New daugh­ters of saras­vati

Harper's Bazaar Art (Indonesia) - - Art Feature -

in bali, where the ma­jor­ity of its pop­u­la­tion is hindu, Dewi saraswati is wor­shiped as the god­dess of knowl­edge and art. this means in the ba­li­nese cul­ture, art is be­lieved to be un­der the pres­ence of a fem­i­nine force. yet it is quite ironic that the his­tory of fine arts in bali, since the clas­sic to mod­ern era, only fea­tures a small num­ber of fe­male artists. Very dif­fer­ent from dance art in bali, fine arts in bali have never dis­cov­ered a woman that has then been re­mem­bered as one of the masters of fine arts. the sit­u­a­tion is also a whole lot dif­fer­ent in the world of mod­ern in­done­sian lit­er­a­ture in bali that in­creas­ingly marks the many names of fe­male writ­ers with out­stand­ing achieve­ments at na­tional and in­ter­na­tional stages. the only one fe­male artist from bali whose work has been praised in the world of in­done­sia’s fine art is the late i gusti ayu Kadek mur­ni­asih (1966-2006).

there are a few ex­pla­na­tions to the rar­ity of fe­male artists in bali. one and the most im­por­tant is the strong tra­di­tional pa­tri­archy cul­ture in bali, plac­ing women in the in­fe­rior po­si­tion af­ter men. this re­sults the lit­tle “room” for women in bali to cre­ate, ex­press, and achieve in so­ci­ety.

be­ing one of the cen­ters of fine arts in in­done­sia, bali also con­tin­u­ously at­tracts many artists from out­side bali to de­sign and cre­ate. some of them are the fe­male artists who do not par­take this “cul­tural bur­den” like ba­li­nese women do. how­ever in re­al­ity, there are no non­ba­li­nese women in bali that have achieved a level of suc­cess in in­done­sia’s fine arts. per­haps one of the rea­sons is the mo­ti­va­tion of most non-ba­li­nese artists to stay in bali is en­cour­aged by the high po­ten­tial of the art mar­ket that is sup­ported by the tourism in­dus­try, mak­ing them cre­ate art that is ad­mired only by tourists.

how­ever, the era has changed and bali has changed with it. the open ac­cess to high ed­u­ca­tion has in­creased the aware­ness of ba­li­nese women about the equal­ity of cul­tural po­si­tions be­tween men and women. they are now braver in ex­press­ing them­selves, in­clud­ing ex­press­ing cri­tiques and de­mands to­ward tra­di­tions that feel re­strict­ing for women. for the non-ba­li­nese fe­male artists, the de­ci­sion to make a ca­reer in bali is not based any­more on the con­sid­er­a­tion to aim at the tourism mar­ket.

With the im­prove­ment of in­for­ma­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tion tech­nol­ogy, es­pe­cially the in­ter­net, the ba­li­nese fe­male artists as well as the non-ba­li­nese artists can im­me­di­ately up­date, re­spond, and be in­volved in the many devel­op­ment chan­nels of arts around the world.

ci­tra sas­mita, natisa Jones, and Wai santy rep­re­sent the lat­est gen­er­a­tion of fe­male artists in bali as their pres­ence and work have brought ‘fresh blood’ to the progress of con­tem­po­rary arts in bali. Dif­fer­ent to most mod­ern artists from the for­mer gen­er­a­tions in bali, these three names are not grad­u­ates from big art acad­e­mies in in­done­sia. Dif­fer­ent to mur­ni­asih and sev­eral other artists whose work was in­flu­enced by sev­eral pioneer artists from bali, they did not de­velop ideas or vis­ual lan­guage of what could be called pur­su­ing the ba­li­nese char­ac­ter­is­tic. op­po­site to the mod­ern vi­sion of the old era of ba­li­nese art that de­sires to carry bali to the out­side world, they tend to bring the out­side world into bali. although the three artists work in bali, they po­si­tion them­selves as a part of glob­al­iza­tion that erases cul­tural and ge­o­graphic di­viders.

ci­tra sas­mita is a ba­li­nese artist born in ta­banan in 1990. grad­u­ated from the physics Depart­ment of gane­sha univer­sity of ed­u­ca­tion in sin­garaja bali, ci­tra self-taught her­self art since she was young. her work has been dis­played in sev­eral ex­hi­bi­tions since 2012 in­clud­ing her own two solo ex­hi­bi­tions. in

2015, her work was elected as semi­fi­nal­ist at a pres­ti­gious na­tional art and de­sign com­pe­ti­tion, ban­dung con­tem­po­rary art awards #4.

Just like the two fe­male artists she adores, shirin ne­shat and mella Jaarsma, ci­tra ex­plores iden­tity and so­cial is­sues in her work. she par­tic­u­larly con­nects iden­tity is­sues to sex­u­al­ity to re­veal the con­tra­dic­tion be­tween the per­sonal body and so­cial body. “i am still ques­tion­ing about sex­u­al­ity in the east which in an in­tel­lec­tual con­cept presents wis­dom, how­ever it doesn’t re­flect at all in the men­tal of

the so­ci­ety,” says Ci­tra on what she wants to de­liver through her work.

through fine arts, Ci­tra fights against “stigma, so­cial class hi­er­ar­chy, sub­or­di­na­tion ac­tions to­wards mi­nor­ity groups and dis­crim­i­na­tion to women” which she views “has been ac­cepted as a col­lec­tive and con­scious truth” in the pa­tri­archy so­ci­ety. Ci­tra’s crit­i­cal at­ti­tude por­trayed through her work is phe­nom­e­nal. in bali’s art his­tory, it can be con­firmed that Ci­tra is the first and only ba­li­nese fe­male artists, that speaks harsh crit­i­cism re­gard­ing the in­fe­rior and mar­ginal con­di­tion of women.

