BIG HEART FOR ART
WHEN TRUE PASSION MEETS TREMENDOUS STRENGTH, IT CAN LEAD US TO AN UNEXPECTED DYNAMIC LIFE…
Meet Ratna Odata, founder of Cata Odata
The above sentence best concludes our first encounter with artist and owner of Cata Odata, an Ubud-based house of art, Ratna Odata. Graduated from LaSalle College of the Arts in Singapore in 2013 where she majored in Technical Theatre, Ratna broke all standards and started pursuing her biggest dream by establishing Cata Odata, right when the art industry in Bali was tumbling down. But that did not stop her from moving forward. Together with her artist partner Djunaidi Kenyut, they are committed to elevating the appreciation of Indonesian art. To Bali & Beyond (BB), Ratna Odata (RO) shared her story…
BB: What do you love about art?
RO: My ‘love-at-first-sight’ with art actually began when I joined a high school of performing art. Then, during my college years in Singapore, I drowned myself into theatre study, and that was when I began to admire and see art as something that is not fragmented between fine arts such as painting, sculpture, carving and motion art. I see art as a whole complete element that can be in harmony with everything. That is what ‘interdisciplinary’ theory is, which we now implement as our approach in Cata Odata.
Art for me is a medicine that can cure so many pains. That is also the reason why I named it Cata Odata, which means “white heart” in Pali language.
BB: What brought you to the art world?
RO: When I was almost graduated, I spent my final years in college figuring out how to continue expressing my love and passion for art. While most people who study abroad choose not to go back to their home country because they have a permanent promising career in their study destination, I struggled hard enough in my mind and heart to go back to Indonesia and do something. Not because I wanted to contribute something, but because I feel more comfortable being in the country where I belong.
When the day arrived, I took any risks necessary. I promised myself to be persistent although many people didn’t believe in what I was planning to do, including my mother who expected her daughter to be successful by her own definition. But still, I went to Ubud and bought this beautiful old building at quite a reasonable price. Here, I built a new dynamic artsy ambiance with my fellow talented artist, Djuanidi Kenyut.
BB: Why Ubud?
RO: Because Ubud is the center of art in Bali. Cata Odata is also committed to promoting Balinese and East-Javanese artists, so we consider Ubud the perfect place for us to explore and express our love for art. We conduct exhibitions to promote artworks and hold many regular discussions, and we provide a space for everyone who wants to study and learn more about art without any limitations or boundaries.
We prefer to define Cata Odata as an art house. There are four permanent residents here including myself. Our rooms and office are on the third floor, the gallery on the second floor and the art studio on the first floor, right beside a small stream.
BB: What is the biggest obstacle for Cata Odata?
RO: The main challenge is the lack of public appreciation towards art. The second, from what I mostly hear from fellow artists, is the difficulty to trust art galleries, which happens after an unpleasant experience
between some artists and certain galleries. For example, there is often inconsistency between the agreement and the implementation. Other cases also include when a gallery takes artwork by force. To be honest, when I first started Cata Odata, I was still pretty naive and idealistic. I did not have any prejudice to anyone but as the art house progresses I understand more about the politics behind the art industry.
BB: How do you and your team in Cata Odata build their trust?
RO: Trust from the artists is the biggest absence that we experience as a gallery. Sometimes the reactions we got from artists are also quite painful. We were once ignored, after we approached them and explained that we had an art space. Finally, to eliminate any prejudices, we decided to make every agreement written in details, including the exhibition cash flows. Making a detailed agreement is actually time-consuming, but we need to be really transparent and honest from the beginning.
The absence of fairness between institutions and artists is still a main concern as well. Perhaps, what is promised is not given, and artists have always been the one to blame. That is why Cata Odata always prioritizes transparency in the agreements. We have to make sure that there is a mutual understanding between us and the artists, and that both sides agree on every point in the letter of agreement.
BB: Do you select artists to collaborate?
RO: For now, we are focusing only on artists who reside in East Java and Bali. They come from many art disciplines such as visual art, street art, theatre, installations, dancers, graphic and printmaking. Since we love to grow and learn together, we prefer to collaborate with emerging artists as well as mid-career artists because they are still in search of identity and character, so they explore so much. Cata Odata has always been honored for exploring many things together, sharing knowledge between one another so that we can grow side by side with the artists.
Since 2014, Cata Odata has been working together with 92 artists, all from East Java and Bali. We have also collaborated with other galleries, art communities and organizations, and have been involved in Festival Tepi Sawah last June.