Balinese Arts and Handicrafts

An obligation to the deities

A long time ago before Balinese arts were used for its aesthetic purposes, arts were meant to be an expression and obligation to the deities. It is a big part of life in Bali, and the deep spiritual traditions of the island are strongly connected to art. The unique aesthetics of the Balinese people can be seen in the paintings, carvings, jewellery, and stonework found everywhere on the island. Different villages and regions of Bali are famous for various crafts, and while Ubud is now seen as the centre of Balinese art, other styles can be found around Bali.

Travellers to Bali will be amazed at the art that they can view, buy, and take home. For those who end up with more than they can carry back, many shipping services make sure that the great souvenirs from a trip to Bali arrive at home safe and sound, for a low price. All of this makes Bali the perfect place to learn about local art, support the artistic community, and bring some of the feeling of Bali back home.

In the past the Balinese artists were multifaceted, they could paint, sculpt, and even dance. The demands coming from countries abroad, including Europe and America have made many artists start to specialize in one traditional Balinese art.

Balinese Painting

Bali is also known as the “island of the artists”. The artsy spirit that exists on the island is passed down from generation to generation. Balinese artists traditionally produced only religious art for depicting myths. One of the oldest traditional Balinese paintings that have been found at the ruins of Gelgel Kingdom (now better known as Klungkung, south-east Bali) is estimated to be from the 15th century. The simple painting style with natural dye made of cotton flower and rice starch looks like the paintings found in “wayang kulit” (shadow puppetry from Java).

One of the oldest painting that tourists enjoy today are the lotus painting and the figure of the god Ganesha from the 15th century. These are well preserved in Pura Besakih. Some works from early 19th centuries are now placed in museums in Ubud, palaces or temples as decorative elements that have the beauty and value of history.

At the beginning of 1930, Ubud, Batuan and Sanur began to emerge and be recognized by the tourists as regions with excellent quality work of art. I Gusti Nyoman Lempad, Ida Bagus Gelgel and Ida Bagus Kembang were famous Balinese painters at that time. They had acculturated traditional concepts and materials in art with some influences from the west. In the 50s and 70s, the Balinese arts communities/associations were also increasingly being formed in several areas, and the art school started to produce Balinese artists with more capable abilities. International artists began moving to Bali in the early 1900s, spreading their art style to the people, especially to Balinese artists in Ubud and neighbouring Batuan village. This influence the local artists to move from a more traditional black and white approached to more colourful and detailed paintings.

The contemporary artists experiment with more modern forms of art, and a wide range of artistic approaches can be seen in the art galleries across Bali, as well as in the hotels, cafes, and restaurants that sometimes have exhibition. The price of the paintings sold to the tourist depends on the talents and skill of the artists.

Wood and Stone Carving

Balinese wood carving is an ancient art form but has also changed and developed over the years. Mas village is famous for its woodcarvings, and some of its master artisans have become famous across Indonesia and abroad. Wooden statues of human and animal figures are common, but even furniture, fixtures, and door frames are often adorned with flowers, landscapes, and traditional themes by skilled craftsmen. Carvings can be bought as souvenirs in all parts of Bali, varying from cheap and charming to intricate and unique.

For Balinese people, the natural world is a part of daily life, and gardens and outdoor areas are designed according to traditional principles and carefully maintained. For this reason, the stonework is also considered important in Bali. The village of Batubulan is famous for its stone carvings, but there are enclaves of stonemasons in downtown areas such as Kerobokan and Denpasar as well. Traditional subjects are common, but business is brisk, and many of these stone carvers sell large pieces to companies and private collections around the world—items like Ganesha, wayang puppets, Buddha statues, garden sculptures, and abstract. There is a wide variety in quality here, with mass-produced stonework available as well as more artistic pieces marked by individual craftsmanship.

Balinese textiles

Endek clothes also called wastra endek is a Balinese weft ikat cloth that is still preserved its sustainability and still used as a material for ritual/ ceremonies clothing, school and also office uniform. Endek’s motifs are so diverse; some motives are even considered sacred and only can be used for religious activities in temples. There is also a particular motif that can only be used by certain people, such as kings and noble descendants. Patra and encak motifs are considered sacred, commonly used for religious ceremonies to symbolize respect for the Creator. In contrast, nature motifs like flowers, leaves, and animals are widely used for daily activities.

Endek cloth began to evolve since 1985, during the reign of King Dalem Waturenggong in Gelgel Klungkung precisely in one village named Sulang Village. Although the endek fabric has existed since the existence of the Gelgel Kingdom, it only began to increase in Sulang Village after the independence day of Indonesia around 1975-1985.

Nowadays, one of the areas in Bali, Sidemen Village in Karangasem Regency known as a famous fabric craftsman village. Weaving cloth is a daily activity that is mostly done by the residents of Sidemen village. Almost all female residents in this village, young and old can weave at least for simple patterns. The surrounding environment, which is full of natural beauty, must be the source of inspirations for the residents to continue producing natural patterned fabric woven that is so beautiful and sophisticated. Sidemen village has two types of woven fabrics, the first – Ikat weaving, commonly called as endek, to be used in everyday activities. The second type is songket woven fabrics which are only used for religious activities or essential ceremonies such as tooth-cutting ceremony (metatah / mepandes), marriage, religious holidays, cremation (ngaben), and other traditional ceremonies.

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