Mapping Contemporary Visual Art Spaces in Bali
Essay by : Grace Samboh, visual art writer, resides in Yogyakarta.
In collaboration with :
I Made Aswino Aji, visual artist, resides in Silakarang;
Hardana Putra aka Wiss, visual artist, resides in Denpasar; and
I Gede Ari Astina aka Jering, musician, resides in Kuta.
31 January 2009 – 14 February 2009
This is a research-project presentation. The research itself shares what the word ‘contemporary’ means in the visual art scene and how it applies in Bali. As for this exhibition, it presents you:
- The process of data gathering (driving all around Bali and taking pictures of spaces that state themselves contemporary);
- Working environment due to producing the essay along with the literatures that have the most influence in writing the research report, yet those literatures were not directly-quoted in my writings;
- And, the works of several Bali-based artists in response to the output of my research.
So, basically there are 4 areas in the whole gallery.
The first, as you can see, are artworks lent by several gallery/space. They are supposed to be able to describe the contemporariness of the gallery/space through the works they lent.
The second area is filled with fellow artists that are responding to the same data I used in writing this essay. There are 3 artists involved.
The third area shows you the corner where all the idea of presenting this research, writing it and mostly everything else happened. It is my messy working corner.
The last part was not part of the displays’ design-plan; but it surely is interesting. This area consists of the artworks from Sika Gallery’s stockroom that I picked, rearranged and made a story out of it.
Silakarang, Bali, January 2009
Located at Jl. Raya Sayan, Ubud, Bali 80571, Gaya Art Space, was established in 1999. Gaya Art Space is a part of Gaya Fusion of Senses (FoS); a (some-sort-of) center consists of art space, ceramics and design showroom, restaurant, and villas. Several people supports (owns) Gaya. I think it’s fair enough to say that Stefano Grandi is the trigger of all. He is an entrepreneur from Reggio Emilia, northern city of Italia, who owns a company of high technology and electric motors also a great supporter of the arts.
The Gaya FoS concept itself grew from a friendship between Stefano and I Nyoman Birit who wanted to create a partnership in art. Together, they wanted to learn through experiences, friendship and improve the lives of people in Bali. As for the ceramics and design showroom, the designers are Massoni (and his wife, Michela). Maisonbulle Pulse wrote that they met Stefano in Milan, 1999. It was their first presentation of ceramic collections; and, few years later, Stefano offered them to join Gaya FoS.
Desak Damayanti, Gaya Art Space’s gallery manager, said that the primary mission of Gaya Art Space is to identify the best emerging, mid-career, and established artists in Indonesia, Asia, and the world; and to bring them together in a way that increases the dialogue between the local and international art worlds.
Located in Jl. Sri Wedari 8, Ubud, Bali, Seniwati Gallery, was established in 1991 in response to the total lack of awareness of the existence of women artists at that time. Seniwati is an incredible phenomenon, for me. Its mission is to expose the world to the long understated brilliance of Balinese women artists, encourage Balinese girls creativity, assist talented women to market their art.
The only thing that gathered all the people involved there is that they are all woman. I confirmed this through an interview session with her: There are no other tendencies of its founder, Mary Northmore-Aziz, in making Seniwati other than doing this for woman-fellows. Certain feminist-based-journals wrote about Seniwati as a female-independence-movement and all sorts of feminist issues; but, I assure you, they are not all about it. For me, it’s simply about helping others, and since the founder chose to help woman, so be it.
Seniwati show and sell works by over seventy women artists from Bali, Java, Kalimantan and overseas, with variety of styles and techniques, both traditional and contemporary. During the interview, I found that the use of the ‘contemporary’ on Seniwati’s statement (and website) is because the connection between all Seniwati’s artists is only the fact that they are all women –however could she define styles, techniques or -isms used by these entire women. Yet, in order to sell their works, she had to say something about all those works.
Located in Jl. Raya Mas, Ubud, Bali, TonyRaka Art Gallery was established in 1968, by A. A. Gede Raka Wirayuda, a formerly well-known carver. Back then; the gallery goes by the name Raka Gallery. For nearly 30 years the gallery had been accumulating and selling its collection, which mostly are fine wood carving artwork. In 1997, the business continued by his son, A. A. Bagus Tony Hartawan. This young entrepreneur broadens the item range of the gallery.
