Legacy a Retrospective of Wayan Darmika
December 24 th 2004 – January 24 th 2005
Legacy 25 Year Creative Journey
Retrospective of WAYAN DARMIKA
Putu Wirata Dwikora
Translated by Marlowe Bandem
If there should be a Balinese painter that until the rise of this millennium, consistently explores the Balinese and Hindu icons through vivid and expressive techniques with exceptional smear, etch, and chisel reminiscent tothe mastery of a Balinese sangging in work; etching layers of rocks, carving pieces of wood and engraving relief on temple walls, then it must be Wayan Darmika. Young Darmika studied from 1981 to 1988 and graduated from Indonesian College of Fine Art Yogyakarta (now known as Indonesian Institute ofthe Arts; lSI Yogyakarta). His arty talents seem to befall from his father, Nyoman Narsa (80 years old), a carver specializing in relief statuette with thematic inspiration from the great epics Ramayana and Mahabharata.
Darmika s artwork that illustrates the complexities of the Balinese culture incolor,composition as well as philosophy, tends to leave an impression that he relentlessly withholds an exploration that is frequently stigmatized as ethnocentric and primitive. People witness the color poleng (black and white checkered pattern), cili visualization (the triangle shape as symbolism of beauty and grandeur), and the closed of eyes of divinities, all as something imprinting Bali. Yet if we reside from acultural stance that celebrates pluralism, universalism, modernism or postmodernism, then we should not deem superiority upon aculture that parades ethnological persona.
Throughout his long and winding art journey, Darmika s persistence in exploring his ancestor s heritage seems definite; not onlyin the realms of fine art, but also in the context of a community member with intensive engagement in communal works of religious rituals and ceremonies that seems adorning all over Bali lately. In that regards, this current exhibition is titled LEGACY, as a description and representation of Darmikas hearty exploration upon the array and wealth of the ancestral heritage or legacy.
Wayan Darmika was born on February 24th , 1960 in Silakarang village of Sukawati Gianyar; a village upbringing that has already long before now accustomed to the global milieu. Although interacting with modern popular culture (as all villages in Bali do); Silakarang village where he was raised as a child is one village that still preserves and upholds their diverse cultural heritage. Among them are religious rituals that deeply bonds tothe traditional daily life. Many and numerous art creations are immersed into these religious rituals.
After completing his studies at lSI Yogyakarta in 1987, he returned to his beloved village Silakarang -just about 3 kilometers from the heart Ubud; the art village of the world -and started to do work creatively within the caring and nurturing hands of a village community that during the time was obviously undergoing mind shifts and ritualization of faith and culture, Besides engaging creative work as apainter, Darmika was also drawn into the busy and eventful ritual routines, in which one must dedicate time and effort. Like other members of the village, Darmika is customary to ngayah (a native term reflecting time and labor dedication without wage as means of tribute) at the pura (temples) or other religious ceremonies, in which he lend a hand crafting ornaments for shrines; one sample of ngayah duties he does with enjoyment and delight. Such pleasure stimulates him to learn ancient manuscripts pertaining tothe many symbols custom to religious ceremonies, together with ascertaining the deep philosophical meanings all atonce.
Overtime, Darmika became familiar to inscribing rajahan (the ancient and sacred inscriptions) on the sanctified cloths for dewa yadnya (ceremonies honoring the might and power of divinities) as well as manusia yadnya (ceremonies in honor to the wholeness of human beings). He is also accustomed to other rajahan inscriptions such as for pedagingan (amedium that is earthed as part of the rite in building holy shrines), dasar (building foundation), caru (the religious offerings made for sacrificial rites), and many others. Because his proficiency crafting these ceremonial items, Darmika then inevitably became used to natab banten in pawintenan, a devout appointment ceremony for those accustomed to making sacred items for ritual ceremonies in Bali.
As time went by, Darmika became profoundly occupied in crafting rajahan inscriptions as never before, especially during the mid-1990s, when his father in-law was formally appointed or melinggih as sulinggih or pandita (high priest as spiritual leader in charge) with the title Ida Pandita Mpu Nabe Siwa Karma Dwija Daksa.
