Exhibition in 2013

Modern – Traditional Balinese Painting Exhibition

3 August – 30 September 2013

» Click here to download the Kebiar Seni XIV Museum Puri Lukisan catalogue


During the early 1900s, Western anthropologists flocked to Bali to study its unique culture. Americans, Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson spent two years (1937-1939) in the village of Batuan, their studies culminating in the publication of their controversial work, the Balinese Characters.

During their stay, they collected some 2000 Batuan paintings, all black and white drawings, depicting the fearsome experiences of ordinary Balinese caught in the constant tension between the world of seen, niscaya, and unseen, niskala. It was a great challenge for the Batuan artists at that time to respond to Bateson and Mead’s unusual requests. At the same time, it was liberating and, in away, a path to escape from the strict rules of the classical Wayang painting tradition. During these years, the Batuan artisans created daring drawings, their styles drastically bifurcated, and a new branch emerged: a stylistic awakening from their sleep.

After the Second World War, and particularly after the tragic and traumatic period of mass killings in Bali c. 1965, the Batuan artists and artists from other regions in Bali chose to stay away from politics and other controversial subject matter for their art.

For this exhibition, we challenged the members of the Batuan Artists Association to produce new themes while maintaining their traditional Batuan techniques. With the progress of democracy and freedoms in Indonesia, some of the younger Batuan artists (such as I Ketut Sadia, I Wayan Malik, I Gde Widyantara and I Made Sujendra) have started to venture into more daring subjects, while the majority (including I Nyoman Toya and I Ketut Murtika) stayed within their comfort zone.




“An Indonesian plane carrying more than 100 passengers broke in two after missing the runway at Bali airport and landing in the sea, leaving dozens injured but no fatalities, April 13, 2013.” The Age Traveller.


Within a month from the date of this accident, I Ketut Sadia (b. 1966) created a painting recording the event, thereby acting more as a reporter or a historian rather than strictly as an artist. In a similar way, I Gusti Nyoman Rai of Sanur had acted as reporter/ historian with his paintings of many Beached Whales on Sanur beaches (c. 1960s) as well as the capture of Bali from the Japanese army by the US air force (c. 1945s).


I KETUT SADIA (b. 1966), Lion Floating Happily
Acrylic on Canvas, 100 x 150 cm

Sadia chose to document the magical moment when ordinary Balinese came to the rescue of one hundred frightened passengers aboard the Lion Airplane that missed the runway by a few meters. Fortunately most of the passengers were able to walk away safely from the shallow water, and were happy to see the smiling faces of their rescuers.




Leyak is synonymous with the black magic practitioners, who are particularly feared in Bali. Their ability to transform into various living creatures, to snatch babies and toads and to cause all sorts of supernatural manifestations gives them a fearsome reputation.

“As unpredictable—and probably just as controversial—as UFOs, leyak are a supernatural phenomenon most feared by many Balinese. Appearing as fireballs, strange animals (normally pig- or dog-like creatures) or demons, leyak appear as floating apparitions and, according to eyewitnesses, can move at extremely high speeds. Interestingly enough, not only Balinese claim to have seen them, but also other Indonesians and foreigners. Not only that, they do not always appear hovering over rice fields (the more ‘romantic’ version), but have also been seen in high population density areas such as Kuta.

Since the majority of people associate leyak with practitioners of black magic, it is not considered a good thing to have witnessed one. Stories of witches in the form of leyak baby snatching, spreading illness and general suffering abound—it makes sense that they don’t have a great name. However, Balinese who have studied magic or at least observed the initiation and disciple process will tell you otherwise. According to an article published in Taksu magazine by Gde Mahendra, being able to transform oneself into another form, manifesting as a leyak, is part of the process of learning magic. It is a developed skill that is learnt by all practitioners of magic, both black and white. The unique ability to take on another form may be used for good or bad and is very much in the hands of the practitioner. When in a meditative state, a practitioner focuses on certain magical symbols to the point that they emit light (like an aura) and leave their bodies to wander about experimenting with the power of their forms. These are the apparitions that some people claim to see.

However, almost nostalgically, in most parts of Bali, leyak sightings seem to be a thing of the past. This is attributed to modern times with all its chaos—seemingly these days leyak are, somewhat ironically, ‘afraid’ to show themselves.

