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Ilham dari Bali English

In the beginning there were only words. These words then gathered into phrases. Thereafter they transformed into tales of life when things were still simple.
As they evolved, words metamorphosed into images. In accordance with their time, stories needed to be represented by forms that were tangible. Words then reincarnated as simple lines. These simple lines were carved on the walls of caves – telling tales of natural events. Animals, mountains and rivers proliferated, symbolized by these simple lines. In those days, words were not yet represented by figures of an alphabet. In those days mankind still saw reality through what they could touch, feel; actuality as related by the physical senses. Then mankind came to realize nature was their shelter, their protector. Nature became man’s friend.
Nonetheless, there were occasions when nature took its own course. There were times when mountains would belch dangerous fumes. Times when they coughed up phlegm. And it was not entirely unusual for them to behave as though they were possessed, spitting out curses and devastating fire. Not to be outdone, rivers and seas also often vented their anger, flooding and uprooting everything in their way – houses, forests, fields and anything else that was around. Clouds and skies showered the earth with flaming spears or pelted it with water. Nature could also be intimidating, could bring harm, and could even be wrathful when not befriended understood.
As mankind evolved, it began to ask questions regarding its essential nature. What differentiated it from other forms of life? Life experience and history eventually brought the understanding that human beings were basically spiritual beings. Mankind recognized that it belonged to the more simple forms of existence that were no match for the might of nature. Its mind could not reach the heights of the universe’s secrets. Man wondered: who could have the sustained power for all this? Mankind also needed protection, it needed a refuge that had the ability to protect – A being full of love that could pacify the fitful minds of mountains and slow the anger of rivers allowing them to flow fresh and clear; a being that provided shade for the earth and its inhabitants with loving hands that could brighten the darkness of the sky and extinguished the flashes of fire, replacing them with the fertility of the earth.
All of this: nature, environment, and its Creator, were of a grandeur that could not to be expressed by mere words. The tongue was too dumb to celebrate this grandeur. The mind was not able to travel the vast expanse of the Creator’s secrets. Thus, mankind could only resort to the heart that allowed them to partake in this splendor. Mankind began to use feeling to capture the inspiration that is art.
The process of creating history begins with the dialogue of fellow countrymen. Individuals are drawn together to form groups, and the groups gather together to form societies. Societies become nations. These developments allow mankind to investigate its own history, and this leads to the understanding of its origins.
In the beginning, people lived together in peace in their mutual environment. However, once societies were exposed to other societies from different geographical and different cultures, they needed guidance and role models who were able to show them the way, who were able to teach them how to best conduct themselves as social beings; who were able to make evident what could best be safely relied on.
And when it came to the need of guidelines for the story, these guidelines also needed to be coded – through some means of replication of the story that allowed it to be referred back to and that could be a source of inspiration and knowledge.
Nature along with its constituents – mankind, animals, and environment, was the principal theme in the early simple stages of art. Relics and fragments of replications of this story can be found in nature itself – on rocks, the walls of caves, or places and instruments of worship and prayer, of religious ceremonies.
Such was the embryonic stage of Balinese art. Newly born art in Bali was marked by artistic creations that were predominantly drawings and paintings of shadow puppets. However, there is evidence that art in Bali dated back to prehistoric times; examples of this can be found on tombstones, then there are the instruments for the Pejeng Moon ritual, the reliefs of Yeh Pulu, and stone and bronze artefacts. Later, there were also flat, one-dimensional figures called wayang (shadow puppets) that dated back to around the 11th century. Thick lines were used forming cubistic human figures and creatures of the particular style of the shadow world; these are of great beauty and also very decorative. Although in the early days of Balinese art, inspiration was expressed using one-dimensional techniques on material, canvas or flat paper, it was mostly invested in mythology and other stories that made up the spiritual history contained in Hindu Teachings; hence also the appearance of figures from the invisible world.
This being the case, it can be surmised that the flow of themes deriving from early Balinese art had no need to be ushered through the conduits of naturalism or realism. It could equally be conjectured that Balinese Art skipped both schools of art. Around the beginning of the 18th century, while John Constable (1776 – 1837) was being hailed as England’s foremost romantic landscape painter, elsewhere, in Bali, Gede Modhara became the first to paint in the Kamasan style. At this time, Balinese art was deeply inspired and its force was amassing strength, on the verge of arousing the world beyond the confines of the island of Gods. The estuary was opening. The current of Kamasan was feverishly sweeping through other villages and hamlets in its fervour; Bali was alight with creativity in the arts. Painting was flourishing in the village of Julah, formerly the territory of Dalem Waturenggong, and in the Ubud area, notably the village of Pengosekan. Art studios were opening, managed by local artists who pioneered the arts in Bali. Kerambitan even gave birth to a distinct style of art of its own.