I undergo and experience every bit of these occurrences as sincerely as possible and also with a feeling ‘ being blessed, which is exactly similar to when I’m painting. I start from deep inside my heart, not solely forthe sake and wake of the conceptual ideas behind it all.
His emotions are drawn deeply to the joy arid harmony of those rituals, to which precisely becomes the impulse of his creative processes in painting. He asserts that the more and deeper he learns the philosophy and symbolic meanings founding his religion, the eager he becomes to other themes and phenomenon at large.
There are so much that I still do not know, and what I capture and represent in my work is hardly any from the abundant secrets of this God created universe we live in .
The encounter and explorations ofthe Hindu and Balinese culture iconographies emerged during the 1970s when a group of lSI Yogyakarta students from Bali -among many are such as Nyoman Gunarsa, Wayan Sika, Made Wianta,Wayan Arsana, Pande Gde Supada -declared Sanggar Dewata Indonesia (SDl) A group of fine art students from Bali at Indonesian Institute of the Arts (lSI) Yogyakarta that was established by Nyoman Gunarsa, Made Wianta, Wayan Sika, Pande Gde Supada, Wayan Arsana. In its early days, the vision of the group was to commence explorations upon modern creative techniques, but to implement the spiritual contents from the Hindu religion and culture inBali. During the 1980s, Made Wianta departed from the group to commence solitary explorations. Afterwards inthe 1990s, the SDl conception of the Bali spirituality and religiousness as an identity was enriched by a number of SDl painters that deviated from the idea, as seen in the artworks of Masriadi, Sutawijaya, Taman, Arya Palguna, Tenang, Wiradana, and others,that raised social political themes through configurations that is not absolutely Bali. At first, SDI placed religiosity and . spirituality aspects as the foundation for explorations as well as the principal identity for painters from Bali. Inthe 1980s, Made Wianta departed from SDl following vision variances, where it was emphasized that he does not want to border his explorations by focusing only within the Bali theme. Further more, following the spirited enthusiasm of the late Prof. Dr. Ida Bagus Mantra, the Governor of Bali at the time, for Balinese people to be proud and love Balinese culture, Nyoman Gunarsa materialized the thought through ventures into the beauty of the classic Kamasan paintings with new material and techniques. He astonished many by achieving contemplative exoticism during those periods.
Moreover, during the late 1980s and more significantly during the mid 1990s, the figure Nyoman Erawan of Banjar Dlodtangluk, Sukawati surfaced and came tosight. His figure is synonymous to Tradition Avant Garde given his daring and cunning visual explorations and themes that were termed by many as abstract expressionistic (a term that nevertheless leaves room for heated debates).Erawan utilizes spontaneous expressive techniques -with splashes, scrapes, trickle drips -that correspond as a synergy to the Hindu and Balinese culture iconographies in its final stage. He utilizes debris from the ngaben (cremation) ceremonies, ortree branches as his canvas,as well as boat wrecks, spears, and mattresses etcetera inhis arty installation works.
Frankly speaking,Wayan Oarmika also dwells in aparallel passion realm of explorations as was Nyoman Erawan in the 1990s. As Darmika relatively confines himself from the praying eyes offine artpublics, Erawan in the hand brightly shines, exploring outrageously, composing artistic installations or performance art to which places him in avery own league as a tradition avant gardist, uttering languages from amodern era.
While Darmika is not as wild as Erawan, both are prominent artists of the Hindu and Balinese culture iconographies that posses very distinctive characters.Incontrast to the creative journey retrospective of Erawan that was celebrated at Bentara Budaya Jakarta in 2003, the 25 year creative journey retrospective of Wayan Darmika would highlight his evolutionary creative progress.
The evolutionary characteristic of Darmika s exploration purports astrong propensity of deeper recognition and observation in relation to the spiritual wealth of the Hindu religion and culture iconographies that he accept as true, lives and deals with. If these journeys are articulated metaphorically to th ejourney of a Hindu sulinggih (high priest) in a Balinese community, then Darmika is the high priest hugely responsible to the functions of upakara-upakara (ritual ceremonies) -a ritualistic and metaphysic approach -while Erawan is the high priest that submit to secular subject matters such as social and politic affairs surrounding mankind.This take accounts to the social and political issues that are ingeniously disguised, appear absentmindedly and aesthetically in Erawan works.
