Art: Batuan Style Painting from Bali
In May, during our trip to Bali, we spent three nights in the jungle near Ubud, the cultural centre of the island now famous for its role in the story of author Elizabeth Gilbert in Eat, Pray, Love. The village sits on the slopes of the volcano Mount Batur and is elevated above the rest of the island. As is my custom whenever I travel somewhere new, I was keen to find out about the local artistic heritage, and fortunately for me Ubud is home to the Puri Lukisan Museum which was set up to support local artists.
There’s an interesting exhibition on how their style evolved over the decades, particularly in reaction to the European artists such as Walter Spies and Rudolf Bonnet who arrived in the 1930s. They specialise in Batuan-style, very intricate and highly-detailed, highly-dense paintings, which I learnt in the market are produced in four steps. A pencil outline is drawn and then marked with stronger black pen. A greyscale shading is then added to various parts of the painting to add depth, before the colour is added in the very final stages. Had I had time, I would have loved to try out the technique for myself and I’m pretty sure there are classes on offer around the town.
The gallery inside the museum has some pieces on sale for literally millions of Rupiah, but I’d advise you to head to the nearby market instead, where I picked up a painting for just 250,000 Rp (equal to £13, but I did barter it down from about double that – be prepared to negotiate). The one I chose, above, features exotic white birds in the tropical jungle around Ubud, with glimpses of the river and tree trunks. It was the pattern and the colours that struck me about this one. Many of the paintings display scenes of the Hindu gods, the religion of the island, but I preferred to choose a non-religious painting. You’ll spot plenty of galleries as you stroll around Ubud and the town certainly seems to have a strong artistic tradition. Click here to read my full article on our three days in Ubud.