The outsider event Cahyendra Putra and the Neo Pitamaha Invite You To: A Brutal Contrast of Concrete and Kamasan Painting which opened on Sunday 23 October will be recorded in the annals of Balinese art history. The exhibition, which in many ways is noteworthy, is underpinned by a long awaited and fresh approach to presenting art in Ubud, outside of the conventional gallery, art space and museum format. Richard Horstman reports:
Held at the location of former residence of the iconic Bali art influencer, Dutch painter Rudolf Bonnet (1895-1978), this collaborative project features street art by artists from Bali & Jakarta, along with paintings from selected emerging local talent from Batuan, Ubud, Tabanan and Denpasar. In this event, which is set within the gutted interior of a building, twenty young artists reveal their interpretation of the Pita Maha (great spirit, guiding inspiration) in dynamic contemporary art that challenges the establishment.
The Pita Maha was a famous artist’s collective established in Ubud in 1936 by Tjokorda Agung Sukawati, Prince of Ubud , senior local artist and Bali’s first modern master Gusti Nyoman Lempad and expat Europeans, Walter Spies (1895-1942) and Rudolf Bonnet. Its vision was to develop and preserve a new art genre, labeled Balinese modern traditional art, and to present it outside of Bali.
Commercially and culturally, the birth of the Pita Maha, and its legacy had dramatic consequences. Large and new markets began to open for Balinese artists, from the 1930’s the initial wave of European and American tourists began to arrive, and an industry evolved to carter for their needs. Ubud as a consequence became perceived as the epicenter of Balinese Art and Culture.
Located opposite the Campuhan Hotel on Jalan Raya Campuhan, for two decades the building that is the venue for A Brutal Contrast of Concrete and Kamasan Painting has remained unused. Stripped back to its core structural form of raw, concrete ceilings and floors, with aging white washed brick walls, it becomes the perfect environment for an underground event that within it’s soul is deeply rooted in ideology, and peppered with controversies from the Dutch colonial past.
Street art, by UncleJoy, the Punten, Ego, Saf, Ola, Slinart and Kemalezedine, with potent sociopolitical content rendered in dynamic spray can color brings the tired, forgotten interior into vibrant life. Emerging Balinese contemporary Balinese artist Made Aji Aswino, a.k.a Ego continues on with his theme about the monster that is the human ego. His works makes references to the phenomenon of materialism that is engulfing modern Bali, and he juxtaposes his monsters of the ego identity with popular consumer icons. Kemalezedine meanwhile takes images from Dutch colonialism making reference to the era of the Pita Maha artists collective.
The paintings by emerging young Balinese artists are positioned to create a dynamic contrast with the street art, and igniting the interior walls. The artists include Dewa Gede Sanju, Gede Anton, Wayan Budiarta, Pande Made Di Artha, Made Ariana, Dwi Wayan Eka, Wayan Aris Sumanta, Gede Dwiyantara, Kadek Jutawan, Agus Suputra, Ketut Sumadi & Wayan Mandiyasa.
Batuan artists Wayan Budiarta and Wayan Aris Sumanta reveal that the Batuan School of painting boasts fresh and exciting talent, and that the recent formation of the Baturlangan artists collective in Batuan is reinvigorating this famous genre of Balinese art. Both artists possess a rare talent, while Budiarta’s works, one with powerful surrealistic elements, are especially outstanding.
This event is organized by Kemal Ezedine, one of the founding members along with Gede Mahahendra Yasa of the new art movement, the Neo Pitamaha. The Neo Pitamaha is an exciting development in Balinese contemporary art that has it ideology deeply rooted in the historical development of Balinese art during the past century, and began in 2013 with Mahendra Yasa, Ezedine (b.1978 Yogyakarta) and two other Balinese artists.
“We (the members of the Neo Pitamaha) have knowledge of history, culture, narratives and symbols within Balinese art yet we do not use this for our art discourse,” Ezedine says. “We aim to reinterpret this from a contemporary art perspective – retaining the principles involved with the techniques and methods. By opening this to new viewpoints we endeavour to awaken new spirit and introduce a fresh model of possibilities into Balinese art.”
During the past 3 three years Ezedine and Mahendra Yasa have strategically set out to impact upon the Indonesian contemporary art scene participating in high level events in Java; exhibitions and art fairs in Bandung, Jakarta and Yogyakarta. Their presence was especially visible during August at the two international art fairs Art Stage Jakarta 2016 and 2016 Bazaar Art Jakarta.
A highlight of A Brutal Contrast of Concrete and Kamasan Painting opening was the palpable atmosphere that graced the event. A rare buzz of excitement was alive within the venue adding a fresh dimension to the already extraordinary event.
Throughout the history of Indonesian art, artist’s collectives have played an essential role in shaping Indonesian modern and contemporary art. The art/anti colonial collectives that evolved last century in Java (PERSAGI 1938, POETERA 1942) played defining roles in the pro nationalism movement, while importantly using art as propaganda. In Bali the importance of organized art communities cannot be overstated.
There some key factors that give birth to art movements and the Neo Pitamaha have already succeeded in striking important targets, along with capturing a lot of attention in the Indonesian art capital of Jakarta. What remains next will play a defining role. One vital element within their ideology involves an important, yet tragic story of one of the true pioneers of Balinese art who was murdered by pro Dutch sympathizers in Batuan in 1946. This is an anti establishment story.
Cahyendra Putra and the Neo Pitamaha Invite You To: A Brutal Contrast of Concrete and Kamasan Painting is a part of the 2016 UWRF Art Exhibitions program and is listed in the UWRF Program Book on page 40, as Bali Underground: Pita Maha And Rudolf Bonnet. It is located on Jalan Raya Campuhan, opposite the Campuhan Hotel, upstairs on level 2 of the building that on the ground floor is a Notaris office. Look for the stairway and then head up.
Continuing through until 30 October, open daily 09:00 – 17:00.
Words & Images: Richard Horstman
Art activist Richard Horstman (b.1964 Melbourne) first visited Ubud in 1986. The former sculptor is a journalist, writer, art tourism presenter and behind the scenes doer in Bali art scene. Dedicated to contributing to the development of Balinese and Indonesian art, he regularly contributes to the Jakarta Post on a range of art related topics and may be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org