In general, the social comprehension towards the role ofa sulinggih in Bali by the Balinese people and Hindu faithful followers is to the extent of the muput upakara-upakara function (carry and conclude ritual ceremonies), to which most of the Balinese high priest are content and confined to. In the wake of more secular role and functions such as resolving problematic issues of contemporary society, the attachment are to a minimum and frequently are proscribed by society. But actually the case isthat counseling advice and enlightenment from high priests are indispensable for the morally arid politically decadent and violent society common these days. Our era today necessitate high priests to lead us to the path of glory in the crusade against secular wickedness, resembling Bhagawan Bhisma, Orona, and Kripa in the epic Bharatayudha, engaging battle indefense of Dharma (good deeds) instead of Korawa. In regards to the Hindu society in Bali,there are a number of high priests that have take part in the social and politic arena such as Pedande Sebali Tianyar Arimbawa, Sri Bhagawan Dwija Warsa Nawa Sandi and Brahmana Guna Awatara Dasa. Pedanda Sebali Tianyar Arimbawa iscurrently the Darma Adiyaksa of Persatuan Hindu Dharma Indonesia (PHDI)Pusat,the national Hindu Dharma organization, Sri Bhagawan Dwija is the Vice President of Paruman Pandita PHDI Province of Bali, and Brahmana Guna Awatara Dasaisa member of the Sabha Pandita PHDI Pusat. They are among the few high priests that perform the ‘two fold function’, as inspiritual leaders that carry and conclude Hindu ritual ceremonies as well as carry the control function through moral enlightenments for the people. It is not surprising that they emerge within the everyday social political and humanity territory. They analyze the doctrines that are then transferred through contextual Hindu logical reasoning of gugon tuwon or myths.
The iconographies exploration and transformation in Darmika’s artwork is interrelated to the ritualistic and metaphysic approaches of Hindu high priests in Bali. Within the exploration, the philosophical and moral contemplations are obvious, and even intellectual critiques are perceptible, yet seemingly supple in visual presentations that reveals aesthetics features more than anything else.
In the past, an analysis from Hardiman -a painter and art teacher at lnstitut Keguruan dan IImu Pendidikan (National Teachers College) Singaraja -suggests that Balinese painters since the Kamasan, Pita Maha through Sanggar Dewata Indonesia periods are merely explorers upon the diverse visual and aesthetic wealth of Bali, an approach consistent to Balinese painting -not as a conception of movements in fine art. Read the writing “Tamarind Menggarami Ruang Seni Rupa Bali” (Kompas,Minggu, 12September2004).Wayan Kun Adnyana opposed the views of Hardiman and critiques itas “a chronicle version of Hardiman” where he augments the painters of Taxu Fine Art Clinic. Putu Wirata Dwikora, in his writings in Media Indonesia, (Sunday, 12 September 2004) disclose in fully certain facts that configuration reformations were not at the hand of the young painters of Taxu Fine Art Clinic, but by the hands of IGAK Murniasih, Sutawijaya, Taman, Wiradana and others. Such observation and analysis clearly purports a biased partial and imprecise appreciation. While many things are visible by sight, and so much are easier said than done, yet so little is comprehended by heart. It is true that there are Balinese painters whom are so preoccupied in such aesthetic and visual dwelling, and never seem tobe concerned upon discussions about social and humanity issues.
During the 1980s up to early 1990s, Darmika’s artwork may appear only as results of aesthetic explorations. He composed dewa-dewi (divinities), cili, Barong Landung and other corresponding themes, solely because their visual and aesthetic inspiration. However, during the mid 1990s, Darmika started leaving configurations behind and initiated himself to the world of expressive abstraction; a period where Darmika actually immersed himself within the glaring reflections of social and humanity phenomena. Many agree that his visual manifestations are tricky for people to grasp in particular to catch and understand the conveyed message as well as the social, politic or humanity deliberations. Sometimes, he may be seen projecting escapism, as in running away from intricate social problems, and ‘hiding’ in the sincerity of prayers and ceremonies. In spite of this, Ido not see and grasp an escapism aura in his artworks and personality. He may be described as an escapist whenever he is absorbed by mystic and sacrilege; astate where he disregards the social reality surrounding him and even the factual tribulations being faced by him. Although his artwork contains the manifestation of sesajen (offerings), dupa (incense), puing kremasi (cremation debris), the portrait of such icons actually purports that Darmika is not only imagining God vertically but also the horizontal veracity among human beings.
