Current page: NewsDefinitive study of Gusti Nyoman Lempad’s life and work to be launched at exhibition opening

Definitive study of Gusti Nyoman Lempad’s life and work to be launched at exhibition opening

Lempad of Bali: The Illuminating Line, with more than 500 Lempad drawings and essays by six scholars of Bali, is available now

Lempad of Bali: The Illuminating Line, is the first comprehensive and definitive examination of the life and work of internationally acclaimed Balinese artist Gusti Nyoman Lempad. Published by Museum Puri Lukisan in Ubud, Bali in collaboration with Editions Didier Millet of Singapore, the book launch will take place at the opening of the museum’s exhibition of Lempad’s drawings on 20 September. The exhibition will run through 24 November.

“The idea of this book was born in Lempad’s Ubud home only a few years after his death in conversations with his son Made Sumung,” said Bruce Carpenter, co-author and project manager. “Gusti Nyoman Lempad was a co-founder and leader of the Pita Maha artists collective that revolutionized Balinese painting in the 1930s, creating modern forms while remaining deeply grounded in Bali’s Hindu-Buddhist faith and culture.

“Lempad not only helped conceive the Museum Puri Lukisan with Rudolf Bonnet in the 1930s, he was also co-creator and designer of the finished museum which opened in 1956. He was a modest titan of Balinese modernism while remaining utterly traditional in his values.”

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At 424 pages with more than 500 reproductions of Lempad’s drawings, the limited edition, large-format book is a groundbreaking work of discovery. Relatively few of the total of Lempad’s drawings have been published and most of the early originals that survive have not been seen publicly since the 1930s when they left Bali to European and American collections.

Soemantri Widagdo, chief curator of the museum, principal organizer of the exhibition, and a co-author of Lempad of Bali, said, “We knew well before 2006, the museum’s 50th anniversary year, that we must do the Lempad book and exhibition. But we also knew it would require years of research to find many of the works that left Bali 75 to 80 years ago in the years before the start of World War II.

“Our museum’s mission focuses on preserving the work of the Pita Maha artists and inspiring the artists who are the heirs of Pita Maha and will create the modern expression of Bali’s art,” Soemantri said. “Lempad died 36 years ago. Younger generations need to know his work. This remarkable artist witnessed Bali’s history over more than 100 years from pre-colonial times to the beginning of mass tourism. Yet his work is still so modern that it carries important lessons about the future of Balinese art and the depth of its roots in the island’s culture.”

The book includes essays by six distinguished scholars of Bali. Their focus includes Lempad’s life, work, and death; his sources of inspiration; a meditation on his drawings collected by Cornell University anthropologist Claire Holt; his drawing style and technique; and the cultural and historical context of Indian and Southeast Asian Hindu-Buddhist art and religion related to his work.

Following the essays are sections or “galleries” of Lempad’s art divided by themes reflecting the depth and breadth of his interests and creativity. These range across stories from the Ramayana; other Hindu and Buddhist tales; indigenous Balinese legends and folk tales; the pulse of daily life and, by extension, his “Kamasutra” chronicling human erotic activity; ritual and religion; and dance and music. The galleries with legends and folk tales are especially noteworthy as they ‘reconstruct’ the “story cycles” of Lempad’s drawings for the first time. Each gallery is filled with dozens of Lempad drawings and sketches from museums and private collections in the Netherlands, Austria, Sweden, New Zealand, Indonesia, the USA, and beyond.

Carpenter, author of 20 books on Indonesia’s art and culture, said, “Lempad was renowned in his lifetime as a towering figure in Balinese arts. In the 1920s while in his sixties, he was recognized as the pre-eminent architect and stone sculptor of temples and palaces in Ubud and throughout the Gianyar region. He then started afresh in the late 1920s and began creating this monumental series of drawings, which he continued for almost 50 years.”

In addition to Carpenter and Soemantri Widagdo, the other four contributors to Lempad of Bali are the late John Darling (1946-2011), who wrote and co-directed the acclaimed documentary “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; and Adrian Vickers, University of Sydney professor and author of many books on Bali and Indonesia, including, most recently, Balinese Art: Paintings and Drawings of Bali, 1800-2010.

Book orders Lempad of Bali: The Illuminating Line will go on sale to the public at the Museum Puri Lukisan opening on 20 September. The book is printed in a limited edition of 1000 copies and further information is available on orders, pre-orders, and bulk discounts at MuseumPuriLukisan.com/Lempad/.

Lempad of Bali will not be available on Amazon or other discounted book web sites. After the launch, the book will be sold at the Museum Puri Lukisan gift shop in Ubud and in a handful of bookstores including Ganesha Bookshops in Bali. The retail price for the book is US$200. The museum URL will also list shipping expenses to many countries for the four-kilogram (8.8 pound) volume. Enquiries concerning larger or special orders may also be directed to MuseumPuriLukisanUbud@gmail.com after checking at MuseumPuriLukisan.com/Lempad/.

Media contact information and availability of digital text and photos – For further information please contact Soemantri Widagdo at +62-812-8221-3926 or swidagdo@yahoo.com. In the USA, please contact David Irons at +1-917-484-2892 or at MuseumPuriLukisanUbud@gmail.com; after 4 September David Irons will be en route to Bali and reachable by email only.  A digital version of the book will be available to published art critics and members of the news media for review purposes. High-resolution photos of Lempad drawings are also available for articles and reviews. Please email media requests for digital art to Soemantri Widagdo.

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The Lempad drawing on page one is a detail of “Ni Bawang Decorated by the Birds of the Forest,”(Vienna Ethnographic Museum collection, ink, cinnabar and gold leaf on paper 28 x 21 cm, 1930s); the one above is “Garuda Devours Wibiwasu and Supratika” from the Lois Bateson collection, ink, cinnabar and gold leaf on paper, 35 x 26.5 cm, dated 1936).