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A return to visual beauty

I Wayan Juniarta

The Jakarta Post

Ubud  /  Thu, February 23, 2017  /  10:30 am
A return to visual beauty

Captivated: A visitor watches Kebun, a painting by I Wayan Januariawan Donal. (JP/I Wayan Juniarta)

In this current aesthetic climate when the social or political message a visual artist tries to convey often becomes a burden decimating the artistic quality of his or her work, it is refreshing to come across five painters who openly proclaim their return to visual beauty.

Retouch, an ongoing exhibition that runs until March 15 at Tony Raka Gallery in Mas, Ubud, is the declaration by I Nyoman Wijaya, AA Gd Darmayuda, Sri Wahyuni, I Wayan Bawa Antara and I Wayan Januariawan Donal on a simple truth: to be able to provoke and convince, a painting must first be a visually stunning object.

“All the displayed works in this exhibit reflect the participating artists’ twofold endeavors: to create visually appealing artwork as well as to once again master all the technical skills required in creating such paintings,” the gallery’s owner Tony Hartawan said.

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The exhibit features 17 works, most of which are large paintings, including two paintings by Donal: Kebun (Garden) and Bunga Merambat (flowering vine). Kebun, a lush and gorgeous depiction of a tropical garden with a pool, fountains and soft stone statues, bears a striking resemblance to a garden by an open pavilion at the Ubud Agung Rai Museum of Art (ARMA) eastern compound.

The painting was completed over a long period of time since Donal only worked on it in the morning.

“He spent a few hours in the morning and continued working on it at the precise same time the following morning and the mornings after. He did so because he wanted to capture the specific light of those hours,” Tony said.

Bunga Merambat by I Wayan Januariawan Donal(JP/I Wayan Juniarta)

Donal is one of a few local painters who are still painting directly in front of the subject matter rather than using a photograph of it. Kebun is 5 by 2.8 meters in dimension. Creating a painting that size without a photograph or a projector requires a high level of technical skill.

His creative process also required a huge amount of patience, which he acquired in 2015, when he was bedridden for three months after suffering a broken leg in a traffic accident.

In the aftermath of that episode, Donal had not only learned the art of waiting but also found new interest in everyday things that previously escaped his attention, such as a moss-covered shrine, a stream near his house, house gates and gardens in his village.

“This is a conventional painting done in a conventional way, not many people are doing this kind of thing nowadays,” Donal said.

Anak-anak Gembira saat Melasti by I Wayan Bawa Antara(JP/I Wayan Juniarta)

Another painter that demonstrates exceptional technical mastery is I Wayan Bawa Antara. His work, titled Anak-anak Gembira saat Melasti (Children Frolicking during a Beach Ritual), portrays seven little girls dressed in sarongs and kebayas having a good time playing in the beach’s bubbly waves.

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A closer inspection reveals that Bawa must have spent a huge amount of time painting the intricate details of each girl’s lace kebaya, ensuring that the seethrough fabric and the girls’ skin tones work in his favor in creating an illusion of depth. This is the kind of painting that absorbs visitors’ attention, inviting them to touch and caress it.

The detail of Anak-anak Gembira saat Melasti by I Wayan Bawa Antara(JP/I Wayan Juniarta)

Two other participating artists, Darmayuda and Sri Wahyuni, succeeded in not only showcasing their technical mastery but also their social viewpoints. Darmayuda’s 1 $ 2 Rangda, a close-up rendition of a human hand clasping a rolled dollar bill with two rangda (a witch queen as well as the personification of Goddess Durga) inside it, is clearly a jab at the exploitative nature of the island’s tourism.

1$2 Rangda by Darmayuda(JP/I Wayan Juniarta)

Meanwhile, Sri Wahyuni’s Terjajah (Enslaved), a painting of a beautiful woman dressing up while sitting on a plush sofa with a dollar bill and scores of red roses scattered on the floor, could be a metaphor for that concern voiced by Darmayuda or for the fate of women in this patriarchal world.

It seems that when technical mastery meets poignant messaging, we would encounter artwork that is visually captivating and thought-provoking at the same time.

Terjajah by Sri Wahyuni(JP/I Wayan Juniarta)

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