Arts & Artists

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With the ar­rival of Euro­pean artists in the be­gin­ning of the 20th cen­tury, this soon be­gan to change. Lo­cal artists started to de­velop their own in­di­vid­ual styles.


Un­til the start of the 20th cen­tury, the dom­i­nant form of paint­ing was the por­trayal of Hindu epics by painters and il­lus­tra­tors called ‘Sang­ging’. Aside from mak­ing large rep­re­sen­ta­tional paint­ings, the ‘Sang­ging’ were ex­pected to dec­o­rate ev­ery­thing from gourds, wooden al­tars, bam­boo ves­sels, head­boards for princely bed cham­bers and, in par­tic­u­lar, they were ex­pected to il­lus­trate as­tro­log­i­cal wall hang­ings on bark pa­per or cloth. It wasn’t un­til the early 1900s that western in­flu­ences reached Bali. The use of Asian sym­bols in the works of, among oth­ers, Paul Gauguin, Toulouse Lautrec and Camille Pis­saro, cre­ated a new trend for Asian-in­flu­enced art and for Euro­pean painters to move to Bali. Ubud’s fame re­gard­ing art can be traced to the ar­rival of the Ger­man painter Wal­ter Spies and the Dutch Ru­dolf Bon­net. There is a much wider range of artis­tic styles to­day.

Ubud Style

In­flu­enced by the western use of per­spec­tive and ev­ery­day-life sub­ject mat­ter, the Ubud style is one of the most ‘ex­pres­sion­is­tic’ of all Bali’s schools. De­spite this, Ubud’s art still re­tains many tra­di­tional fea­tures, in­clud­ing at­ten­tion to de­tail and styl­ized char­ac­ters.

Bat­uan Style

Strongly wayang based (pup­pet). This style in­volves hun­dreds of in­tri­cately painted rep­re­sen­ta­tions of Ba­li­nese life, fill­ing ev­ery avail­able nook and cranny of the can­vas.

Ke­liki Style

Ke­liki paint­ings mea­sure 20cm by 15cm. They con­tain scenes of myth­i­cal and Ra­mayanic char­ac­ters en­gaged in bat­tle, good ver­sus evil, on sin­is­ter back­grounds.

Pen­gosekan Style

From this vil­lage, on the outskirts of Ubud, a new style sprang up dur­ing the 1960s. It con­cen­trated on just a few nat­u­ral com­po­nents, such as birds, in­sects, but­ter­flies and plants.


Stone carv­ings were mainly used to dec­o­rate tem­ples and palaces. There is lit­tle dif­fer­ence be­tween the iconog­ra­phy dec­o­rat­ing tem­ples and that of pri­vate build­ings. Gate­ways rep­re­sent the di­vid­ing line be­tween the in­ner and outer worlds and as such are the re­cip­i­ents of some of the most fan­tas­tic carv­ings. Bali’s mod­ern-day cen­tre of stone carv­ing is the vil­lage of Batubu­lan, sit­u­ated halfway be­tween the towns of Den­pasar and Ubud.


One of the most strik­ing things about Bali is the rich va­ri­ety of cloths and ma­te­ri­als that are to be seen in thou­sands of shops through­out the is­land. How­ever, only a small pro­por­tion of these are in­dige­nous to Bali. The myr­iad of batik clothes and sarongs avail­able ev­ery­where, are mainly im­ported from Java. Bali does have a very rich tex­tile in­dus­try of its own. The beau­ti­ful Songket fab­rics, worn by per­form­ers of tra­di­tional dances, are a good ex­am­ple. In Songket gold and sil­ver threads are wo­ven into the cloth to cre­ate com­plex mo­tifs of birds, but­ter­flies and flow­ers.

En­dek, or weft ikat, is another com­mon method used in Bali. In weft ikat weav­ing, the weft threads are dyed to cre­ate the de­sign and are then wo­ven with plain warp threads.

The least com­mon form of weav­ing to be seen in Bali is the Ger­ings­ing, or dou­ble-ikat, and it is per­haps the most sought af­ter. In Ger­ings­ing both the warp and weft threads are dyed to their fi­nal de­signs be­fore be­ing wo­ven to­gether. With the ex­cep­tion of cer­tain ar­eas in In­dia and Ja­pan, this weav­ing tech­nique can only be found in the small Bali Aga vil­lage of Ten­ganan, East Bali.


