Bali’s distinct feminine energy is one of the foundations of its sacred and extraordinarily artistic traditional culture. Internationally revered for its potent and abundant life force, a new generation of female Balinese and Indonesian creatives thrives on the island. Through art, these ladies explore their sense of purpose and inner self. Here are a few of the exciting and diverse emerging contemporary talents on Bali today:
1. Ida Ayu Sartika Dewi
At just twenty-three years of age, Dayu Sartika has an extraordinary command of her creative prowess and is passionate about drawing and the watercolour medium. Drawing- or the ability to render three-dimensional impressions of objects through structuring shadow and light- is a fundamental artistic skill, yet one which is often neglected by young artists. Dayu has a firm grip on this, and time-lapse videos capture her watercolour process, one of the most challenging techniques to master.
Born in 1998 in Buleleng, North Bali, the art education graduate from Undiksha University in Singaraja focusses on creating self-narrative compositions. Some works are playful, sexy and humorous, while others are simply otherworldly.
Dayu is able to convey a young woman’s emotional experiences within a complex culture during an extraordinary period of human transformation. When we gaze into her bright full eyes, wisdom is revealed.
“I started drawing at a young age and then made cartoons. I have had limited physical capacities since childhood, yet I was (always) comfortable sitting and drawing,” Dayu says.
“In 2015, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. The pain can be debilitating, and sometimes I am unable to draw. I began to explore watercolour, which requires less (physical) effort. Art is my meditation; it is often powerful enough to help me forget the pain,” she explains.
2. Linkan Palenewen
“As an Indonesian woman, my culture expects me to think and act in a certain way. Through art, however, I maintain my sovereignty,” says self-taught painter and Ubud resident Linkan Palenewen.
“Whatever society expects me to be and to do, as an artist, I will do the opposite,” she exhorts.
Linkan’s signature style is a collision of visual codes. Her compositional focal point features herself and other women in semi-naked postures with arranged fragmented planes of vivid colour, highlighted by delicate floral forms.
The artist cites a love of being wild and unrestrained with colours, with her intuition taking control of her artistic process, often with surprising results. Her dramatic works have unexpected beginnings, as she started her artistic life as an interior design student. She then switched to fashion design and picked up techniques which would eventually underpin the fundamentals of her work as a painter.
In Linkan’s work, shattered structures harmonise with black spatial planes, brilliant neons and vigorous colour. These combine with Bali-inspired floral designs that complement lush female forms. Tropically attuned, and inspired by notions of femininity, Linkan’s mantras are captivating musings in which sensuality and pulsating colour embrace like lovers entwined.
3. Sastia Naresvari
Sastia Naresvari’s dynamic abstract expressionism immediately caught my eye. Her potent, colourful and swirling forms appealed to both my conscious and subconscious mind. Utilising brush strokes, palette knives, blades, and her own hands, Sastia engineers inspiration into form. The powerful contrast of white against black is a predominant aspect, while reds and blues complement the overall vibrancy of her work.
Other works allow for the simplicity of vibrant colour to harmonise, and to come to the fore.
As the twenty-four year old Jakarta- born, Bali-resident former psychology student explains, there is more to her abstract work than meets the eye.
“Painting has always been a part of my spiritual journey, helping to describe my reality, emotions, and thinking, and what I experience during meditation and the dream state. It illustrates the unseen and intangible energy; (as well as) space without limitations,” she explains.
Her artistic process begins with contemplation, writing, black and white photography, and the asking of incisive questions. She then “detaches from her ego” inducing what she describes as a trancelike state, from which she feels free to “translate the world” through her art work.
“Painting grounds me to the three-dimensional world and then I transcend,” says the mostly self-trained artist who made her first watercolour image aged four. In 2017, Sastia met artist Didit Slenthem at Museum Affandi, Yogyakarta, who she cites as a painting mentor; one who taught her how to to have confidence in many aspects of her life.
4. Luh Gede Gita Sangitayasa
For some, the idea of living simultaneously in parallel universes may be too far-out to compute. For Balinese painter Luh Gede Gita Sangitayasa, however, the concept seems commonplace. It helps to inspire the fascinating narrative for works she describes as “fragments of memories.”
“I gather internet pictures, screenshots from the online simulation game The Sims and old images. I then photoshop combinations into compositions (which) I call ‘happy incidents’,” Luh’De explains.
“Painting helps me to understand myself. Maybe I want control over things that I cannot control, blurring the realities between the finite world that we live in and the..limitless worlds of cyberspace. By being in between (those worlds), I find peace.”
After five years of studying fine art at the Institute of Technology Bandung (ITB) West Java, Luh’De returned to live in Batubulan, Bali. In 2020 she was diagnosed with depression and bipolar disorder, and she stopped painting for six months.
“When I began again, my old subject matter- images of Bali and the beach, which I named the Paradiso Series- no longer represented me,” says Luh’De, who in 2020 exhibited works in the group show New Now IV: Tension/Creation at Singapore’s Gajah Gallery.
“I had developed a liking towards sweets to help stabilize my moods, and I spent more time playing Sims as (a form of) escapism. I created a new ‘ideal’ personal painting reality,” she explains.
Donuts and Elizac 20 is one example of a perfectly balanced work of pop art displaying beautiful colours and textures.
The work describes her lived experience – from the sugary highs of doughnuts to the lows of Elizac, the medication used to treat her bipolar disorder. Luh’De herself becomes the subject in her works, opening the door to her inner world and exploration of self-identity.
Luh’De’s work is presently on display till 20 May 2021, in Suksesi : Cross Generational Women’s Exhibition, a showcase of Indonesian female artists in Jakarta, Indonesia.
All images are courtesy of the respective artists