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Art of Bali

The lasting charm of Balinese traditional art

Bali is one of few places in the world in which a traditional kind of painting is to this day surviving next to modern and contemporary art.
Traditional Balinese painting is fundamentally local. Appreciating of a local aesthetic that does not submit to Western and contemporary canons. Before the colonial times, Balinese traditional painting was fundamentally religious: it carried the symbols, myths and epics from the ancient Hindu-Javanese-Balinese tradition, the roots of which went back as far as the 1343 invasion of Bali by the Eastern-Javanese forces from the Majapahit empire. Like relief temple, this painting was to a large extent an offshoot of the puppet show theater, hence the name usually given to it of wayang painting. The stories were usually given to it of wayang painting. The stories were usually those of the great Indian epics Mahabharatta and Ramayana or from the Old-Javenese cycle of Panji stories, which told the stories of heroes wandering across the archipelago: typically the characters are seen from profile and lined one next to the as one sees them in the puppet show theater. Space tends to be fully occupied and iconography tightly patterned down to its smallest details in order to make the narrative understandable; color is technically used as wash coloring of surfaces contoured by well-drawn lines. The narrative is told in the lower part of the painting, while its upper part is covered with clouds and godly characters.
Religious and narrative constraints created a different kind of aesthetic: space is full and without focus, contrary to the European tradition, where it is open and composition focused on a central subject; the iconography is patterned and repetitive, instead of being individualized; this is the reflection of a world in which artists convey a collective vision of the world instead of being individual creator. The epitome of traditional pre-colonial painting can be seen at the Kertagosa ancient court of justice in Klungkung. It consists of ceiling panels depicting the punishment of hell as warning to offenders waiting judgment. More often though, paintings would consists of flags (kober) or of rolls unrolled during a wedding and which would narrate the love adventures of the mythical heroes Abimanyu or Arjuna. This kind of painting, stultified in its evolution, but also preserved by tourism, is still produced today to day in the village of Kamasan, near Klungkung, A Museum, the Gunarsa Museum near Klungkung, holds a large selection of ancient Balinese painting.
Important change came to Balinese painting in the wake of the 1906-198 Dutch take-over of southern Bali. Heretofore religious, Balinese painting found itself transformed within a few years. Next to schooling and the related broadening of the Balinese’s world view, this evolution owes much to the intervention of two Westerners.


Art is an integral of Balinese life.

This tour will satisfy your curiosity of timeless Balinese art and architecture.First stop at the village of Singapadu, where you can see how the Balinese live in their traditional village compounds and observe the old architecture style of houses in Bali. Then visit the village Kamasan and watch the artists at work as they make traditional Kamasan Style paintings. This is one of the oldest Balinese painting styles consisting of two dimensional “wayang” puppets painted on cotton. These used to be commissioned as decorations for palaces or temples. We will take you to see the famous sample of Kamasan style, the splendid ceiling murals at the Kertagosa Hall of Justice, which portray the heaven and hell. After Kertha Gosa Hall of Justice, discover the 11-tier thatched roof Pura Kehen Temple with its unique architecture. It is located on a hillside providing a good view of the town of Bangli. On the way back we will pass by the village of Panglipuran and then observe how the famous Batik are made in Tohpati.

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