Vaughan Hatch (2010)


I WAYAN MALIK, Leyak Demonstrating
Acrylic on Canvas, 60 x 80 cm

I Wayan Malik (b. 1963) created a painting of Leyak gathering from all over the world to protest and protect their reputations. Their defense is that many men do evil things in the name of Leyak. They suggest that many tourists, expats, government officials, non-Balinese and greedy Balinese use the excuse of Leyak to cover their evil deeds. Notice the waves in the form of “eyes” surrounding the protest?





I GEDE WIDYANTARA (b. 1984), The Ever Changing Face of Bali
Acrylic on Canvas, 115 x 81 cm

The original title was “The Face of Bali,” but I took the liberty of changing it to “The Ever Changing Face of Bali”. There is a face of a man, but you need to step back to see it! Within the man’s face you can see the two worlds: old and new Bali comingling in harmony (or is it?). At the top, above the “eye”, you can see a serene Balinese temple gate and Balinese

ladies entering the temple with a helicopter and an airplane hovering above them. In the middle world, below the “eye”, you see the popular Kecak Dance being filmed by a tourist with their exotic car as the nose of the man’s face. And underneath you see the everyday life of the modern Balinese living in Ubud, comingling with and bombarded by tourists.
A lady wearing a Balinese sarong is shown on a motorcycle chatting on her mobile phone while balancing a temple offering on her head, witnessed by her son sucking a candy. What a phenomenon!





I MADE SUJENDRA (b. 1964), The Monkey and The Goats
Acrylic on Canvas, 60 x 80 cm

This painting tells a story of goats and a monkey who agree on a joint venture to do farming together with the understanding that the goats will eat the leaves of the crop while the monkey will get the fruits. However, the goats eat all the young leaves, and so the crop does not produce any fruits for the monkey to harvest. The painting captures the scene where the Monkey, who thinks that he can outsmart the goats, ask the goats to pull the heavy plow while he is directing and maneuvering the plow. Unlike most Batuan painters who populate every inch of the canvas, Sujendra chose to leave the background bare with a solid black that provides the necessary contrast to showcase the main characters of the story.





I NYOMAN TOYA (B. 1966), Durga Murti
Acrylic on Canvas, 30 x 40 cm

I Nyoman Toya depicted a mythical story of the God Siwa who sent his wife, Durga, to earth to get fresh cow’s milk to cure his illness. When Durga met a cow herder, she offered her body to him in exchange for the milk. She went back to the heavens and presented her husband with the milk. He was happy but he wanted to know how his wife got the milk, suspecting her deceit. Since Durga refused to confess, Siwa called the God Gana to tell him the truth. As Gana was telling what actually happened for Durga got so angry she turned herself into a demonic being (Durga Murti).





I KETUT MURTIKA (B. 1952), The Arrogant Monkey
Acrylic on Canvas, 80 x 100 cm

Murtika is a Master story teller of Balinese folklores and his paintings contain many episodes in a single story line. Although he still adheres to the classical Wayang painting tradition, the episodes are drawn without any borders, forming a contiguous composition depicting the complete story divided into 10 episodes.

Episode-1: The story starts at the lower right of the canvas where the Monkey makes a gentleman’s agreement with several goats to farm long beans. The goats can have the leaves, while the Monkey will get the beans. As the long bean plants grew, the goats ate all of the young leaves, which prevented the plants from producing any beans. Murtika depicts the goats plowing the farmland with the Monkey directing the plow.

Episode-2: The upset Monkey left the farm and met a wild hen in the forest. The wild hen asked the Monkey to watch her ospring while she looked for food. After a long wait, the Monkey gets so hungry that he cannot wait any longer and devours the hen’s ospring. (Lower center)

Episode-3: The hen was sad to find out that she lost all of her ospring and tricks the Monkey saying that she will take the Monkey to an island with plenty of food for both of them. The Monkey jumps on the back of the wild hen and is dropped on a deserted island and left behind by the angry hen. (Left Center)

Episode-4: The Monkey yells loudly telling all inhabitants that he is the son of the God of Fire (Brahma). The Monkey threatens to boil the ocean and evaporate all of the water unless all the oceanic creatures come out. With his coercion, a giant turtle appears and carries the Monkey to the mainland. (Center)

