The increasing presence of women artists on the Bali contemporary art scene introduces fresh, feminine vigour into a sphere that was once primarily patriarchal. Balinese, Indonesian and foreign expatriate female artists are a rising creative force. They are regularly exhibiting in Canggu, Denpasar, Jimbaran and Ubud. 

Emerging Indonesian artist Sastia Naresvari is an abstract expressionistic painter with an effective formula. Many people see abstract art as an obscure genre that is difficult to understand. On the contrary, abstract art invites us to journey into the captivating realms of colour and nondescript forms, which is a potent stimulus that ignites our imagination and calms the mind. Imagination is the door to possibilities, where creativity, ingenuity, and thinking outside the box begin.

Sastia breaks the stereotype of women artists in Bali by introducing live painting performances into the local scene to engage directly with the audience. Her performances during the year at various exhibitions, including ‘TUMPEK by Deathhord Artist Series’, Neverland, late May 2021 Canggu, have been met with positive responses. “I began performing live painting in Bali in 2019 because I wanted to reveal my process of being in a transcendent state while I’m painting,” Sastia explained. “The most intriguing and important aspect of an artwork is the creative process. So during the live painting, I tune into the audience’s energy or whenever I am collaborating with other artists or musicians. In doing so, I enhance my creative potential.”

Dynamic interaction between contrasting colours defined by robust expressive and swirling forms describe Sastia’s paintings. Utilizing brush strokes, palette knives, blades, hands, even the clothes she wears, feelings, and inspiration are the catalyst for captivating compositions. The powerful contrast of white against black is a predominant visual aspect, while reds and blues compliment the overall vibrancy. Other pictures allow the simplicity of vibrant colour to harmonize and come to the fore. Sastia describes her process as akin to a poetic dance.  Her works invite us to pause, detach from our mental chatter and then disappear into the depths of our subconscious mind.

‘Desire Within’ 2020 – Sastia Naresvari. Mixed media on canvas 150x200cm. Image courtesy of the artist.

“Painting helps describe my experience, emotions, thinking and what I experience during meditation and the dream state. It is an essential aspect of my spirituality that illustrates invisible and intangible energy,” said the twenty-four-year-old Jakarta born artist and former psychology student who has been living in Bali since early 2020. “I sense the audience’s attention while I am painting and believe a unity occurs. Powerful invisible energy contributes to the overall outcome.”

“I like sharing my experiences, explaining my creative process, and how art inspires and nurtures me. The audience enjoys the results and is always curious. They relate and connect with the creative energy. They like to make their interpretations of the work and ask what’s on my mind while painting. As a result, art-making becomes less mysterious and more easily accessible to them, and we engage in interesting discussions. All of these elements give the work a distinct life force.”

“I trust that by watching my live painting, the audience will become more aware of their feelings. Some people have expressed that they felt happy, some felt weird, others hypnotised, some people even felt sad. It doesn’t matter what they feel; the point is they are aware of their feelings. I intend to engage with the audience on a deeper level, which I always feel every time I create a live painting. I often share my advice to those who are beginning their artistic journey, let your body flow while you are in the process and believe in what you are doing.”

Sastia’s studio practice begins with contemplation; often her writing and some black & white photographs are the initial inspiration. She then detaches from her ego, enters what she calls a trancelike state, and translates the world void of duality and physical laws.  “Painting grounds and connects me to the 3D world,” she said. Composition titles such as ‘Beautifully Chaotic’, ‘Desire Within’, ‘Fire Burning Underwater’ and ‘The Powerful Beauty and Beautiful Power’ reveal insights into the depth of Sastia’s quest.

‘The Powerful Beauty and Beautiful Power’ 2021 -Sastia Naresvari Mixed media on canvas 50x50cm + 50x50cm. Image courtesy of the artist.

Fascinated by art since she was a child, the mostly self-trained artist made her first watercolour picture aged four. At the time, she was obsessed with making crayon portraits of her grandparents. Then, in 2017 while visiting the Affandi Museum in Yogyakarta, Java, Sastia met Didit Slenthem, the grandson of the legendary Indonesian artist Affandi, who became her mentor. “Didit taught me how to sharpen my skills and made me believe in myself,” she stated. Her other passion is Javanese textiles. Introducing and educating the younger generations on the underrated craftsmanship of traditional Javanese fabrics through ‘Di Balik Layar’, a clothing line she is codeveloping with a friend.

Art’s popularity has surged during the pandemic due to its practical and inherent educative, creative and therapeutic values. More than ever, it is essential for artists to play a leading role. Those with the appropriate character to be committed to their studio practice yet also function as a bridge between art and the public. They are responsible for being active outside of their studios and contributing to breaking down the barriers enabling art to become more widely understood and realistically accessed. 

Follow Sastia on Instagram: @sastianaresvari

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