Arts and Crafts
this century Balinese artists produced work (paintings, stone &
wood carving etc.) under the patronage of wealthy kings or as gifts
to decorate the local temple. As such the artists were only doing
their part as a member of the community and therefore never gave
much thought to be recognized for their efforts by signing their
work. In addition, art had to follow very stringent guidelines so
whilst the quality may have varied the content was quite standard.
It wasn't until the arrival of European artists that Balinese artists
learned to express themselves individually and then began signing
Bali has basically
3 indigenous textiles: Endek, Gringsing and Tenun Ikat. That being
said most of the swaths of cloth and fancy printed apparel on
sale in Bali are really Batik and native to Java, not Bali. FYI,
the intricate designs on Batik cloth are made by applying wax
to the fabric prior to dying each time another color is added.
as Endek is really only popular with the Balinese it is not mass
produced - so it is quite safe to say that any endek you purchase
will have been hand made. It is a laborious affair. The horizontal
threads are laid out and pre dyed with a desired pattern in a
tie dye type of operation ( the fabric may be dyed several times
with different colors ). Once dyed the threads are dried then
woven into the vertical threads on the loom. These vertical threads
are only one color -usually black. It is not until the weaving
is complete that one knows for sure the quality and clarity of
the designer's work. This is just a rough idea how the process
works, it's actually much more complicated than this with several
people - men included - to make just one bolt of cloth. The finished
bolt is about 20 feet long by 3.5 feet wide. It takes about 10
days just to weave one bolt of cloth - so think of the value !
if you think that's tricky try it with both the vertical and horizontal
threads at the same time. Imagine a weaver must come up with a
design then "tye dye" both the horizontal and vertical
threads separately 2-3 times depending on the number of colors
used. Even the slightest miscalculation when dying the yarn or
a mistake by the weaver and months of work are lost. This is basically
how Gringsing is produced in the Balinese Village of Tenganan
- one of two or three places in the entire world capable of producing
this extraordinary textile. As mentioned many times in paradise-bali.com
this is one of the best souvenirs available to visitors to Bali.
third cloth, tenun ikat is also popular in Bali. Like endek the
horizontal threads are dyed and woven into a solid vertical thread
on the loom. The difference is that the patterns are solid colored
blocks or simple crossing patterns. This cloth is also mostly
produced by hand and is very popular in fashionable circles for
clothing, home furnishings and accessories.
is the most traditional of all Balinese paintings. Originating
in the Klungkung Regency during the reign Kingdom of Gelgel it
was widely admired throughout Bali. The artists specializing in
this art form are known as "Sangging". In days gone
by these Snagging artists would often be commissioned to travel
to other kingdoms to decorate a palace or temple with this style
is easily distinguished in the market. The paint color is predominately
orange (sometimes blue) and the theme always depicts Hindu epics
and are based on the Javanese Wayang characters. The characters
are divided into two camps: Good, ( those with refined facial
features and slim bodies) and Evil, (those with distorted faces,
red color and distended bodies). The painting is a large canvas
divided up into panels with each panel telling the story of a
well known adventure. Years ago Kamasan art was placed primarily
in temples as wall hangings, used as curtains, or as banners during
festivals. (Go to the Kerta Goa Hall of Justice in Klungkung to
see fine examples of this style). The paintings are used much
the same way today with restaurants now often using the canvas
for menu covers.
still today has Sangging artists dedicated to painting in the
traditional Kamasan style. Easily the best known Kamasan artist
is I Nyoman Mandra who has his own school, and does restoration
work. Bpk. Mandra can be found in Klungkung.
earlier starting this century Balinese artists came under more
direct influence of Western artists with the arrival of European
artists. The most famous of these were German, Walter Spies and
Dutchman, Rudolf Bonnet. These two painters taught the Balinese
painters new, more realistic and expressionistic art - scenes
from every day life, landscapes and the like - which now dominates
the paintings produced on Bali. Later on and together with local
artist Gede Agung Sukawati the Pitamaha Painters Association was
established. Styles which sprang from this effort are briefly
described below. When looking to buy keep in mind that prices
vary widely depending on the size and the amount and clarity of
large paintings are easily identified because every square inch
of the canvas is filled with tiny figures going about life's daily
activities (some quite graphic if you look hard enough). Usually
bright colored, these paintings seem to be getting funnier and
funnier (or sarcastic depending on your view of video camera tourists
being painted into village life) as the years go by.
paintings are generally the very small paintings you see hanging
on pillars and odd spaces in different shops. These too are crammed
with little images but look closely though and you will see that
the subject matter is very different - usually the subject is
the supernatural with fantastically detailed demons.
are the bird, flower and butterfly paintings you see all over.
The amount of detail and correct proportion determine the price
but works of the best (i.e. I Made Supartha commands up to US$
5,000 for a good sized painting).
highly stylized human features -strong lines, long necks, proud
posture, and the like identify these paintings to have been influenced
by Walter Spies. The paintings are usually large and colorful
without being bright. Such artists as Dewa Putu Bedil are always
in demand and you may well have to commission the best and wait
quite some time before you own one of this style.
there are many Balinese and Indonesian artists who practice what
can best be described as Modern Art. Some like Made Winata, Krijono,
and Joko amongst others have achieved a great deal of commercial
success combining their Indonesian perspective with abstract figures
and new colors.
daggers with their wavy blades are famous the world over. Going
back as far as Hindu Javanese of Majapahit in the 13th century,
these beautiful daggers are much more than a weapon - they are
a revered symbol of the man who owns it and each Keris is deeply
believed to have a life and spirit of its own. Indeed there are
stories of kings, too busy with affairs of the palace to attend
their own weddings, letting the Keris stand in as the groom. And
not just any will Keris will do, a Keris must be matched spiritually
to its owner to protect him from harm.
