This is the blog post that charts what I would like to call the “Studio Visits Intensive” that the Ketemu team had kindly arranged for. On 11 December, we made 4 studio visits: I got myself acquainted with the works of Dodit Artawan, Nyoman Erawan, Made Wiguna Valasara and I Wayan Upadana who are all artists living and working in Bali, and who span across different generations. I also collected a lot of catalogues that day which I was to find myself lugging to Yogyakarta then to Singapore along with other books I had bought. Since working on the Merayakan Murni project, I had started to look at catalogues as documents bearing witness to an artist’s life and practice, especially when writings and information from elsewhere are hard to come by.
Our first stop of the Intensive was Dodit’s studio, a large white open space with high ceilings; absolutely necessary because of how big his paintings go, being at least 200 cm in length or height. His hyperreal paintings portray mostly only excessive masses of objects like sneakers, liquor glass bottles (glass, Dodit says, is hardest to capture on canvas), paint tubes, condoms, and flits surreptitiously between a criticism and a celebration of the consumerist culture, and if not, is at least a social commentary on it. Ajeng, Ruth and I also got a sneak peek at Dodit’s newest experiment in using a different visual style of representation, where he moves away from the photorealist techniques. He, nonetheless, still paints about the things that society commonly and excessively consumes.
I have to say, I was really fooled by Dodit’s youthful looks. And so I was surprised to find out much later that Dodit was part of Klinik Seni Taxu, an artists’ run space and collective, which you can read all about in this informative essay titled “Mendobrak Hegemoni dan Kuasa Seni Bali” by I Ngurah Suryawan.
We could not have picked a more different artist to visit after Dodit. Well, actually, maybe we could have. But Nyoman Erawan, and his studio, stood nonetheless in sharp contrast: a senior artist and influential member of Sanggar Dewata, who creates semi-abstract semi-figurative paintings in his studio located within a traditional Balinese house compound with its earth-tone walls and low ceilings.
I never had a chance to see Pak Erawan’s performances or performance installations, which, I think, touches on spirituality, mythologies and rituals. The theatricality of the performances, with its props, sound design and so on, means that he requires a high production budget, hence, his performances do not come by often. So I was super lucky when Pak Erawan chose to give a short demonstration of one of the main concepts behind his performances. As I understood, what with my not-so-great grasps of Bahasa Indonesia, his practice means to manifest the energy and rhythmic flow as embodied by a particular culture. In demonstrating it through dance and movement, he highlighted how in Balinese culture, a certain tension slowly builds up then is released in throbbing short bursts. Or at least, once again, that was how I understood it. I definitely saw a connection between his demonstration and the paintings he had in his studio: in his paintings, splashes of colours that were contained yet not entirely restrained, derived from what seemed like strong sudden bursts of movements, disrupts an otherwise tranquil surface.