When Balinese art first reached an international audience, it was enthusiastically greeted in the cultural capitals of the western world as an intriguing and spirited folk art.
When Balinese art first reached an international audience, it was enthusiastically greeted in the cultural capitals of the western world as an intriguing and spirited folk art. The canvases were full of mysterious jungle scenes, alive with imaginary and exotic birds and beasts.
Other favourite themes chosen by the painters included bizarre ceremonies in which ghosts and vampires accosted village people, and in which winged maidens hovered over sleeping princes.
But since the nineteen thirties, when the paintings of Bali first gained recognition, the artists have moved away form themes of mythical super-heroes, to subjects of daily life such as village streets, harvests, markets, rituals and dramatic spectacles. Free from the old conventions and the traditional themes, Balinese painting has now gained an independence which allows the island's artists to portray the beautiful world of Balinese life.
The new art is flourishing in several lively art centres in the south of the island. Many of the artists and galleries are concentrated in the Ubud district, and one of the most successful is Mr. Wy Barwa. He is 43 years old, and the senior painter in the Ubud Artists and Painters Association.
In 1950 Mr. Barwa joined the Ubud School of Arts under the directorship of a famous local painter, Mr. I. Gusti Ketut Kobot. In 1956 he became a member of the Artists and Painters Association, and opened his own studio in 1963. His studio was more like an old-fashioned atelier, where he trained twenty especially talented young artists.
Every year the studio and adjacent gallery are visited by tourists and art enthusiasts, and the paintings produced there sell for between 100 U.S. dollars (GBP50 sterling) and 2,000 U.S. dollars (GBP 1,000 sterling).
It has been estimated that there are now about two hundred studios and galleries in Bali, and about five thousand artists, including carvers of wood and stone. The resulting large output of art means that the old traditional themes are still produced, but the artists' new independence from convention has increased world interest, and business is booming.
SYNOPSIS: In the beautiful Indonesian island of Bali, Mr. My Barwa is a member of a growing colony of artists whose work is currently enjoying a boom among tourists and art enthusiasts. He is 43 years old and the senior painter in the Ubud Artists and Painters Association.
Many lively art centres have sprung up recently in the south of the island, and a high proportion of them are concentrated in the Ubud district. Mr. Barwa has worked in Ubud since 1950 when he joined the local school of arts.
He became a member of the Artists and Painters Association in 1956, and opened his own studio in 1963. His studio is more like an old-fashioned atelier where he trains particularly talented young artists.
During his career in Ubud, Mr. Barwa has seen many changes and innovations in Balinese art. Paintings and carvings from Bali first received recognition by the western world in the nineteen thirties.
Today, enthusiasts and dealers travel form all over the world to see and buy the work of painters such as Mr. Barwa. But the themes and subject matter of the pictures have undergone a significant yet subtle change. Originally, Balinese art was essentially a folk idiom, full of mysterious jungle scenes, and alive with imaginary and exotic birds and beasts.
But now the painters have moved away from the traditional mythological subjects and broken with the old conventions. They now paint subjects familiar in Bali's daily life, and business is flourishing as never before.