in 2009, when he hovered close to death for many days.

On this occasion he received visions which inspired a new series of paintings.

The Truth, Compassion and Tolerance Art Exhibition, open  16-24 October 2010 at the Sika Contemporary Fine Art Gallery, depicted the calamity of mankind, reflecting the conflict between good and evil, namely the systematic persecution of the Falun Dafa spiritual movement disciples by the Chinese Communist Regime. The powerful realism paintings featured by international artists re enforced on one hand, the state of beauty of the Falun Dafa movement and on the other, the horror it is confronted with in China. Since 2004 this exhibition has been shown in more than 40 countries and 200 cities.

During the past 45 years Sika has been given many paintings by international and Indonesian artists that he has met and helped during his lifetime. His personal art collection is now of a museum standard and quantity.

consent-2009-300-x-200cm                                                            Consent 2009

Sika nowadays paints purely on the prompting of his intuition. Paintings produced during the last 10 years have been mixed media works on large 2 x 2 meter canvases, symbolic images are purely of a spiritual nature. These works include written text on cloth conjuring up the movement and essence of Tibetan pray flags, figures in the style of Hindu deities, large lotus flowers and his channeled mantra’s written in Sanskrit text.The predominant colors are gold and white, while he delicately layers films of coloration giving the works an ethereal sense. The Balinese live in an intermediate world between that which is human and the realm of the Gods. Sika’s creativity originates from a divine source above.

His wish now is retire from the Sika Contemporary Fine Art Gallery and to focus solely on his spiritual development, while taking care of his family and grand children. His dream is to manifest an art foundation to oversee the management and future of his Gallery and its commitment to avant-garde artists.

Wayan Sika has established himself as one of the influential Balinese artists of his generation, and historically one of the most significant Indonesian contemporary fine art identities.

The Sika Contemporary Fine Art Gallery is located on Jalan Raya Campuhan, just up and across the road from Bintang Supermarket.

Phone/Fax: +62 361 975084

Email: info@sikagallery.com

Website: www.sikagallery.com

Words & Images: Richard Horstman