Exploring Balinese Art & Color

by HRM on November 7, 2011

A Rough Guide by Savannah Hughes

Traditional Balinese art depicted in a painting

Life in Bali is based on art. It’s so essential, that there is no word for “art” in Balinese. It is difficult to explain the relationship that the Balinese have with art to someone who has never seen it. The Balinese carve, weave and paint beautiful objects for daily use – they become objets d’art in the most pristine sense of the word. The Balinese have a kinetic, green, tangible relationship to art.

Westernized Balinese artNowadays, the Balinese art scene has become more westernized. In tourist hot spots like Ubud and Kuta, art communities have been contorting their styles to meet Western demand and get the bule’s* dollar. Westernization is a controversial subject in Balinese art circles. Less famous artists are resentful that they have to toe the line between their maintaining traditional artistic ideals and adapting to this new Western trend. However, in more rural parts of Bali, the traditional Wayang style can still be seen, going strong.

Art isn’t only an economic need for Bali: painting and woodcrafts have been a central mode of communicating myths. Intricately detailed paintings explore central religious themes like the conflict between good and evil. Another popular theme within the same vein is the Balinese-Hindu epic of Rama and Sita. This Javanese version of the story is disseminated through dance and painting. It can provide a form of spiritual and aesthetic guidance too.

Bruce Sherratt against one of his paintingsLike Paris, Bali’s artistic draw has pulled in many expatriates. Veteran artist Bruce Sherratt currently lives in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia. He says, “Art is not a hobby or pastime here. The culture and the economy depend on all kinds of arts and crafts.”

Now with over 40 years of educating experience in international schools, Sherratt founded the Bali Center for Artistic Creativity (BCAC) where he holds workshops and lessons for painting. He holds a strong background in surrealist painting and uses a psychotherapeutic approach to teaching. He offers lessons which incorporate Balinese culture and context and beginning painting skills. Ubud templeAs an educator, he welcomes all to his studio. “My art is always available to anyone who swings by my art center and studio or who knows me.”

Bruce also believes that in order to teach a subject, you must work at it daily. He takes a hands-on approach to painting and art in general. This isn’t as difficult as it sounds, living in Bali: the rich environment provides a wealth of inspiration. Lush tropics and a creative community could be a muse for even a novice painter. However, Sherrat believes that “Inspiration comes from my own inner need to paint and reveal the aspects of life and the world that might not otherwise be visible.”

*Indonesian slang word for White Foreigner.

Traditional Wayang art

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