An artwork entitled “Doa” (2001) is an example of Darmika’s contemplation and restlessness upon the riots and the way of life in Bali that is not calm and peace fully any more. At aglance, the artwork entitled “Doa” (Prayers) seems only to represent adeep visual aesthetic exploration. However, viewers would only realize that it actually contains deeper meanings and critique once they recognize the background ofthe creative process. The artwork materializes as a reflection of the October 1999 riots in Bali. YES, when Megawati lost the 1999 presidential election -solely because the sudden support of the “Poros Tengah” faction towards Gus Dur that allowed him to be elected as president, post.the Habibie presidency -riots exploded in Bali, arsons, rampage and destruction of government offices and facilities occurred in Singaraja, Negara, Denpasar. Soon after, hooliganism and violence became headlines in every newspaper publications in Bali.
Darmika is agitated, worried, and deeply sad. He asks a reflective question, “Where has the peaceful and tranquil Bali gone? Where has the welcoming smile of the Balinese people gone, how could they turn so violent?” During the oppressive New Order rule -before the tumble in May 1998 -such questions ‘can not be said loudly’, cause Bali retains the Sapta Pesona slogan that according to the reigning authorities can not be shamed!
Although the repressive New Order era has ended, Darmika who spent most of his life during that particular era, still cannotjustforget aboutit.It seemsthathestill lives an anxiety and fearful live, living in dreams ofpeace and harmony. Wishes ofpeace and harmony are mirrored inartworks such as”Harmoni” (2002), “Komposisi Sesajen” (1993), “Gerhana” (1988), “Balance” (2000), “Kelahiran” (2004), and many others.
A reflection that he isstill haunted by fear isexpressed cunningly in the artwork “Kematian” (2000). “Kematian” or Death depictsacorpse being bathed; the stiffis pictured in murky white while the surrounding scene is in eerie black. Indeed, death is terrifying, exactly like how distressing it would be to live under a repressive regime, or living within an anarchist society that perpetuates law of the jungle realities. Today, in this age of liberation and freedom of speech, our source of fear is not political repression anymore, but mass anarchy. Hence, communicating death and fear does not appear to be somewhat representing visual aesthetic only.
Indeed, today’s degenerated social reality could not only be fought by ritual, offerings and prayers rhetorical. Parallel toour society’s need upon high priests carrying moral functions in social and political life-sub sequent to carrying ritual functions -we call for painters that could enrich our visual view point and fine artaesthetic through simpler and explicit symbolical!
Yet, even though Darmika is not within that ‘explicit social political reflection’ scope, we can not force him to venture into that area, since there should be reverence towards creative independence. Above all, Darmika admits that the comforting exploration zone for him is none other that the metaphysic symbolical scope mentioned earlier. This relates to his daily activities of helping Sri Mpu, crafting rajahan during various religious and ritual ceremonies.
To be noted, a more explicit approach of social, political, and humanity reflections can be seen in the works of Nyoman Erawan; and even more so in the creations of Taman, Sutawijaya, Masriadi, and others.
One terrifying thing that might happen for many painters is to feel -even more accused-creatively stagnate. Repetition that becomes non-expansive, both visual and conceptual, is the main adversary to creativity and the spirit of avant gardism. Can Nyoman Gunarsa, the “golden hand painter” that possess awe-inspiring techniques and aesthetic capacity -exactly like a silat (traditional self-defense arts) master that can fight with eyes closed -be alleged as repetitive solely because the dancer compositions prevalent in his artworks? Is the portraying of women from time to time by Jeihan Soekmantoro of Bandung in majority of his work a mirror image of creative stagnation?