Tony concerns himself with the growth of local artwork. He added new vision and mission of the gallery. The gallery should not act merely as a commercial industry, but it must also be able to take the role as a valuable cultural entity. It is an initial awareness to give more value to the gallery, to eventually endorse the growth and development of local artwork, particularly in Bali.
TonyRaka wanted to share more information in developing Indonesian contemporary art to the art-public. According to Riri Prabandari (gallery manager), Balinese art-public are given the chance to see works from other side of Indonesia like Yogyakarta, Bandung, Jakarta, Padang, and sometime from overseas. “Basically we try to do more in building art communication and take some part in educate the people in developing contemporary art in Indonesia,” the Indonesian Institute of Arts (ISI) Yogyakarta graduate added.
Located in Jl. Raya Campuhan, Ubud, Bali, Sika Gallery was established in 1996. The owner is a visual artist, teacher and one of the initiator of Sanggar Dewata Indonesia (SDI), I Wayan Sika. He officiated Sika Gallery on SDI’s 25th anniversary. SDI members’ artworks were not favorable for most galleries/spaces in Bali, back then. Sika Gallery was some sort of a solution for such unavailability of exhibition spaces.
Noted from its history, Sika Gallery focuses on temporary exhibitions and the promotion of contemporary Indonesia fine art. On the contrary, its vision stated that Sika Gallery participates actively in the development of the arts in Bali as part of the international art scene. Sika Gallery provides an exhibition space for creative, forward-thinking Balinese artists, especially those who have displayed skill in multimedia arts and who remain closely identified with the spirit of Balinese art and culture.
Looking through their neatly archived exhibitions on their website, it is more suitable to say that they have been doing all they can in order to motivate and stimulate the creativity of Balinese artists. As they stated in their vision, they invite artists from other parts of Indonesia and overseas to encourage the growth and development of the arts in Bali. Wayan Sika hoped to create an environment which encourages and inspires contemporary Balinese artists to be more willing to experiment with new techniques and ways of thinking in their artistic endeavors.
Located in Jl. Raya Mas, Ubud, Bali, I Ketut Molog – Contemporary Mask was established in the late 1970’s. The name of his studio (and shop) is his name. According to my interview with him, he had been using the term ‘contemporary’ as part of his shop’s name since early 1980’s.
Mr. Molog mentioned that ever since he knew, the mask-artists usually started their career by making sculptures, and those sculptures are made with Caucasian anatomy. Such fact made their masks also designed, and produced, with the same anatomy. And, few foreigners that came taught those mask-artists some modernism senses in sculpt-making. That’s why since 1970’s the term ‘modern’ is easily found all over Balinese art-shops.
Yet, still, most masks don’t fit well in Asian faces; meanwhile, the common users of those masks are Balinese dancers. Mr. Molog said their most dancers won’t be able to dance naturally and relaxed with loosen masks. Since most masks are made with Caucasian anatomy; their noses and cheekbones don’t fit well.
His masks are different; and the term ‘contemporary’ was used in order to tell people that his masks are different than most of the others. He designed his masks with Asian anatomy. So, Balinese dancers don’t find it hard to move using his masks.
Other than masks for traditional purposes; he also makes masks by order (whatever style people wishes him to make) and, for his own satisfaction, he made abstract masks.
The music played here comes from one of the first indie band in Indonesia named Superman is Dead. The iPod here belongs to its drummer, I Gede Ari Astina (aka Jerinx).
I borrowed his works in order to broaden the experience of contemporary Balinese situation in the art scene (not only visual arts). And, because SiD had successfully built such a music community in Kuta, right at Jerinx’s bar, Twice Bar (at Poppies Lane 2).
Here you can enjoy all of SiD’s albums, starting from the first until the last one recorded. Those are Kuta Rock City, Bootleg, Black Market Love, The Hangover Decade and The Hangover Decade.
Artists’ in Response
Working with these artists, I only gave them a free-writing-kind-of-paper that summarizes all of the information I’ve gathered, photographs and interview sessions result. Their works were entirely produced based on their interpretation on the same raw materials I used in order to write the book.
Participating artists are:
I Made Aswino Aji, visual artist,
Hardana Putra (aka Wiss), visual artist
I Gede Ari Astina (aka Jering), musician
As for this is one, it’s the work of I Made Aswino Aji titled Jalan-jalan (which translates as ‘Walking Around’; collage and drawings on paper). He responded on the photographs of galleries/spaces that state themselves contemporary.