the Keris is found in many parts of Indonesia, there are correspondingly
many different styles of blades, handles and sheaths - none any
better than another just personal preference. In Bali the Keris
is usually quite large and has a wavy double edged blade ( be
careful when you unsheathe it, it's sharp! ) with an ornately
carved handle (or hilt) representing one of the gods from the
Ramayana epic. Also with the Balinese Keris the area connecting
the blade to the handle is embedded with semi precious stones
as is the sheath. As a comparison, the Keris from Java are usually
smaller and less presumptuous and the Keris from North Sumatra
are usually with straight, one sided blades.
valuable Keris can easily fetch US$ 5,000. but an average Keris
is about US$ 200 - US$ 500. When buying, attention to detail is
everything. Look closely at the area that joins the blade to the
handle, does the handle look new and the blade old?, is the blade
intricately forged? etc.
from the time you step off the plane you will see masks of different
sizes, shapes and colors. Whilst these days many masks are produced
solely as tourist souvenirs not to take masks seriously in Bali
would be a mistake. When a Westerner dons a mask at a party it
is to pretend he is someone else. For Indonesians - especially
Balinese to don a mask is to begin living the life of the mask.
Masks used in performances of sacred dances are sacred and as
such revered and kept so in temples. You will not find such masks
sitting idly in a store waiting to be purchased. That being said,
there are still fine masks - all works of art - that are no longer
used available for sale (for a price).
going too deeply into (there are entire books devoted to the subject)
most masks you will see are representations of Ramayana Epic.
The masks with refined features such as a short pointed nose and
white face represent Noblemen, while those with garish features
- red faces with bulbous noses and missing teeth represent buffoons,
idiots, liars and cheats. If you look closely at the eyes you
will be able to see Chinese characters as well - they are the
ones with the thinner eyes.
today masks are being made in modern shapes like a crescent moons
and painted abstract colors but these are really only for souvenirs
and decoration. A fine mask properly displayed and well lit adds
a lot to any home or office. Most of the best masks can be found
in the village of Mas.
around Bali it would difficult not to be impressed with the majesty
of the intricate stone carvings that adorn the thousands of temples
that dot the island. This stone is known locally as "paras"
and is not really stone in the Western sense. Rather paras is
volcanic ash mixed with sand and clay and compressed over the
centuries into a hard material similar to sandstone or soapstone.
As such the material is quite soft, decays easily and moss seems
to grow on it overnight - so if you are walking through a rice
paddy and happen to see an old, blackened, moss covered statue
do not think it is centuries old - it may be 5 or at the most
30 years old !
stone has been carved into the shapes of demons and deities to
decorate temples and courtyards of royal families - rarely does
the average Balinese have any stone relief in his living area.
Stone carvers have been around a lot longer than painters and
have never been subject to the same strict rules as painters.
The imaginations of the stone carvers has always been allowed
to run riot i.e. gods with multiple sex organs and even scenes
incorporating everyday life with today's technology such as airplanes
are now carved into temple relieves.
a good idea of the range of items for sale a trip through Batubulan
is a nice day spent. Whether or not you are ready to ship a 500
lb. statue back home is up to you but almost any statue would
be focal point of your garden.
carving shares a lot of similarities with stone carving inasmuch
as both were used primarily to decorate temples. You can see traditional
wood carving used to decorate the pillars and beams used to support
the roofs of temples (and lately restaurants as well). However
understanding that wood carvings are much easier to transport
and have more practical uses in home decorating it should come
as no surprise to learn that Westerners have begun to have a strong
influence on what is now being produced. Not that that is all
bad. Traditionally wood carvers have also had pretty much free
reign to experiment and many have become more sculptors than carvers
with the best wood carvers turning unusual pieces of wood that
most folks would just as soon throw away into masterpieces. However,
still the most sought after works are the traditional Ramayana
are many varieties of wood used. As a general rule of thumb all
things being equal the softer the wood the faster it grows and
the easier it is to carve and hence the price is lower. Popular
soft woods are merantie, crocodile and hibiscus. Harder woods
such as nangka (jackfruit), and kampor are much heavier and can
be more intricately carved. Either way a word of caution - The
wood is not always thoroughly dry before being carved and if you
take it to a climate with less humidity it may crack. So sometimes
it's better to take the older carving that's collected its share
of dust and polish it up yourself when you get back home.
maybe not a traditional art form, in fact kites were only recently
introduced into Bali by the Japanese during their occupation of
Indonesia in World War 2, the Balinese have quickly turned them
into an art form. It is not unusual to see a group of men struggling
to put a kite 4 meters (yes, 4 meters - some of these contraptions
can be down right dangerous to passing aircraft !) into the back
of a truck to take down to the beach. In fact there are laws against
flying kites too close around the airport. The shapes can be winged
eagles or tall ships complete with main mast and sails ! Truly
a delight. And when these really big kites are airborne the wind
on the string produces a loud, hypnotic humming sound. Serious
competitions have begun to be staged with international competitors
trying their best against the Balinese. Airworthy small versions
make interesting souvenirs for young children.
Balinese seem to be the most talented of all of Indonesia's
gifted artisans. Over the centuries there has been a steady
steam of immigrants introducing new ideas, coupled with the
generous patronage of Kingdoms past, Balinese artists have become
Indeed the number of foreigners who have been inspired by Bali
as well as the number of Indonesians from other islands who
have come to Bali to hone their craft are testimony to the importance
of Bali in the art world.
such paradise-bali.com provides a brief - very brief - overview
of traditional art forms just to acquaint and alert the casual
or first time visitor to some of the art produced on Bali and
give greater value to what otherwise would be just another curio.