The upper crust of Bali’s art world rolled up its sleeves and set about educating their contemporaries, most especially in Kamasan, Klungkung. While Europe was being worshipped as the Mecca of Art, vibrant with successive forms of expressionism (Eduart Manet [1863] and Van Gogh [1888]), and the births of different phases of surrealism, with the appearance, for example, of The Scream (Edward Munch, 1893), Pan Rembang and Pan Santun were illuminating their fellow artists’ understanding of aesthetics and techniques of painting, as well as the persuasion to dedicate time and energy to the visual chronicle of their agricultural and spiritual lives. Art as a form of spiritual offering reached its heights in the hands of Bali’s first Maestro, I Nyoman Lempad (1895). His works of genius toppled all technical boundaries and introduced true innovation. Departing from all previous styles, his visual records of tales, mythology and beliefs were packed with teachings on Morality (the stories of Jayaprana and Sutasoma). The energy in his uninterrupted lines without the use of color, and his supple curves became a mark of artistic endowment in Bali that could not easily be surpassed. However there were also other Balinese artists who created works of genius that carried neither signature nor name. It seems that ownership was not a central focus for artists in the creation of their works. In the agrarian world, recognition relating to non-collective works was more a matter of its token of sincerity in offering the very best possible to the Being of Supreme Beauty. Thus, a large number of paintings of cultural and mythological value in books on Balinese Art and paintings exhibited in museums, whether in Bali or abroad (predominantly in Holland and other European countries), are accompanied by the neatly typed statement “anonymous” or “unknown”.
Formerly in Bali, nature and life, culture and tradition, found their own artistic expression. The collective creative process rolled on, new movements evolved and then stepped out of the confines of their particular style once they had reached their height. New styles succeeded them, fresh artistic verve. Inspiration allowed for freedom in Bali. It also summoned mortals who lived far away, inspiring them to sail thousands of miles to reach this exotic island of gods. Although the inspiration behind Bali’s art was often interpreted as naivety in other countries where Bali was being borrowed by their own artists, this only triggered changes that made further contributions to Bali’s art. Bali had already inspired Hollywood filmmakers tens of decades before “Eat, Pray and Love”. Bali’s exoticism cast a spell over artists. There are posters depicting Bali that date back to the Nineteen Thirties such as Al Sherman, Jack Meskil and Abner Silver’s On the Beach at Bali-Bali.
Bali’s reputation of exoticism also captured the fancy of film makers. Bing Crosby, Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour starred in Road to Bali, a film that had an amusing impact. The Western world still had a very naive impression of Bali. Balinese girls were substituted by stand-ins with white skin wearing traditional Thai hats. There were also other posters that testified the influence of Bali’s art muse, that have become landmarks in the history of Balinese art. Those who were first to be captured were the Westerners who had set out to explore the new world.
Once the Dutch troops had withdrawn from Bali, Bali entered the spheres of tourism. The See Bali poster issued by The Travellers Official Information Bureau of the Netherlands Indies – Batavia featured the figure of a young woman with bare breasts carrying offerings in front of a temple.
Bali’s naturally romantic setting and culture caught the attention of travel agents who made use of inspiration to sell Java and Bali as Isles of Romance, exposing it to the outside world.
However, despite having served as inspiration for the Western tourist industry, Balinese artists were enriched by Western techniques, mostly derived from Europe. At the time that the Western world was making efforts to find new frontiers, a new world, the unknown world; adventurers were setting out to explore. Inspired by Bali’s exoticism, Otto Jan Niewenkamp (1874 – 1950) stopped by in Bali, followed by Walter Spies (1895 – 1942). Having fallen in love with the purity of Bali’s exoticism, they ended up deciding to remain and live on the island.
This was followed by waves of seekers of inspiration from all parts of the world who moored their explorations in creativity to this island of gods. Rudolf Bonnet (1895 – 1978) followed suit, trailed by other Western artists such as Miguel Covarrubias, Theo Meier, and so on. However, Balinese art cannot be scrutinized and analyzed through Western artistic glasses using Western points of reference. Bali has its own inspiration, aesthetics and creative sources that are unique to it.
