Thursday, October 13, 2011

The missing chapter

The missing chapter
Carla Bianpoen, Contributor, Jakarta | Fri, 10/14/2011 8:44 AM
A | A | A |

Pigs Intermingling by Anonymous, washed pen, ink, and watercolor on paper, 23x31 centimetersPigs Intermingling by Anonymous, washed pen, ink, and watercolor on paper, 23x31 centimetersThe upcoming auction of pre-modern Balinese art in Singapore shows works that break stereotypes about the 1930s in Balinese art.

The Borobudur auction presents paintings made by artists who were active in the 1930s, but were not included in the much published but short-lived Pita Maha movement, according to renowned anthropologist Adrian Vickers in the catalogue’s introduction.

Vickers, who is director of the Australian Center for Asian Art and Archaeology at the University of Sydney, writes of a flourishing of art in Sanur in the 1930s that is little known to the public due to earlier scholars’ focus on Pita Maha and Batuan artists.

He also praises the collection as an excellent documentation that raises the profile of a major era of art in Bali.

Of special note is the documentation of Desak Lambon, the only female artist of the period.

The 267 lots are from the collection of Leo Haks, who has been collecting for over 30 years, and includes works acquired from the collection of anthropologists Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson, who were collecting while doing research in Bali in 1936, and from the Swiss artist Theo Meier, whose stay in Bali began in 1937.  

Simple, straight and clear lines and a black background mark many of the paintings offered in the coming auction in Singapore. Perhaps termed na├»ve, primitive or archaic, they come as a fresh surprise for those who might have thought of Balinese paintings as canvases of intricately painted representations of Bali Hindu stories.  

Religious themes do occur, but they are generally rendered stylistically simpler. Most striking are works with themes of the everyday, of animals and a rich foliage, providing an insight into the concerns of life before modern sophistication entered the island.

It seems that there were close relations between man and animal, particularly dogs and pigs.

The Birth of Bali by Anonymous, mixed media on paper, 32x40 centimetersThe Birth of Bali by Anonymous, mixed media on paper, 32x40 centimetersThese works may remind one of the paintings of children as they are endearing, matter-of fact and honest, without any complicated undercurrents.  

Dated even before any foreign artists entered Bali, some are made of washed ink on paper, some combined with watercolor or gouache, which vaguely reminds of works by Franz Macke of the short-lived Der Blaue Reiter (1911-1914) movement There are also paintings that make one think of Arie Smit’s colorful works, but these were created long before Arie Smit entered Bali.

Surely The Birth of Bali, a 32x40 centimeters painting by an anonymous artist, is amazing for its historical content alone. It  tells the story of how the gambler Manik Angkeran challenges the naga Basuki to a bet but loses and is killed, resulting in Bali’s separation from Java by the naga’s power.

Visualizing mountain outlines in layers of washed blue-grey, with little animals going over the outlines and trees growing on top, the painting shows the serpent meandering from the bottom upward, but appears quite peaceful and no dramatic struggle is apparent.

Another painting that presents historical perceptions is the painting by Ida Bagus Nyoman Rai that features a scene that represents the Japanese occupation of Bali.

In the foreground of the painting are images of soldiers supervising laborers on the beach while planes are flying overhead, a ship is nearing and other soldiers are shooting people swimming in the sea. Whether the painting is based on real historical facts remains a question.

Besides historical value, the collection also includes most striking and rarely seen works with black backgrounds, showing either pigs and dogs or foliage and figures.  Erotic scenes that would be charged with pornography in today’s social situation are present as a matter of fact.

Several paintings by Ida Bagus Ketut Sunia carry titles like “erotic scenes”, but its naive style makes the erotic less pungent than it would have been were it made in the realistic style of today.  

An exception is one scene by the venerable I Gusti Nyoman Lempad dated Nov. 28, 1936, featuring pederasty in washed pen and ink, heightened with gold and orange on paper. And what would have been considered obscene in conventional circles seems to be very natural in the painting by I Gedar featuring men and pigs in erotic action.

A typical feature in the figures in these paintings, which are mostly dated 1937 or 1938, is that they do not show the flowing lines that are often praised in later aesthetics, but are drawn as if they were sculpted.  

Striking is the variety of works by Ida Bagus Nyoman Rai in Theo Meier’s collection, with themes of daily life juxtaposing with portraits of women with excessively bulging breasts. One friend saw similarities with Theo Meiers’ art, suggesting that Meier has been as much inspired by his Balinese friends as they had been by him.

Meditating Man Being Tempted by A Woman and Ridiculed by Another by I Resek, 1937, wash technique and watercolorMeditating Man Being Tempted by A Woman and Ridiculed by Another by I Resek, 1937, wash technique and watercolorWhile foliage is used in great diversity, foliage by I Resek show a combination of realistic format and leaves inspired by ceremonial umbrellas, rendering a keen sense of observation, imagination and decoration to his painting Meditating Man Being Tempted by a Woman and Ridiculed by Another.

The auction also includes works from the personal collection of Leo Haks, with an entire set of books on Borobudur, postcards and wedding textiles providing invaluable data on Indonesia’s heritage.

Last year, the auction house had a similar auction from the collection of A. De Roever, including works selected by Mead and Bateson. John Andreas of Borobudur Auction says he never imagined the masses of foreign collectors that showed up, resulting in a total sellout.

The works featured are small and the prices are not high. Andreas says he does not earn much profit with this kind of auction, but he finds it important to fill the gaps in the nation’s art and cultural history.

denver broncos|valkyrie|chris hansen|ringer|atlantic beach nc

No comments:

Post a Comment