Episode-5: As soon as the Monkey lands on the shore, he pulls the turtle to ip her and drag her into the woods. He persuades a hungry tiger to help him kill the turtle with the promise to share the meat evenly. (Top Right)

Episode-6: The tiger kills the turtle and the Monkey grills the meat but as soon as it is cooked, he hides it in a tall tree. (Lower Left)

Episode-7: Feeling cheated by the Monkey, the tiger roars loudly and the Monkey is startled and falls. The tiger chases him out into the forest. (Top Left)

Episode-8: While hiding the Monkey nds a termite nest. He promises to provide protection and asks the termites to come out. As they gather, the Monkey eats the termites. (Top Center)

Episode-9: Some of the termites are able to escape and hide under a Jatropha plant and ask the plant not to tell the Monkey. The Jatropha betrays the termites and gives the location of the hiding place to the Monkey. The termites curse the Jatropha trees that the termite’s descendants will eat them alive. (Top Center)

Episode-10: The termites escape and hide under a jackfruit tree and promise not to consume the Jackfruit tree. In exchange the Jackfruit tree should not reveal the hiding place of the termites. The Jackfruit tree keeps its promise and in respect, termites do not disturb Jackfruit trees. (Top Center)





Richard Hassell

Batuan Art emerged over 80 years ago in the small village of Batuan, Bali. As an Australian born architect who lives in Singapore and frequently works in Bali, I nd this art tradition born out of the meeting of international modernity and traditional culture highly interesting and artistically important. It is a child of tourism, and faces all the problems of cultural tourism – is it authentic? Is it corrupted by its audience? As an architect working in tourism projects, we face similar issues of the market demanding reality hides itself behind a comforting mask.

However, the viewpoint that tourism corrupts is a creative trap that leads nowhere. It denies the truth of people living their lives in a changing world.

As a way out of this trap, we have developed an approach to our architecture, where we see our designs as a way of making sense of the world, of drawing connections, and of sharing interesting discoveries. The authenticity arises out of this sharing of a genuine experience. For instance, in Alila Villas Uluwatu – a project for an Indonesian client by an Australian and Singaporean – we wanted to share the drama of the horizon, the similarities we could see between Balinese pavilions and Mies van der Rohe’s modernist pavilions, delight in the resonance between Carlo Scarpa’s Venetian architecture and Majapahit architecture, respond to the rocky, scrubby environment so dierent from the
stereotypical Bali landscapes of lush paddy and rainforest. The architecture exists at the intersection of the local with the global; it is about the meeting of the two, about good things we can share, problems we can solve together.


Alila Villas Uluwatu, WOHA, designed 2004.


A similar attitude allows us to seeBatuan art with clarity, to understand it as an ongoing sharing of stories, of dreams, of observations, reactions, agreements and dierences. This long, complex, engaging discussion is between Bali and the world, between Batuan and Bali, between tradition and modernity, between the teacher and the student, between
and within families, between history and the present, between the visitor and the host. Like any conversation, sometimes it is interesting and stimulating, sometimes, dull and politepleasantries. Like any conversation, it is the common ground between the parties that sets the topic of discussion.

The 1930s was an amazing owering of creativity and productivity, where Batuan met the modern world and had so much to explain and so much to share. The paintings are stories of darkness, magic and power. The partners in the conversation were challenging and interested, the dierences fascinating, the conversation owed.

After the pain and trauma of war, the conversation moved to reminiscence and nostalgia, a sweet path that leads to the dead end of charm, production of a past free of pain and darkness that never really existed. The conversation died and becomes a broadcasted recording, a scratchy record played over and over again.

In the 1970s, the passive listeners were suddenly shocked to find they were dragged back into the act, they were pulled up on stage and appeared in the crowds along with the police, the drugs, the cameras, the power lines, cars, motorbikes and the bad behavior. Batuan had come to the world, instead of waiting for the world to visit Batuan. The conversation had started again, it became lively, ugly, provocative, obscene, funny. There were authentic feelings here behind the humor, worry about how things are changing, the difference between image and reality, about what has already been lost, and genuine excitement and laughter too in the headlong rush of change.