Bali’s reputation as a source of inspiration for artistic creation began to spread, reaching other islands in the archipelago like a breath of fresh air. Eventually other Indonesian painters from outside of Bali also came to the island to tread the long road of Balinese art. They ended up settling on this island of gods. Dullah, Basuki Abdullah, Affandi, painters from the mainland, China Lee Man Fong and others, were drawn by the magnet. They were brought to see, to delve, and finally to integrate Bali into their works of art.
Meanwhile, many new artistic techniques were building momentum in Bali. These different styles originated from different geographical quarters: the Batuan mode of painting, the Kamasan, Penestanan and Keliki.
Bali has thus been treading its own paths over the centuries. Balinese artists continue to flower, to experiment, to test, to change, to seek forms and to be enlightened by the creative genius of those amongst them; adjusting to the unfolding political, social and cultural changes brought by time.

Bali Inspires
The seeds of inspiration that were sown by these Balinese art pioneers have become the Balinese art of today. The curatorial for Bali Inspires in this catalogue is different to customary curatorial writing. In this case, the analytical content, which in Balinese art circles normally concentrates on delivering information concerning trends, schools of art, techniques used by the artist and geographical location, only makes up half of the curatorial work. This particular art event also includes an exhibition that has been designed to compliment the other content; the event focuses on the effort to provide more personal and humane exposure of artistic creations inspired by Bali. It is intended to allow Art lovers the opportunity to observe Bali over the course of the history of its art, portrayed by the works that are being exhibited. It also wishes to allow for more intimate insight into the personal and spiritual impetus, the social issues and religious beliefs that have enriched Balinese art.
This particular curatorial approach is motivated by the very goal of Bali Inspires. More than a simple display of art works (paintings and installations, as well as carvings and other three dimensional works), Bali Inspires seeks to reinstate the source of creation and imagery in Balinese art in its physical origins –which is Bali. Bali that is endowed with natural beauty, the island that exudes physical emotions as well as the splendor of the invisible world, whose creative power rises to the highest peaks of imagination and delves into the heart, activating the mind and the hands of the artists who articulate it through inspired works of art.
A brief glimpse into the fruition of the arts in Bali allows us to apprehend the vibrancy of its personal dynamic. The slightest object bears the signature of this art, beginning with instruments for religious ceremonies, to art forms with secular themes such as agrarian and maritime life. Although is possible to trace the initial appearance of secular themes in Bali’s art to the time when Balinese artists were first exposed to visiting artists from the Western world and other islands in Indonesia, it is important to emphasize the fact that these works of art were, and still are, inspired by Bali. Bali is always generous: it always gives something to somebody. This amazing source of inspiration, of giving, has continuously poured riches into the world’s reserves of Art, of encouragement, of making the positive possible, of keeping in Touch, going beyond.
Upon entering the 21st century and leaving behind the different periods of creativity of the 20th century along with their genres, Balinese artists will be obliged to make a stand in the face of major changes in times. It would seem that modern artists, who are among the vanguard facing the challenges of the 21st century, are already beginning to question, or at least reflect on their identity as creative beings. Will they be able to respond to the changes in this era that is moving towards globalization, without losing the very nature of their art? Does Balinese Art have the resilience to retain its aesthetics and values in life, its beliefs and all the elements that tie it to Bali? Globalization is marked by shrinking geographical delineations as a result of expanding tourism and the influence of digital technology; this is transforming a collective agrarian culture into one that is informatively individualistic, to say nothing of the sway of an industrial environment with its factories and machinations of capitalism that enforce adaptation to this new culture. Thus there are many issues to be discussed, to be mapped out and finally, to be responded to, in the event that this issue should be deemed important and a necessary concern.
The role of Art which stimulates and boosts the economy will obviously no longer be the main thrust of movement in Balinese Art, at least not in quantitative terms. There is a question that arises regarding the role of art in the evolution of Bali’s social structure: what is the actual function of art in this new way of life that is in full shift? Has it changed? Will it change?
There are other conceptual issues, aside from art as an economic impetus that those involved in art (thinkers and creators) could bring up regarding Balinese art. We have already seen that in its early stages in Bali, art held a significant role in its social and religious life. In a collective society, art can contribute significant benefits to social development. Due to psychological impact, cutting across the different periods, styles and techniques in the history of Balinese art, artistic inspiration in Bali is seen to have transmitted a sense of beauty and peace through this visual medium.
