Alpha Savitri, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
History has recorded the superb works of the world's great artists who have been inspired by East Asian characters. America's Tobey and France's Mathieu and Soulages are those successfully exploring the esthetic quality of Chinese characters and transforming it into their fine creations.
Indonesia's famed artist Made Wianta, likewise, mostly relies on his brush to move freely and spontaneously across a desired surface to form curved and wavy patterns that remind one of the esthetic riches of East Asia.
Wianta's calligraphic works are sometimes very big and prominent, fully covering canvases. But he often also puts his calligraphic outlines on his geometric paintings. Textured fabrics are no exception to his calligraphy, as many of Wianta's fine art pieces are texture-rich.
If you think the productive painter is amazed by East Asian characters, with their shades of grace and profound beauty, you may be right. It's not wrong either to claim that Wianta's calligraphy accommodates some Japanese influences, as he began using the style after visiting Japan.
Upon further observation of his works, however, it's not correct to say he is overly obsessed by models of East Asian characters. In many cases, one will find out that the calligraphy works of this father of two are virtually an extension of his previous graphic-toned creations. He is now only using the brush, making the curved and wavy strokes more spontaneously.
Still, Wianta, whose works are on display at Ganesha Gallery, Four Seasons Resort Bali in Jimbaran until Jan. 5, has remained proficient in graphic painting, as the starting point of his artistic career. Through his graphic lines, he can express whatever obsessions and impressions he has, as a way of relieving his uneasiness. On various occasions, he has admitted that he has a very liberal mind. Moreover, he is never interested in expressing something by mere appearance.
With his objection to accepting the legitimacy of reality, Wianta will always transform it as he wishes by following his impressions, enabling him to become his own self. As a student, for instance, when he was asked to draw a bottle, what resulted was a flying object, and thus a barong (mythological Balinese dragon) would appear as a monster unknown to Bali's iconography.
This artist had for a long time spent his spare time making sketches of different representations, until the 1980s. He used to draw animal forms, now and again he drafted human faces, abstract and surrealistic images, as well as short wavy scribbles like calligraphy, which he did impromptu.
Lots of paper was used to meet his primary need of artistic sketching in black ink and with a pencil. When no paper was available, he drew on envelopes, ticket sheets, tissue and any other materials. Since the 1970s, he has collected more than 15,000 sketches and drawings in free forms and styles. His black-and-white paintings arose in the 1980s from his graphic works, too. He calls it the period of Karangasem, the period when he produced a lot of surrealistic pictures.
By the end of the 1980s, due to saturation, he started turning to geometric paintings, apparently in line with the systematic aspect of his personality. Without abandoning his graphic basics, after a visit to Japan he explored short curves resembling Chinese and Japanese characters. Since then, he has been fond of applying spontaneous brush strokes on canvases.
After various innovations, he began to switch to canvas instead of paper, and apply colors to replace the pencil monotony, notably also combined with calligraphic scripts through the instinctive flow of his brush. In this period, Wianta created mini sized calligraphy on his geometric paintings.
His determination to give a more distinct nuance of calligraphy in 1993 eventually led to his larger, contemporary pieces, sometimes even with the script motifs filling the entire surface of the canvas. There are also canvases with dots surrounding the calligraphy, appearing like picture frames. Or, calligraphy-packed canvases are each divided into several spaces, again with the touch of geometry.
Looking like a graceful dance, his calligraphy connotes mobility and movement. In many cases, Wianta rightly appreciates arts with a tinge of motion in view of his artistic character, which is incompatible with complacency and performance inertia. As a very productive painter, he also uses installations, poems and other media apart from paper and canvases.
Born into a religious family, his parents wanted him to become a Hindu priest to succeed his father. But he refused. Arts and humanism have been his pursuit. Like the Balinese in general, as a youth he was engaged in various dancing and theatrical activities. In this way he could also relieve the family pressure demanding his priesthood.
As a dance and music school dropout in Denpasar, he moved to the Indonesian art high school (SSRI), where he studied more than fine art subjects. SSRI was a modern school that expanded the cultural horizons of its students. With teachers coming mostly from Java, he was taught to think in a universal way. The approach to fine art was not traditional either, thus encouraging his creative spirit.
Graduating from the school in 1970, he furthered his studies at the Indonesia Fine Arts Academy (ASRI) in Yogyakarta. There, his artistic concept was further broadened and his attitude turned more modern. In 1975 he went to Brussels to enhance his esthetic experience and taught Balinese drumming at Amsterdam's Tropen Institute.
In 1978, the multitalented artist, who is also renowned as, among other things, a poet, musician and dancer, returned to Bali. His works have been displayed across the country as well as in Belgium, Germany, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Russia, Singapore, Thailand, the United States and the Netherlands.