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THE JAKARTA POST, July 29, 2006

'Karangasem boys' invigorate Bali painting scene

I Wayan Juniartha, The Jakarta Post, Denpasar, Bali

Through their rich metaphors and diverse aesthetic language, a group of young painters has managed to show that the island's painting scene is not just about Gunarsa, Wianta and all those overexposed big names.

Their work is currently on display at Denpasar's hottest alternative art space, Danes Art Veranda. The visual repertoire features 15 works by 11 painters.

"These painters are solid evidence that Bali continues to produce talented artists -- that the island's painting scene is a dynamic, ever-moving landscape of creativity," said art observer Putu Wiratha Dwikora.

Grouped together as the Lempuyang Visual Arts Community, the painters share only one thing in common; they all hail from the island's easternmost regency of Karangasem, an area known better for its refined traditional literature than contemporary painting.

"We are the Karangasem boys; that's the reason why we have named the community after one of the most spiritually blessed mountains in the area," group spokesperson Wayan Redika said.

Members of this community include Redika, I Ketut Jaya, I Made Dyanna, I Wayan Setem, Komang Bolit, Made Oka, Made Sukadana, Nyoman Sukari, Nyoman Triarta AP, Suarimbawa Dalbo and Wayan Widianta.

On the other hand, from an aesthetic and creative point of view, the members of Lempuyang clearly show that they have almost nothing in common.
"Generally, members of the same group tend to lose their individual creativity or personal aesthetic. Either they create a new set of mutually shared creative and aesthetic values or they succumb to and follow the values promoted by the strongest member of the group," Wiratha Dwikora said.
"Lempuyang members have still managed to retain and promote their individual artistic freedom. That's precisely what has made the exhibition so refreshing," he asserted.

Such freedom shines through various aspects of their displayed works. Each member of the group has dealt with a specific theme, utilizing a distinctive style and technique, and integrating different symbols and interpretation.

Naturally, the exhibition is a rich mosaic of individual expressions. In one corner is the work of I Ketut Jaya, a new visual interpretation on the Balinese Hindu mandala of Lamak.

It is a work of geometrical shapes and vivid colors.

Meanwhile, in another corner is a piece by Made Oka, a naive rendition of natural landscape. It is a work of fluid forms and spontaneous brush strokes.

"While Sukadana tries to give a contemporary relevance to a traditional theme, his colleague Gede Gunada totally deserts traditional themes, utilizing modern techniques to interpret contemporary issues," art observer Cok Sawitri said.

Their ability to present rich metaphors and diverse themes did not necessarily mean that they had reached their esthetic peak. "I think what they lack the most is maturity. Some of the works clearly show the need for a conscious maturation process -- intensive soul searching, particularly for the artists, who intend to capture "invisible" beauty, such as energy and spirituality," she added.

A similar opinion was also voiced by Redika. He believed that the participating painters had a very long, winding road ahead of them.

"To be frank, we have reached a point where we don't have any problem with skills and techniques. Yet, without the courage to repeatedly question ourselves and our aesthetic achievement, we will end up as handicraft makers, not the creators of meaningful pieces of art," he said.

Of the participating artists, Redika and Sukari show both personal and aesthetic maturity.

Redika's work, for instance, clearly displays his tough struggle to provide visual form for sacred Balinese texts and symbols.

"How do you transform the verbal cores of such texts into a visual landscape? That's a very difficult problem. To some extent, Redika has managed to solve it," Sawitri said.

Yet, for Redika, the real problem was not about visualizing the verbal, but about keeping it real. The painting, he pointed out, should be able to convey the spiritual struggle of its painter, instead of merely portraying the painter's superficial aesthetic struggle.

"I don't want to show off my skills and aesthetic achievement through my work. All I aim to do is to share my spiritual struggle, my joy and my anguish: That's how I view my work," he said.

And, said Wiratha Dwikora, that's precisely the reason why Redika was more mature than the rest of the Lempuyang members.

Sensitive through July 30 Danes Art Veranda Jln. Hayam Wuruk 159 Denpasar, Bali