Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Balinese Painting

The place synonymous with the traditional form of Balinese painting, is the village of Kamasan, near Klungkung. Up until the beginning of this century, and in the service of the kings of Gelgel and Klungkung, it was only natural that the painters and illustrators, called 'Sangging', should settle in this one area. As it was not uncommon for ruling families from other parts of Bali to acquire the use of a Sangging to decorate their own palaces or temples, the Kamasan style of painting quickly spread throughout the whole of Bali.

Until the start of this century, the dominant form of painting was the portrayal of Hindu epics, on 'Langse' - large narratives painted either on broad, rectangular cloths or on 'Ider-ider', which were much narrower (about 30cm wide and several meters long). Langse were placed in temples as wall hangings, or used as curtains in the palaces. Ider-Ider were hung around the roofs of temples and shrines, and were used decoratively in the royal courts on festive occasions. The artists also painted on wooden boards which were placed between rafters as ceiling friezes. Aside from large representational paintings, the 'Sangging' were also expected to decorate everything from gourds, wooden altars, bamboo vessels, headboards for princely bed chambers, and in particular to illustrate astrological wall hangings on bark paper or cloth.

The style for which the artists of Kamasan are famous is based on the East Javanese 'Wayang' art. These were basically two-dimensional, iconographic representations following strict rules and guidelines as to how the characters should be portrayed. For example, a person's character and status can be seen from the colors used to portray them, his head dress, or even the direction in which he is facing. Noblemen always have had very refined faces, while coarse characters have large, bulging eyes and fangs. Today in Kamasan you can still find people who are dedicated to painting in the traditional 'Wayang' style. One of the most famous Kamasan artists is I Nyoman Mandra, who, aside from producing his own paintings and doing restoration work, bas started a school to try and keep the Wayang tradition, alive.

It wasn't until the early 1900's, that Western influence reached Bali. The use of Asian symbols in the works of, amongst others, Paul Gauguin, Toulouse Lautrec and Camille Pissaro, created a new trend for Asian-influenced art, and European painters began to move to Bali. Ubud's fame for art can bc traced to the arrival of German painter Walter Spies, and Dutch painter Rudolf Bonnet. Together, with Indonesian artist Gede Agung Sukawati, they established the Pitamaha Group, which encouraged Balinese artists tobe more expressive and less traditionbound. Aside from the Kamasan school of painting, there now exists a wide range of different styles. Some characteristics have been briefly listed. bali-paintings


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