Wayan Darmika subsists in such corresponding mode and exploration zones to the famous painters mentioned earlier. He continues to explore deeper into the wealth ofthe Balinese culture, either within the domain of its iconographies or philosophy. In the course ofthe 1980s, Darmika appears to join the cubistic techniques -orat least utilize the geometric pattern on his canvas-with expressive sketches and scrapes. During that particular period, Darmika still performs within the figurative territory, where he depicts the divinity figures, mandala (the sacred Hindu cosmology), totems, masks, and so on. Afterwards,in the 1990s, he started to take up non figurative objects where he composed them with textured paint smears,
Furthermore, in the year 1992, the cili, sampyan and other ornaments appear in his artwork, in which the traces of the cubistic style remains.Then the ngaben ceremony attracted him, to which was composed in expressive fragmental visualizations and it seems that the cubistic style has vanished. It seems that during the time, he started to grow interest and intensely explore cosmology,concepts such as nawa sanga (the nine holy directions ofthe world) -whether in the form of the mighty and divine weapons, the colors, orthe sound -as well as other concepts. Indeed,such concepts are very esoteric, prevalent to a limited circle of Hindu followers in Bali and certainly foreign to outsiders, except for those who actually learn the intricacies of Balinese tradition and culture.
Referring back to the previous question, whether Darmika is experiencing creative stagnation hence he only speaks about rajahan, nawa sanga, catur lokapala, ngaben or similar concepts? Actually, Darmika is experiencing natural evolution. Astate of progress following age maturity, as empirical experiences strengthens the soul. These evolutionary progresses are visible inhis artworks.
When Darmika was in his thirties he felt surges of energy; mind and body,and he had the passion to fill the whole surface ofthe canvas whilst creating, He mentions,”I do not like to leave empty spaces.It feels that the painting is not finished if there are empty spaces”. Symbols, colors, and textures are spread all over the canvas just like the traditional Balinese painting that does not allow blank spaces on its canvas.
Now, as Darmika goes through his forties, a passion to fill the empty spaces with “empty bullets” emerges from the depth of his soul. He wants to communicate with emptiness, speaking through silence, talking symbolically. During his twenties and thirties, Darmika never thought of leaving the surface of the canvas untouched given the temptation tofully fill them. As said by experienced people, the young bloods are ‘malcontent passions’ in comparison to the ‘conscious and soothing effervescence ofthe soul’ as people matures. Darmika embraced such advancement ensuing to the pawintenan ceremony -such ritual appointment totheologically ratify his ritualistic activities-couple of years ago. Today,apart from being a painter in a secular sense, Darmika actually is comparable to pinandita (priest) following his ritual duties. In Bali, there are a number of painters that holds this two-fold responsibility, such as Ketut Mastrum, an alumnus of the College of the Arts Indonesia (STSI) Denpasar, that was formally appointed as Mangku Gede Pura Pucuk Padang Dawa, Tabanan. Also there isMangku Gina,which maintains painting inbetween serving rituals for the Hindu followers in his village, In the other hand, Made Wianta that was initially appointed as Pemangku Gede Pura Pucak Padang Dawa in the 1980s, inclined the offer and chose tobe Pemangku Seni Rupa (Fine Art Priest) through his activities inthe arts,
Artworks entitled “Doa” (2001), then “Harmoni” (2002), “Tanpa Judul” (2003),shows Darmika’s willingness to leave empty spaces on his canvas.Darmika’s progress may indeed seem very evolutionary, but truthfully that is what excels and shines from within his soul.
“I can not force myself to raise social political themes through real social political problematical configurations, for the reason that my soul is not there,” he explains. The ritual world is truly his fervor and life. He dwells in rite manuscripts. He deepens his comprehension upon complex and exhausting ritual philosophies. He becomes a pengayah (servant) of Sri Mpu incrafting and carrying important ritual necessities and activities such as padiksan (formal appointment for high priests), rajahan pengabenan (sacred inscriptions for the cremation ceremony), and many more.
As a painter, Darmika is a mirror-image of the Hindu society in Bali that is immensely enticed to ceremonial circumstances. His artworks are representation ofan effort to safeguard and emphasize what is often used as ‘only’ a terminology in authority and public figure speeches: ajeg Bali, within context of modern fine art expressions.
Darmika can also be noted as one SDI painter that upholds the spirituality and religiousness of the Hindu faith and Balinese culture,but is tolerant and respectful towards the conceptual and visual progress that comes to mind within the SDI generation during the 1990s, that gave birth to Taman, Sutawijaya, Masriadi, and others.