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Ida Bagus Indra

The dancing image of the Balinese goddess is regal, enigmatic and sensuous. Swathed in rich fabrics and crowned with a golden headdress laced with red and white flowers, she levitates and soars across the glowing canvas. Her body curves as she flutters her fan, her jewellery is heavy and ornate, and her feet are bare. With her radiant eyes, ruby lips, flowing hair and swirling sash, she is the epitome of breathless grace and femininity.

Ida Bagus Indra’s new ‘Dewi Sartika’ series speaks of a mysterious spiritual tension pervading the inner worlds of seekers. Visually, it confounds expectation, turns us on our heads and suspends us in unfamiliar territory. His paintings express a sense of light and mood, transcending the techniques that were employed to create them so that they appear to breathe the very air and atmosphere in which they were created. This is expressionist figurative artwork at its best, quietly disconcerting yet intensely thrilling.

The theme is goddesses, motivated by the spiritual experiences of the artist’s wife, Ayu Ari, who has been endowed with the faculty of a dasaran – a medium, conduit and messenger for these heavenly beings when they descend to earth. Dewi Sartika is the revered goddess of the marketplace; her instruction to the artist, relayed via Ayu Ari, is that through his captivating artwork, he must help to keep alive the Balinese traditions and culture. In response to this, Indra studies and diarises Balinese life at the markets, villages, eating places, temples, ceremonies, rituals and sacred dances, all of which he magically transfers onto canvas.

Indra’s ‘Bali Sweet Coffee’ series is a perceptive exploration of the night-time world of the simple warung or coffee shops that dominate Balinese village life. He observes and records human sentiments and psychology, presenting the viewer with a portal into the Balinese culture and Hindu philosophy. Within these works there is a coiled apprehension suggestive of ceaseless growth, which is why he likes to use a large canvas so that he can convey a complete and unforgettable story, depicting the fragile architecture of moments. With astonishing yet subtle effects of light and shadow, motion and emotion, he paints intimate and tender images of ordinariness, made epic and extraordinary by their composition, magnification, and translation. These remarkable paintings invite and challenge the viewer to delve beneath the veneer of commercial tourism into the depths of Bali’s golden, living culture.

The ‘Sacred Dance’ series, meanwhile, is a precious documentation of traditional Balinese dances including the Kecak, the Joged, and the Shanghyang Dedari or ‘Trance of the Celestial Maidens’ – where prepubescent girls stand upon men’s shoulders and dance. The entranced girls bend backwards in the ngelayak movement of a tree laden with blossoms swaying in the wind, without holding or being held by the men. Weeks of study went into this series to ensure the accuracy of the costumes, the movements, the soul and the character of each dance.

Dance is also prevalent in Indra’s portrayals of goddesses. In this collection he honours, of course, Dewi Sartika, and also introduces us – in an intensity of blues, greens and deep aquamarine – to the Queen of the Indian Ocean, the Javanese Sea-Goddess Nyi Roro Kidul, known in Bali as Ida Ratu Dalum Segara. Using acrylic paints, his trademark brush strokes are sweeping and fluid, spontaneous rather than predictable, irregular rather than regular, invoking a sense of vitality. His loose style communicates the power, strength and timeless beauty of his subjects, while also suggesting the freedom of movement. Ravishing colours and sensual lines are saturated with sinuous gestures, capturing the essence of form. Moreover, Indra’s paintings evoke a profound and personal sense of the knowing, a purity of vision, and an enlightened level of spirituality. Ida Bagus Indra takes his mission very seriously; this is a long journey and a life project. The artist has become a holy man. Together, he and Ayu Ari are pursuing the religious path of the initiated.

Before he begins work, Indra takes a shower, prays for permission and guidance, meditates, and clears everything from his mind. When he is working the inspiration flows naturally and instinctively from deep within his soul. The vibrant young artist approaches the canvas quickly and confidently, expressing his passion like a dancer. He works alla prima, so that instead of building colours up with layers, the painting is done in just one session while the paint is still wet. When the image has emerged, he employs large, fully loaded brushes to mass in the areas of colour that are most critical for the creation of the overall atmosphere and sense of the subject. Finally, he refines edges and details until the picture is complete, usually within a mere one to three hours! Certain paintings, however, take longer, depending on the size of the canvas and the complexity of the composition.

Ida Bagus Indra’s dramatic and emotional imagery is remarkably effective in conveying the sensation of disembodied tangibles, of physical facts with no configuration, and the heavy presence of the half of our world that is forever beyond precise conception but is ever close at hand. Mystery is thus rendered visible!

With no formal training, Ida Bagus Indra held his first exhibition in 1996,  won recognition as one of Indonesia’s leading artists at the Indonesian Art Awards in 2003.

 

He has since held solo exhibitions at the Lynne Wilton Gallery in Melbourne, the Ganesha Gallery at Four Seasons Jimbaran Bay, Taksu Gallery in Jakarta and Amandari Resort, Ubud.

 

He has also joined group exhibitions in Germany, Melbourne, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Surabaya, Yogyakarta and Malang. 

 

 

 

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