Balinese artists strive to promote noncommercial art and stay true to Bali’s traditional methods.
wife of well-known traditional Balinese art collector, Lin Che Wei, who founded Sarasvati in 2010 with t h e goa l of “ p ro te c t i n g a n d sustaining traditional Balinese art, as well as the artists behind them”, according to the foundation’s mission.
Syenny explains the idea for Sarasvati Art Management came about “because my husband had long been collecting Balinese art and it was everywhere,” said Syenny who then set up a database of works and with Che Wei considered ways to protect and support Bali’s fine art practitioners. Syenny said she has relied heavily on the knowledge and guidance of Pak Moening in identifying Bali’s emerging artists and learning the stories and techniques housed in the painting that can take more than a year to produce. As a financial whiz, Syenny’s husband, Che Wei, has taken a pragmatic approach to his stable of artists’ promotion and support and
March 9-22, 2012
the education of the public on the fine art of Bali, planting what he terms “hidden jewels”, in exhibitions so viewers are not influenced simply by price tag, but by the qualities within the works. “We purposely put hidden jewels of works, purposely underpriced and we are sometimes surprised when collectors cannot spot that hidden jewel—others with a trained eye spot them and know ‘this is the one, so it’s (Sarasvati) about education,” said Che Wei. He adds the organisation breaks d ow n a r t wo r k s a n d a r t i s t s , “screening out decorative artists”, and focusing on collectible artists to bring them to the point where they become “investable” artists. “With these collectible artists we say why don’t you value yourself and we lead them forward,” said Che Wei.
Sarasvati recognises the great financial difficulties faced by artists who dedicate their lives and talent to following the true path to fine art, rather than cruising the down hill run of commercialism, which in the short term may offer a much better income for compromised art. “The trick is how to prevent these artists from temptation. Some feel this (working months on an art work) is too much hassle and are tempted by commercialism. Having a financial background, I saw if I wanted to help collectable artists, we needed to address their financial issues,” said Che Wei, who through Sarasvati “adopts pieces and supports artists”, with the longterm goal of bringing them into the bankable ranks of artists such as Affandi, whose works always attract buyers. For Bali’s “young artists” who are mostly now in their 40s, the opportunity to have their traditional style works exhibited and supported by Sarasvati is invaluable, not only in f inancial terms, but in its
recognition of their personal sacrifice to their art making. “This is important to promote paintings that are non-commercial art, but real art,” said 43-year-old Nyoman Sana of Tegalalang who has been painting since he was a child. “This (group) exhibition is good because Bali artists take a long time to create a painting so collecting enough works for solo exhibition is difficult. If we can exhibit like this (group show), we solve the problem of spending years not exhibiting. Sarasvati is very important because with support like this we can work totally in the art and don’t need to just chase money, but instead make special art, to express ourselves in art,” said Sana during the Ubud Young Artists Exhibition opening. According to artist Wayan Warta Yasa, commercialism over quality is not the only issue facing Bali’s art future, he fears people will not take up a brush at all.
“Organisations like Sarasvati are important because in Bali so many are leaving painting to work in hotels. For me, I follow art. I am happy and art makes life more active and valuable, meaning if we succeed from art in Bali we may become artists of Indonesia as Bali’s traditional artists. I hope that if people don’t know the paintings they will at least know the artists— if they die they will be remembered. If they work as hotel staff, who will remember them?” asked Yasa. Sa ra svat i , l i ke t h e a r t i s t s i t represents, is dedicated to Bali’s fine art and is ready for the hard work it will take to educate art lovers on Bali’s artistic traditions and join champions of this art form like Pak Moening who said, “It’s about the work. It’s hard work (art) you need to be creative, to trust in yourself, have your own ideas and be creative, then you can move forward.” • 33