Amazed by Bali Sculpture Masterpiece? Meet These Balinese Maestros


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Sculpture is a branch of fine art whose work is formed in three dimensions, usually created by sculpting, modeling (for example with clay) or casting (with mold).

Along the development of modern sculpture, the sculpture works become increasingly diverse, both the shape and materials and techniques used, in line with the development of technology and the discovery of new materials.

Various types can be found in many different regions in Asia, influenced by Hinduism and Buddhism. A large number of statue in Cambodia are preserved in Angkor, but organized looting that has a major impact many heritage sites in the country.

In Thailand, most sculptures are devoted into Buddha form. In Indonesia, statues influenced by Hinduism are often found at Prambanan temple site and many places on the Island of Bali, while the influence of Buddhism is found at the Borobudur temple site.

Sculpture in Indonesia is art that was created with its own function. For example, in Bali where more than half of its population  are of Hindu religion, statues made are used for worship purposes while in many other region statues are made and widely used as a monument that perpetuates important events or respected figures especially country’s hero from the independence era.

Bali, which has been a world well known Island in Indonesia, is famous with its richness in tradition and culture, included sculpture. You can easily find many kinds of statues and sculptures scattered in the whole Island and their presence is inseparable from the inventions from the sculpture artists.

In general, Balinese sculptures and carvings are made from teak, moja and cempaka woods. However, besides made of woods many sculptures and carvings in Bali also uses padas as their main material. Padas stone carving art is commonly found in the construction of shrines and their completeness. This padas stone carving is also used in the making of souvenirs. Many of the padas stone carvers can be found in Belayu Village in Tabanan region.

There are some characteristic in Balinese sculptures and carvings, namely fruit, flower and leaf motives which are a combination of convex and concave shapes. Other also say that there is another characteristic, the existing of a loop that is circular in birth which the ends are curled on the carvings as well as the sculptures.

There are many carving & sculpture artists in Bali but here are some of the best world well known through their passions & creations, both traditional or modern ones.

  1. I Nyoman Tjokot

Born from a farmer family couple I Gentar and Ni Kinut in Banjar Jati, Sebatu village Tegallalang, Gianyar Bali around 1886 and died in Bali in 1971. Tjokot’s interest in statues started when he often meditated in a temple which is about 5 kilo from his birth village called Pura Taro (Taro Temple).

It is said that Pura Taro is a relic of Majapahit Kingdom which has some carvings that shows primitiveness, rough but pleasing to the eye and magical. Starting from here, Tjokot began to dare himself to try to make carvings on wood. There is not any information about the motive or style he learned at that time.

Whether his carving motives are the archipelago origin or not, his works are favored by many people around him.  In fact, the carvings and statues made by Tjokot were so simple yet so full of wholeness.

His works trademark was that he made each of his carvings without changing the shape of woods but still has ornamentation so with this trademark, new style was born, ‘Tjokotism’. Tjokotism is not just a nickname or the name of the style or flow in the art of sculpture but physically it can be described as a sculpture full of ornaments that at a glance of a similar a relief (two dimensional artwork) but in a three dimensional version. In fact, at the beginning of this style it had often laughed at and bullied, even by the genius painter maestro form Banjar Taman Ubud, I Gusti Nyoman Lempad who called all Tjokot’s works as ‘kayubakar or firewood’.

However, Tjokot didn’t budge and keep his faith and consistency. His determination was very strong and mounting. He established himself with positive toughts that his creations was not firewood but artworks with superior art quality and this pay off. People who once ridiculed him began to appreciate his works. The public and art observers began to pay attention to his efforts in his works, though this happened after decades of hardworks.

Tjokot was indeed a great artist with superior works who stayed very modest, humble, innocent and spontaneous in his daily life. From that moment, Tjokot’s name began to soar overseas. His name is parallel to dancing maestro I Ketut Maria and painting maestro Affandi.

I Nyoman Tjokot became more popular and people as well as elite and prestigious institutions from abroad started to hunt and collecting his artworks. Thanks to all of his dedications, perseverance and hard work, he won The Art Award in 1969 as well as the cultural award in the ‘Cultural Satyalencana Honors’ category in 2015.

  1. I Wayan Winten

Sculptures by Wayan Winten are many to be found in the Island of Bali which not a wonder because he started sculpturing when he was just seven years old.

Aside from being his hobby, his got his passion in sculpturing from his father, I Made Pasta, who was also an accomplished sculpture artist back in his days. I Wayan Winten took formal sculpting education at Denpasar Fine Art School (SMSR) and Yogyakarta Arts Upgrading Center (PPPG).

The difference in Wayan Winten’s works with other sculptors is that most of his works use concrete. His reason for choosing concrete and non-wood materials is solely to anticipate if later in the future time woods will become increasingly difficult to obtain in Bali. In addition, I Wayan Winten also revealed that artists can more freely create the form of sculpture using concrete material because if one uses wood than likely they will have to follow the shape of the wood.

One of the famous statue made by Wayan Winten is ‘Dewa Ruci Statue’ which is located at the border of Kuta and ByPass Ngurah Rai. This statue tells Bima in searh of Tirta Amerta and when he had to penetrate the Ocean he was blocked by Naga Baruna. However, Bima won and met with Dewa Ruci and this statue was made to resembles the figure of Bima wrapped by Naga Baruna whilst there is also the God Ruci in the form of Sang Hyang Acinthya on it.

  1. I Nyoman Nuarta

A Bali born sculpture artist who is very famous in Indonesia, and known as statue maestro from Bali with his most spectacular creation, ‘Garuda Wisnu Kencana’.

He also made another phenomenal is statue of a warlord facing the Sea at Ujung Madura Pier which is very famous in the East Java region and is called ‘Jalesveva Jayamahe’. Nuarta did not stop there and he began campaigning and started to spread the modern art virus to the community especially the young generation of Indonesia.

I Nyoman Nuarta built his own art studio, Studio Nyoman Nuarta & NuArt Sculpture Part in Bandung and Bali where art exhibitions were often held. The types of exhibitions he organized are also diverse and often involved by many other artists.

  1. I Wayan Mudana

Not as famous as The Maestro Nyoman Suarta, his ability to carve woods (which he started since his young age) into beautiful statues and scultures can not be underestimated. Mudana is famous for his distinctive style in mixing traditional art with a touch of modern aesthetic which brings a big success in Bali as well as abroad where he got attention from art lovers, in this matter is sculptures, around the world. Wayan Mudana, who is now 64 years old did not get his success easily. Instead he started with his first carving work sold for just 1 ringgit rupiah (1 ringgit IDR) following the Indonesian money currency at that time which is not used anymore nowadays.

Following this first artwork, he then created many more sculpture from his magic hands which seem lively and accompanied by beautiful stories taken from old legends in them. The situation is clearly illustrated when viewing the result of his work visually. Mudana shows the high value of the process of making works that make us, the viewers, curious about the touch of this wood carving craftsman, how he blew in breathe into each of his great works.

Most of Mudana’s works were created through religious rituals and offered prayers, which is intended to get ‘taksu’. To the Balinese, this ‘taksu’ determines success of all aspects of life. Mudana believes that with rituals there wil be enlightment when making each one of his works. According to him, the key to do his work is also to seek guidance and enlightment from the AlMighty. Mudana also believes that the heritage of the Balinese wood carving will last because it is strengthened by the extraordinary skills possessed by wood carving artists in Bali.

Though some or more thinks that this carving industry is in deep sleep, it actually remains productive and in the end will always be received by various circles.