Ubud, Bali, 12 July 2014 – “Illuminating Line: Master Drawings of I Gusti Nyoman Lempad” will open at the Museum Puri Lukisan in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia on 20 September and run until 24 November 2014.
The exhibition is accompanied by Lempad of Bali: The Illuminating Line, a 424-page catalog, written by six leading international scholars of Balinese art. The large-format book includes 600 illustrations; 500 of them are reproductions of Lempad’s drawings and sketches. Many of these have not been seen publicly since the 1930s and have never been published before.
More than eight years in preparation, this will be the first retrospective exhibition and catalogue raisonné of Lempad’s drawings on paper, which were his principal creative output during the last 50 years of his long and productive career. For the exhibition, the museum selected 70 works focusing on those created in the 1930s, most of them borrowed from museum and private collections in the Netherlands, Austria, Sweden, and the United States.
“Our ‘Lempad of Bali’ exhibition is a labor of love for the museum,” said Puri Lukisan Director Tjokorda Bagus Astika. “Gusti Nyoman Lempad spent his entire working life in Ubud; he was a founding member of the Pita Maha group of artists that redefined Balinese painting in the 1930s, and he was a co-founder, co-designer and builder of the Puri Lukisan from 1953 to 1955,” when he was in his nineties. His murals of farmers sowing and reaping rice and performing rituals related to its culture are the first works that visitors see at the entrance to the museum’s first building.
“Lempad and his work are central to the museum’s mission of promoting and preserving Balinese painting and sculpture from Pita Maha artists and their heirs,” said Soemantri Widagdo, the museum’s curator and principal organizer of the exhibition. “All of Lempad’s work draws deeply on Bali’s oldest traditions, yet he is a completely modern artist whose work speaks clearly to Bali and the world today.”
I Gusti Nyoman Lempad’s 116-year lifespan encompassed the history of Balinese art from the pre-colonial era, incorporation into the Netherlands East Indies in 1906, the Japanese Occupation, the Indonesian Struggle for Independence, the early Republic and New Order which brought a new wave of tourism. Probably born around 1862, he was the son of a talented traditional artist serving the raja of Bedulu in the Gianyar regency. In the 1870s his family fled to Ubud and were given asylum by Prince Tjokorde Gede Sukawati.
The young Lempad’s talent was soon recognized and encouraged by the ruling family. Trained as an undagi, an architect of temples and palaces with deep understanding of the ritual and spiritual requirements of building Bali’s sacred spaces, he developed early renown for his ability to bring life to the complex carving of stone and wood that define these spaces and the major objects of Bali’s Hindu-Buddhist ritual life.
Lempad’s uncanny draftsmanship was a crucial part of his success as a planner, builder, and sculptor of stone friezes of temples, palaces, and homes, as well as the towers and other ephemeral works of cremation art that ensure successful release of the spirit of the deceased in Bali.
Beginning in the late 1920s, Lempad launched himself on a new and unexpected career when he began producing the exquisite works on paper for which he is best known today. Using the traditional technique of drawing with a bamboo brush and black ink on art paper given to him by Rudolf Bonnet and Walter Spies, a constant stream of foreign admirers became the first connoisseurs of this mature artist’s singular ability to illuminate Bali’s legends and capture gods, heroes, demons, and lovers with his uniquely penetrating and assured line.
“We knew when we began planning the ‘Illuminating Line’ exhibition in 2006, that we must find work that had not been seen in Bali since before World War II,” said Soemantri. “It’s been a detective story. Many collectors were well-known names in Bali’s mid-20th century history. Most Lempad work owned by Colin McPhee, Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson is now in U.S. institutions. We also knew where in the Netherlands to find the work Rudolf Bonnet collected. But other work had to be tracked down in museums and private collections all over the world. One knowledgeable person led to another. Research in library and museum archives and auction records revealed surprises and lost drawings. It was exhilarating and time-consuming to find surviving work across four continents.”
“All of us who worked on the Lempad of Bali catalogue and exhibition see it as a beginning, a new starting point, in understanding and appreciating the unique quality and legacy of this 19th and 20th century master. Lempad is important beyond Bali and our greatest hope is that this exhibition will inspire new research and new discoveries about his life and work.”
Lempad of Bali, to be published in September 2014 by the Museum Puri Lukisan, is the first comprehensive catalogue of the artist’s life and work. At 424 pages with 600 images including 500-plus reproductions of Lempad sketches and drawings from the 1920s to the 1970s, the large-format book (36 by 27.7 cm.) features biographical and interpretive essays by major world scholars and close observers of Bali’s art and culture, several of whom knew Lempad personally.
Catalogue project manager and co-author, Bruce W. Carpenter, who first dreamt of realizing a major book on Lempad in the 1980s in discussions with Lempad’s son I Gusti Made Sumung, said, “the aim of the book and exhibition is to forcefully demonstrate the relevance and greatness of this mammoth artistic figure whose achievement transcends borders and time. So, too, it is a gift to the Balinese whose memory of this master has begun to fade 36 years after his passing. I believe no one alive today has fully understood the extraordinary range and quality of Lempad’s work as so much of it left Bali in the 1930s, and then Indonesia was essentially closed to outsiders from 1941 to the mid-fifties by war and revolution and their aftermath. I am astonished by the totality of what we have discovered – or recovered. I think my co-authors share that feeling.”
In addition to Carpenter, author and co-author of more than 18 titles on Indonesian art, culture and history, the other five contributors to Lempad of Bali are the late John Darling, who wrote and co-directed the acclaimed film “Lempad of Bali” (1980) with Lorne Blair; Hedi Hinzler, a leading Dutch authority on Balinese art, music, and culture; Kaja McGowan, Cornell University professor and co-author of Ida Bagus Made: The Art of Devotion; Adrian Vickers, University of Sydney professor and author of Balinese Art: Paintings and Drawings of Bali, 1800-2010; and Soemantri Widagdo, also a co-author of Ida Bagus Made and curator of the exhibition.
Participating Institutions and Principal Collectors
The American Museum of Natural History (USA), the Dance Museum (Sweden), the Library of Congress (USA), the National Museum of World Cultures (Netherlands), the Vienna Ethnological Museum (Austria) and more than ten private collectors have all loaned work to the exhibition. Much of it was purchased directly from I Gusti Nyoman Lempad in the 1930s by Colin McPhee, Margaret Mead, Gregory Bateson, Rudolf Bonnet, Christiaan Hooykaas, Helene Potjewyd, and Rolf de Maré.
For further information, please call Soemantri Widagdo at +62-812-822-3926 or email to firstname.lastname@example.org. In the USA, please call David Irons at 917-484-2892 or email to PuriLukisanUbud@gmail.com.
High-resolution photos of Lempad works are available for articles and reviews. The catalogue may be purchased at the exhibition opening and information on ordering it will be posted at www.museumpurilukisan.com/lempad as soon as it is available.