Classical Balinese painting is an authentic living tradition that has evolved over the centuries with artists introducing personal innovations to sacred religious images that function as a vital narrative role in the culture. During the past two decades, however, contemporary imagining has liberated Classical iconography from the canons of tradition, granting exciting original expression. The most notable forerunners of the style are Ketut Teja Astawa, the painter priestess Mangku Muriati and Citra Sasmita.
Made Chandra Putra Adnya is an emerging artist who has developed a compelling visual formula. Immediately eye-catching, he fuses Classical Kamasan iconography with abstract expression and plains of blank canvas that contribute a distinct sense of minimalism to the composition, distinguishing his artistic voice within the vast pool of up-and-coming young artists and the pioneers of the contemporary Kamasan genre.
The interaction between the three visual elements and the play of space in Chandra’s compositions make them uniquely fascinating. The painting’s abstract elements trigger the observer’s imagination with suggestive power, allowing the mind to invent new forms and ideas. “No longer considered ancient, classical art has evolved into a fundamental force that provides a reference for today’s artists,” Chandra told NOW! Bali Magazine.
The brain assimilates codes of information in ratios of three. Therefore, an aesthetic formula in painting or graphic design structured on patterns of three appears balanced and calming to the mind (i.e. three colours, symbols, or in communication design, three different font sizes). Chandra’s blending of neo-classical Balinese imagery enhanced with abstract imaginings, and his minimalist code creates a harmonic trio.
Potent, random brush strokes, plains of vibrant acrylic colour or layers of varying hues appearing as architectural forms, dark, brooding clouds, or landscape elements are some of the robust abstract characteristics of Chandra’s compositions. His themes address cultural and historical happenings. “The abstract expression is influenced by my interest in natural colours, especially in the patterns produced by the spread of moss on rocks and stone carvings with colours that have a strong artistic impression,” Chandra said. “I add the abstract element to strengthen the images and adapt to my narratives.”
Empty spaces within the composition offer respite from the stimulation of the busier visual aspects of the works. “Several parts of the paintings I deliberately leave blank like a white canvas, so the power of the gaze is focussed directly on the symbols,” Chandra stated. “This correlates with the traditional technique. The painter doesn’t fill the canvas, yet leaves enough space to give breath to our observation so that the object isn’t covered with unnecessary additional elements, emphasising the object’s importance within the narrative.”
Chandra’s painting ‘Can Nang Sari’ features a traditional market scenario of making and selling Canang Sari, the small colourful offering made from fresh flowers and palm leaves, a ubiquitous cultural icon. Chandra’s accompanying text with the image in his Instagram post reads: A simple symbol of the essence of the life process, the effort to create and merge is represented by the beautiful and meditative colours of flower petals that integrate with each other, weaving a dynamic spatial play.
“My composition structures are rooted in the essence of arranging Kamasan objects according to the meaning and flow of what I want to express in my work,” Chandra told me. “In ‘Ca Nang Sari’, the creation of the composition is based on an understanding of the configuration of the ancient, religious symbol, the Swastika, with a visual rhythm following the rotation of the Swastika wheel, concluding at the zero potent point in the centre of the work.”
‘Pintu Peradaban’ (Door to Civilisation) is an abstraction of a harbour scenario and the meeting of Balinese people with foreign visitors. Part of the accompanying text with Chandra’s Instagram post reads: The existence of South Bali as a gateway to world civilisation can be traced in the oldest records of the ancient Balinese inscription, ”blanjong”, which suggests that South Bali, precisely in the Serangan Sea and Benoa Bay, has been mixed with various fragments of layers of civilisation that once set foot on the land of Bali.
‘Kembali’ (return) is a poetic image emphasising the breadth of Chandra’s imagination and skills outside the framework of his signature Kamasan style. A row of monks walk gracefully across a lake to a distant, abstract destination reminiscent of an inverted Borobodur temple as circular ripples echo upon the water’s surface. They symbolically cross the bridge between the physical and spiritual worlds and return home to the force of life – nature.
Born in Baturaja, South Sumatra, in 2004, Chandra’s grandfather was a transmigrant from Nusa Penida, Bali. When he began studying, he decided to move and start a new life journey in his ancestral land, Bali, to explore himself and the culture. He resides in Denpasar and studies at ISI Denpasar (Indonesian Art Institute). Chandra is prolific and highly skilled in creating realistic portraits, on-the-spot paintings in the natural environment, and architectural compositions in watercolour on paper.
“My interest in fine art grew naturally, starting with simple comics, then when I got older, I practised photorealistic drawing. When I started at art college, I was challenged to discover my identity. I found Kamasan a simple language that could convey who I am,” Chandra said of his formative years of art making. “My current artistic achievements began with my interest in Balinese culture and then developed to explore the history of the civilisation of the Balinese. My love of culture began when I learned to play gamelan music in high school.”
What’s remarkable about Chandra is his passion for art, which he developed at a very young age. However, he only began exhibiting publicly in 2022. Chandra is a thriving artist whose compositions are beautiful and intelligent.
Follow him on Instagram: @mdchndra