I MADE BUDI, Beach Scene, Watercolor on Paper, 52 x 25cm, 1978, Cetus Collection

In the 1990s and 2000s Indonesia suffered a series of shocks, political, economic, environmental and social, and Bali was right in the middle of it. At the same time, information and communication technology meant that Batuan was no longer a small village on a small island, but has the same seat at the table as everyone else. Batuan’s younger generation are discussing this world in their art. The partners in the conversation are no longer just tourists looking for a comforting souvenir, but billions of people on line. Steve Diamond, an American collector based at that time in Singapore,started a new conversation with the Singapore Batuan Collection – instead of asking to hear the same old stories; he offered to hear whatever they wanted to share. Talented artists were freed from stale performance for the imaginary generic tourist, instead they started to push artistic boundaries into what was thought to be the unsalable terrain of contemporary events and private obsessions. Once again a challenging conversational partner stimulated brilliant work.



I MADE GRIYAWAN, Indonesia Now, Acrylic on Canvas, 70 x 50cm, 2012, Cetus Collection

I have recently started my own conversation with Batuan’s art. I am intensely curious as to what Batuan can tell me about this new world, how they will explain to me what is happening to them, to us all. The narrative and illustrative form of Batuan art makes it very accessible. My commissions are questions to stimulate the conversation in directions I am interested in.

One question is about commonality and difference. What makes Batuan a style? Where does the individual artist locate themselves in this style? I have commissioned a series of paintings based on single elements – water, clouds, mountains, and forest. The paintings are all the same size, in the same medium. We get a chance to relax with these paintings and enjoy the subtle differences between the artist’s personal styles that are normally hidden in the frenzied activity, and can see the genealogy and relationships of the different artists.


 Batuan Clouds Series, Each 50 x 35 cm, Watercolor on Paper, 2013, Cetus Collection














Batuan Flora and Fauna Series, Each 50 x 35 cm, Watercolor on Paper, 2013, Cetus Collection














The series will continue with Water, Vegetation, Volcanoes, Surf and Waterfalls, among others.

Another question is about how the artists will depict the changing world, and process newly urgent issues like environmental destruction. I asked I Gede Widyantara, who has already made paintings on these issues, to make me a painting about global warming, inspired by Diding and Bala’s image of the Battle in Drawati in classic black and white on paper, a story from the Mahabharata becomes a contemporary warning:

battle-of-drawati-i.b.k.-diding-with-i.b.m-balathe global-warming-i-gede-widyantara

Left – I.B.K. Diding with I.B.M Bala, The Battle of Drawati (extract) 1937, Rijksmuseum voor Volkenkunde
Right – I Gede Widyantara, Global Warming, Ink on Paper, 35 x 50 cm, 2013, Cetus Collection


I Gede Widyantara has also started producing surrealist works, such as his Life in Serenity Land and works stimulated by research, newspaper articles, school studies, and data and images found online, such as the Last Bali Tiger.



GEDE WIDYANTARA, Life in Serenity Land, Acrylic on Canvas, 70 x 90 cm, 2012, Cetus Collection


I GEDE WIDYANTARA, the Last Bali Tiger, Acrylic on Canvas, 80 x 115 cm, Cetus Collection


I have asked I Made Cekeg to make me a new painting continuing the theme of the amazing Revolusi he painted for the Singapore Batuan Collection. This painting shows the power and potential of Batuan Style, and to me rivals the power of the great Batuan paintings from the 1930s, its unstable, writhing composition, frenzied activity and disturbing characters communicating terrible disruption.



I MADE CEKEG, Revolusi, Acrylic on Canvas, 125 x 200 cm, Singapore Batuan Collection

On my visit to the village this June, I was told only two young artists are serious about painting as a career. The continuity of this phenomenon is hanging by a thread. The disappearance of the Sanur art community after World War 2 shows us we cannot take these owerings of culture for granted and let the conversation die. I hope the renewal of
interest in Batuan Art continues to grow, as this place-community of artists working in continuity over almost a century is a unique and living treasure. I believe the conversation is getting lively again, and a very productive period has started in Batuan. I, for one, can’t wait to hear the new stories.