Natisa Jones was born in Jakarta in 1989 but has lived in bali since her early years. af­ter com­plet­ing an in­ter­na­tional bac­calau­re­ate Diploma at prem tin­su­lanonda in­ter­na­tional school in Chi­ang Mai, thai­land, and earned bach­e­lor of fine arts paint­ing from royal Melbourne in­sti­tute of tech­nol­ogy in Melbourne, aus­tralia, Natisa worked in Jakarta as a graphic de­signer and free­lance il­lus­tra­tor for sev­eral com­mer­cial clients such as fash­ion mag­a­zines. how­ever, Natisa was left un­sat­is­fied in the com­mer­cial world and de­cided to se­ri­ously de­velop her tal­ent in paint­ing and make a ca­reer as an artist. since 2005, Natisa has show­cased her work in sev­eral art ex­hi­bi­tions in in­done­sia and abroad, in­clud­ing showcasing her five solo ex­hi­bi­tions.

since in her univer­sity years, Natisa was very in­flu­enced by the con­cept and work of Ac­tion Paint­ing or Ab­stract Ex­pres­sion­ist artists, namely robert Mother­well, robert rauschen­berg, he­len franken­thaler and bar­nett New­man. “the con­cept of process is be­ing the most im­por­tant – where the art hap­pens stroke by stroke in the act of paint­ing, in the mo­ment it­self, and not aim­ing at an end re­sult. their works are brave and de­ci­sive and un­til to­day just res­onate with me very strongly,” Natisa ex­plains.

by blend­ing the spon­tane­ity of ex­pres­sions and the power of sketch strokes in her work, Natisa ex­plores the many ideas about “the self” through nar­ra­tions picked up from her own daily ex­pe­ri­ence. “i re­flect on the hu­man con­di­tion as a par­al­lel con­cept to the creative process. emo­tional and psy­cho­log­i­cal states are where i be­gin. i ex­plore the less-fa­vor­able parts of be­ing hu­man as much as the won­der­ful parts. Mostly i’m in­ter­ested in ex­plor­ing the less-fa­vor­able parts, be­cause the won­der­ful parts don’t need too much an­a­lyz­ing,” says Natisa re­gard­ing her paint­ings that fo­cuses a lot on the hu­man body from a per­spec­tive far from per­fec­tion. “Mak­ing art is just a way of hon­estly ex­press­ing and hop­ing to find a com­mon ground with other peo­ple. that ul­ti­mately we all go through the same things within dif­fer­ent con­texts. i feel it is im­por­tant for me to be vul­ner­a­ble and open in mak­ing my art – in hopes to em­pathize, find con­nec­tions within each other and our­selves,” she adds

Wai santy was born in Jakarta, grew up in Medan, and has lived in Jakarta. she ac­com­plished her bach­e­lor of arts in Vis­ual Com­mu­ni­ca­tion De­sign from bina Nu­san­tara univer­sity Jakarta, Diploma in fash­ion study from es­mod Jakarta, and Mas­ter in busi­ness Man­age­ment from bina Nu­san­tara busi­ness school Jakarta. be­fore liv­ing in bali, she worked as an art di­rec­tor in ad­ver­tis­ing and sev­eral fash­ion brands in Jakarta and bali. Wai has dis­played her work in sev­eral ex­hi­bi­tions in in­done­sia and Nether­lands since 2004, in­clud­ing showcasing two solo ex­hi­bi­tions.

“the fo­cus of my work is hu­man in to­day’s world and their truth,” says Wai re­gard­ing her work. “grow­ing up in the North of su­ma­tra sur­rounded by Chi­nese, batak­nese, Ja­vanese and now ba­li­nese cul­tures com­pelled me to be ob­ser­vant and sen­si­tized to hu­man na­ture. i like to ob­serve hu­man na­ture: how do we in­ter­act to­wards each other; the en­ergy we trans­fer and re­ceive; the things we show, we hold, we won­der, and how the small­est ges­tures could be trans­lated in a thou­sand words. i believe that hu­man be­ings are the big­gest mys­tery in this world, we are con­stantly chal­leng­ing our sur­round­ings and our in­ner­selves. even­though the world is chang­ing, the essence of be­ing stays the same. it is my call­ing to un­der­stand these truths and to cap­ture the sub­stances into my work.”

Wai’s in­ter­est to­wards the hu­man sub­ject is trans­ferred into oil paint­ings with a style that por­trays the strong in­flu­ence of clas­sic euro­pean paint­ings, hav­ing in­flu­enced by her men­tor, Noella roos. “as an oil painter who car­ries a deep re­spect and love for the tra­di­tional euro­pean art, my main mis­sion is to push through the bound­aries of the clas­si­cal mind­set and in­fuse it with con­tem­po­rary cul­tures, while main­tain­ing the deep fas­ci­na­tion to­wards the in­flu­ence of strong tra­di­tions.”

open to all in­flu­ences of the world, Ci­tra, Natisa, and Wai still ad­mit that bali feeds an im­por­tant in­flu­ence in their art mak­ing. as artists, all three were ‘born’ in bali by

Dewi saraswati. they are the 21st cen­tury daugh­ters of the god­dess.

By Arif Ba­gus Prase­tyo

Natisa Jones

Ci­tra Sas­mita

Wai Santy

Natisa Jones

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