BALI offers to the visitor an extraordinary richness of styles of painting, the product of many influences, traditional and modern. Until the 19th century fine arts were mainly instruments of religious expression for the Indo-Javanese courts and agrarian communities of the island.
You can find many types of painting all over the island of Bali. From Bali's own style, the ancient, and religious purposes, traditional kind of painting to the more modern one that born from the need of self expression and under influenced of western artists style.
Early traditional painters created temple hangings on cloth or manuscripts, adhering to conventional themes and standardized colors handed down through generations. They illustrated the Hindu Buddhist mythology along lines similar in form and narrative to those of the puppet show theatre.
The arrival of the Europeans, from the mid 19th century onward, transformed this system. Not only did the Dutch take destroy the courts and introduced the seeds of commercialization, but there was also a direct process of Western artistic influence.
This started in Ubud, which became in the 20s and 30s a haven for expatriate artists and literati. There, Walter Spies (1895-1942), a Russian-German musician, writer and painter of considerable talent, and Rudolf Bonnet (1895-1977), and Dutch academic drawer, took to distributing material, providing advice and finding markets for the village painters and sculpture.
Their action, support by the local House of Sukawati, led to the Pita Maha renaissance, called by the name of the association (1935) which regrouped the main artists of the period.
The themes, techniques and function of painting were transformed: naturalism became more important than symbolism, individual expression than collective, and art was now created for its own sake; instead of myths and gods of the past, painting now talked of daily life and nature too. Pita Maha was centered on the villages of Batuan and Ubud/Padangtegal.
After WW II, new trends appeared toward miniaturization, naturalism, accentuation of color etc. No less important, artists trained in the academies of Java, some Balinese, others from Java and other islands, introduced "modem art" to Bali.
As a result, Bali has now become the main center of fine arts in Indonesia and one of the most important in south-east Asia.
Today, paintings - portable, cheap, and unique - are Bali's most exported craft. Of all Bali's art forms, painting is the most influenced by Western demand and Western aesthetics.
Though still masters of technique, the majority of today's Balinese painters work for commercial gain, reasoning that it's senseless to go to the trouble of making a good painting when a bad painting will sell for just as much, just as fast.
As a result, much Balinese painting, though opulent in color, has a paint-by-the-numbers sameness. Most pieces are more like colored drawings than paintings-too-hastily made, and sadly limited in subject matter, treatment, and symbolism. It takes careful, persistent searching to uncover work of skill and elegance.
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