Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Inventing Art, the paintings of Batuan Bali

I Gede Widyantara, Title Life in Serenity Land.

Inventing Art, the paintings of Batuan Bali

Announcing the publication of a major book on the unique paintings of Batuan Bali. This book consists of 337 pages and includes 327 full color reproductions, 24 illustrations, maps and diagrams. It was written and illustrated by the long term Bali resident, Bruce Granquist and published in 5 colors by the renowned printing company CS Graphics in Singapore.

This authoritative volume is the result of 3 ½ years of direct field interviews with the active painters in Batuan, along with an extensive mapping project to locate the homes of all these painters within the village as a whole. It is also based on research of various documents, from field work done in Batuan by the anthropologists Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson in 1938, to unpublished manuscripts on Balinese aesthetics by a variety of scholars throughout the world.

One important and ground breaking element of this book is a 45 page section that defines Batuan paintings according to 8 different qualifications. Essentially, this section shows how the painters start with an empty page and build their paintings step by step into complex images. This section shows how the Batuan artists create paintings which show the everyday environment of their village, synthesized together with images inspired by the spirit world. The paintings they create are at once recognizable, and at the same time startling and surrealistic.

There are two main goals of this book. The first is to celebrate the ‘invention’ of this entirely new school of painting in Batuan in the 1930’s. This book traces the evolution of this artistic creation beginning with a look at the general cultural environment in Batuan at that time, the arts and the ritual life that could have provided inspiration for the first painters. The book goes on the show how the interaction between the first Batuan painters and 5 foreign guests in Bali at that time helped to introduce the first paintings to people from outside Bali, thereby creating a market for them. The book demonstrates that credit for the creation of this school of art belongs firmly with the village painters, drawn from the rich pool of their artistic environment. While at the same time it shows how the marketing and promotional assistance by foreigners ensured its establishment and longevity as a new tradition.
I Ketut Nama (Alm), Title Cak Dedari.
Secondly, this book demonstrates methods for us to look at these paintings. There is ample material in the book that helps to ‘decode’ and understand the culturally based imagery in the paintings and helps those viewers with no prior knowledge of this culture to identify and appreciate this meaning. But importantly, the book also shows how a large portion of meaning that is communicated by these paintings is conveyed by the pure forms that make up the images, the lines shapes and colors. In very clear and accessible text, the book shows how each of us are able to understand the meaning of pure form, no prior knowledge is required, any viewer with a patience and sensitive eye is able to understand the meaning communicated by lines, shapes and colors.
I Ketut Murtika, Title Bratayuda.
 This book makes a strong case that large format books about art can do more than simply catalog paintings and identify the iconography they contain. This book also deals directly with the complex and subtle issues of meaning in art, explaining what we can expect to understand from an art of a different culture. This book deals with these issues in a clear and direct manner, engaging these important questions authoritatively and with a light touch. Advance readers of this book have concurred that these ‘big questions’ are presented clearly, in a fresh and accessible manner.

Event: Book launching and exhibition
Book author: Bruce Granquist
Artist contact:    HP 08123-854-775
Book title: Inventing Art, the paintings of Batuan Bali
Exhibition title: Inventing Art, the paintings of Batuan Bali
Exhibition opening: December 15th
Exhibition date: December 15th- January 14th
Venue: ARMA Museum & Resort, Ubud - Bali


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