Emerging female Balinese contemporary painter Luh Gede Gita Sangita Yasa has seemingly materialised from anonymity and appeared on the Bali art scene. After five years living in West Java, studying fine art at the Institute of Technology Bandung, she returned in 2020 to live in Batubulan, Bali. However, media exposure in international magazines and exhibitions in Java and Singapore preceded her. In 2021, her presence had become more “localised” by exhibiting in Bali. Refreshing and powerful suggestive Luh’De’s pictures captivate and reveal a fascinating lens upon life.

Vibrant, yet unusual mindscapes depict alternative realities: Luh’De expresses a Gen-Z experience of dwelling in both the digital and natural worlds. As the first generation having grown up with immediate Internet and mobile digital technology access, members of Gen-Z are dubbed “digital natives”.  Luh’De’s sensitivity pieces together seemingly unrelated, contrasting imagery into balanced compositions introducing the audience to fresh narrative realms she refers to as “fragments of memories”.

For most people, the concept of existing simultaneously in parallel universes may be too abstract to process. Not for Luh’De. Curiosity infused with ingenuity is harnessed into images of the past, present and future which are unique within the Indonesian contemporary art world. Light years beyond the conventional Balinese painter, Luh’De never references traditional icons, narratives and techniques. Instead, she boldly investigates her potential and intuitive trajectory.

Merging Pop Art, abstract and semi-realism styles often with a minimalist sense of space, blank areas on the canvas create interludes that allow us to pause and think. The outcomes are contemplative and uber-chic. Luh’De is the first Balinese woman artist to establish an identity upon such a compelling aesthetic formula.

“My creative process begins by sourcing images from the Internet, screenshots from the online simulation game The Sims and other images I have collected. I then photoshop combinations into compositions I call ‘happy incidents’,” said Luh’De, who was born in Bali in July 1997 and worked briefly as a graphic designer. 

“At university I found myself working best in oil paints. I like that it takes around 8 hours for the paint to dry giving me time to manipulate my compositions into shape. This process helps me understand more about what I’m going through. I’ll connect everything, asking myself why this is here? This is where my instincts draw connections and make assumptions. The results are impossible to preconceive and often without meaning or explanation.”  

One of the greatest challenges for Balinese artist’s is to grow and to introduce change. Some settle on a formula which sells and then remain in a comfort zone, yet creatively stagnant. Others lack courage to break free and experiment and over time new horizons become increasingly difficult to achieve. Luh’De is a driven artist, whose work has technically and thematically evolved. 

From 2016-2018 she worked developing ideas and arranging different components to uncover a functional formula. During 2019-2020 she explored ‘PARADISO: On Fragments of Times’, a series inspired by beach scenes and people at leisure. “I grew tired of painting figures and beach themes. There was nothing more to dig and it was time to move on,”  she told me. 

In 2020 Luh’De was diagnosed with depression and bipolar disorder and temporarily stopped painting. “When I began painting again, my old subject matter – the Paradiso Series  no longer represented me. I developed a liking towards sweets to help stabilise my moods, and I spent more time playing Sims as a form of escapism. I created a new ‘ideal’ personal painting reality I called my Sweet and Sour Series,” said Luh’De who was nominated in 2021 as a Finalist UOB Indonesian Painting of the Year – Established Artist Category.

“Painting is the perfect medium to help me to understand myself. Maybe I want control over things that I cannot control. I find my peace by blurring the realities between the finite world that we live in and the limitless worlds of cyberspace.” 

‘Donuts and Elizac 20’ 2021 is a landmark painting describing her dualistic experiences – from the sugary highs of donuts to the lows of Elizac, the medication that stabilises her bipolar condition. A personal narrative snapshot, in the picture Luh’De becomes the subject. While the characters in her previous works are void of joy, here she depicts herself within a colourful composition in a state of bliss. Importantly she reveals the confidence to explore deeper aspects of her identity.

Later in 2021, her interests shifted to modern architecture and interior design. ‘Titik Dua’ reveals the striking geometric lines that characterise the hotel in Ubud. Here she intersects spacious plains of colour with a central aspect of shimmering vegetation. ‘What I Wish Beyond My Kitchen’ describes an expansive kitchen with a focal window upon a beach scenario with a luxurious blue sky. Both pictures trigger suggestive associations with the aesthetics of English painter David Hockney.

In June 2022, Luh’De exhibited ‘Rabbit Sofa’, a fresh and eccentric composition out of left field. Experimenting with looser brush strokes and freer expressive colour, it describes an interior design setting with nondescript abstract elements. As the focal point, she entertains us with a surrealistic rabbit-shaped sofa. Luh’De cites assimilating other artists’ techniques in her search for new creative territory.

A significant aspect that distinguishes Luh’De from other emerging artists, many of who have recently entered the fine art sphere from a background in digital design, is the visual feature of 3-dimensionality. On the other hand, her peers favour 2-dimensional pictures that appear like collages and graphic design-oriented arrangements of iconography. Such flat compositions have restricted suggestive potency. Moreover, they are without a compelling element and illusory trick — i.e. depth of field — that ignites the mind into perceiving greater imaginative possibilities.

Luh’De’s gift is to conjure imagery that allows our imagination to respond and engage with uncharted creative territory. While doing so, we feed our creative potential and find respite from the complexities of the modern world within the sensations of inner peace. Albert Einstein famously said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”

Richard Horstman

Richard Horstman

NOW! Bali Art Columnist, Richard Horstman. For over fifteen years Richard has been contributing to national and regional newspapers and magazines writing about art and culture. He is passionate about observing and reporting on developments in the local art and creative infrastructure, and the exciting emerging talent that is flourishing in Bali. IG: @lifeasartasia