This time round, participants of Bali Inspires come from a diversity of backgrounds and places, using different artistic avenues and themes. These works of art have been chosen to reflect the diversity of art over the past decades, and some also vary greatly in line with recent developments. Since the theme of this exhibition is Bali Inspires or Inspiration from Bali, the artistic spectrum is intended to embrace works of art that have been inspired by Bali, by its natural environment, its inhabitants, and there are also other elements that can perhaps only be expressed conceptually, works having an abstract or impressionistic nature, etc. Based on the understanding that inspiration is not limited to any specific point in time, the creative works that have been chosen for this exhibition are not bound by any time frame. Since inspiration also has an objective intention, Bali Inspires has tried to include works from both academic and non-academic circles, different ethnic backgrounds and age groups. In this way, the gamut of artistic works inspired by Bali includes traditional, modern and contemporary art. Not all the works that are being celebrated in this exhibition have been chosen from the collection at the Rudana Museum. Many are being shown by invitation, selected by the Rudana’s curatorial team.
Inspiration comes from the sky; it descends, dives down and penetrates the soul that is receptive, regardless of origin, nationality, ideology or belief. Bali’s art heroes and heroines were called to reveal Bali through ideal visual means.
In his twilight hours, a man named Arie Smit, an artist who many years ago had chosen to discard all attributes of nationalism and to embrace true beauty in Bali instead, instilled with the spirit of art that is the splendor that conveys love of peace and peacefulness, expressed it this way: “I love Bali. Everything in my art has been inspired by this island. For this reason, I dedicate my art to Bali in return.” Could it be that Arie Smit, reclining in solitude yet unbeaten by age, who has never stopped creating the beauty of Bali... could it be that he is willing us, those who were born here or who stand its soil, to recognize the heavy task that we carry, which is to protect and to defend Bali. Will Bali still invest us with its inspiration through works of art? Enlighten our minds so that we may take a closer look at the degradation of nature, the creation of uncontrolled garbage that is systematically polluting the whole island along with all the disorderly haphazard building; inspire us to take a square look at the threat to Bali’s environment?
Is it going to be possible to keep the natural beauty of Bali portrayed in art creations alive: the green rice fields, the harvests enjoyed by all, the crystal clear rivers and pure water; or are we going to allow all this beauty bestowed by its Creator to become a simple memory? Is it going to be possible to retain Bali’s unperturbed, fertile and truthful existence in the context of modern life?
For over centuries Bali has been continuously milked for inspiration, its natural world has been appropriated and made a commodity, its art has been exchanged at nominal and monetary rates; has Bali come to an end? In all evidence, the pliancy that is the life of Balinese art and its culture, and that keeps the Balinese community alive, still holds. It is this art and this culture that is its last defense. There is no need for a sequel to Eat, Pray and Love, no need for Eat, pay and Leave. However, Bali does need to make a stand in the face of ever changing times; at very least, it needs to position itself in a way that will allow it to preserve and to continue cultivating this art and this culture.
A man by name of Damien Hirst, a contemporary English artist whose works reap millions of dollars at Christies auctions and elsewhere, is in need of Bali to create his works of art. A contemporary world famous American cartoonist, Matt Groening, whose works include The Simpsons (that has kept people glued to the television practically worldwide) has made Bali one of his tourist destinations, a place where he can create sketches besieged by the sound of barking dogs and crowing cocks, and the notes of the gamelan, his choice of music above all other music to be heard in the world. There are also many other famous contemporary artists who hold Bali as a source of inspiration, following centuries of classical world artists who have been overcome by Bali’s exoticism and inspiration.
Inspiration comes from the skies, transmitted through different mediums: nature and its components, human beings with all their activities. May this exhibition, Bali Inspires, serve as the impetus to reflect on our circumstances in Bali, on our rights and our responsibilities. May Bali be blessed with inspiration that illuminates us all through its beauty and humanity. It is through the inspiration of its artists and inhabitants that Bali welcomes its visitors, invites them to come and to remain in peace. May this island of Bali be blessed by peace, and so also Indonesia and the whole world; this is the innermost prayer that moves Rudana’s president, Putu Supadma Rudana. For us, as for him:

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