Wood and stone carv­ings have tra­di­tion­ally been fea­tured largely in tem­ple and palace ar­chi­tec­ture. Im­mac­u­lately carved demons and myth­i­cal be­ings dec­o­rate pil­lars, door pan­els, lin­tels and win­dow shut­ters with the ob­ject of pro­tect­ing the build­ings from evil in­trud­ers. Scenes of leg­endary fig­ures placed within a flo­ral dé­cor, set a more pleas­ant and ed­u­ca­tional tone. With the ar­rival of Euro­pean in­flu­ences, wood carv­ing started to de­velop a long more in­no­va­tive and com­mer­cial lines. To­day, whole vil­lages spe­cialise in pro­duc­ing cer­tain styles of work. The vil­lage of Mas, near Ubud, is the best known for its carv­ings of fe­male fig­ures, Bud­dhas, char­ac­ters from Hindu epics, the tra­di­tional topeng (mask) and Wayang Wong masks.


Dance and drama have played a his­tor­i­cally im­por­tant role in Ba­li­nese so­ci­ety. Through this medium, peo­ple learned about the tales of the Ra­mayana, Ma­habarata and of other epic sto­ries from Ba­li­nese his­tory. The fol­low­ing are brief de­scrip­tions of some of the more well-known dance-dra­mas that can be seen at reg­u­lar per­for­mances through­out Bali.

Baris - This is a war­rior’s dance. It is usu­ally per­formed by men, ei­ther solo or in a group of five or more.

Barong & Rangda - This is a story about the strug­gle be­tween good and evil. Good is per­son­i­fied by the Barong Keket, a strange but fun-lov­ing crea­ture in the shape of a shaggy semi-lion. Evil is rep­re­sented by Rangda, a witch.

Ke­cak - The most fa­mous of the Ba­li­nese dances, orig­i­nated from the Sanghyang dance choirs, holds its unique­ness in the en­tranc­ing ‘Ke­cak, ke­cak’ chant. The Ke­cak as a dance de­vel­oped in the 1930s, in the vil­lage of Bona, where it is still per­formed reg­u­larly.

Le­gong - This dance tells a story of princess Rangke­sari be­ing held cap­tive by King Lakesmi. Rangke­sari’s brother, prince Daha, gath­ers an army to res­cue his sis­ter. The Le­gong is a very clas­si­cal and grace­ful dance, al­ways per­formed by pre­pubescent girls, who can be as young as eight or nine years old.

Wayang Kulit (Shadow Pup­pet) - Wayang Kulit is one of the great story-telling tra­di­tions of the Ja­vanese and Ba­li­nese peo­ple. The wayang show usu­ally con­sists of a small four-piece orches­tra, which pro­vides the mu­si­cal ac­com­pa­ni­ment, around sixty ‘pup­pets’, carved out of flat pieces of water buf­falo hide, and the dalang or pup­pet-mas­ter. The good char­ac­ters speak in an­cient ‘Kawi’, whereas the evil or coarse ones speak Ba­li­nese.

The Bali Agung Show

The Bali Agung Show at the Bali Sa­fari and Ma­rine Park is an in­spir­ing cul­tural per­for­mance ded­i­cated to the en­ter­tain­ment of both lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional au­di­ences. This spec­tac­u­lar show cel­e­brated its 1500th per­for­mance on Jan 19, 2016. With reg­u­lar sched­uled per­for­mances over the past five years, the colos­sal and spec­tac­u­lar Bali Agung Show is ar­guably the longestrun­ning the­atri­cal pro­duc­tion in In­done­sia’s the­atri­cal his­tory. Jalan Prof. Ida Ba­gus Mantra Km 19.8, Gian­yar Bali | Ph: +62 361 950000 | mar­ket­ing@bal­isa­fari­

Dev­dan Show

Dev­dan’s “Trea­sure of the Ar­chi­pel­ago” at the Bali Nusa Dua The­atre is a 90-minute show that takes you on a tour of the In­done­sian ar­chi­pel­ago with im­pres­sive ac­ro­bat­ics, ef­fects and tra­di­tional dances. Per­formed 4 times a week ev­ery­v­dan­


The Calonarang dance tells the tale of a widow queen, Walu­nateng Di­rah from Gi­rah vil­lage who pos­sessed the abil­ity to con­duct pow­er­ful black magic. Her pow­ers were said to be stronger than the King Er­langga’s, caus­ing fear among all that no­body would dare to ask for her daugh­ter’s hand in mar­riage. The widow, fu­ri­ous, placed a curse on the en­tire land and peo­ple be­gan to die with­out rea­son, which caused a state-wide war. The King then sought the help of a Priest, Mpu Bharadah, who de­feated Calonarang with his white magic.


The Ra­mayana dance tells the epic love story of Rama and Sita whose love was too strong to be torn apart. Ex­pect ex­cit­ing scenes of treach­ery among the royal fam­ily, lost-in-the-jun­gle scenes, kid­nap­pings, brave res­cue mis­sions by Hanoman the Mon­key King, and a ro­man­tic end­ing where Rama is for­ever re­united with his love, Sita.

Photo Courtesy of Mu­seum Ru­dana

Photo Courtesy of Bali Plus

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