a lion Barong guards
the door to the treasures of
As we approach Puri Lukisan, "Palace of Paintings," we are greeted by an ornately carved and gilded wooden doorway, topped by a guardian lion Barong with a Balinese dancer on its head. Robin says the style of the building and gardens is traditional Balinese, with lots of stone, marble, wood, bamboo and sago palm thatch. Inside, the museum houses a collection of modern Balinese paintings and sculpture from 1930 to the present. Lukisan Ratna Wartha Museum was inspired by Dutch artist Rudolf Bonnet (1895-1978), who arrived in Bali in 1927, and his friend Tjokorda Gde Agung Sukawati (1917-1978), the former prince of Ubud. They formed a foundation in 1936 called Pita Maha to collect Balinese art and support Balinese artists. The museum, designed by Bonnet and located in central Ubud, opened in 1956.
Inside, we look up at a trapezoidal bamboo ceiling with a winged Garuda guardian hovering above our heads. Even though the art in the museum is modern, many of the images and themes are taken from traditional Balinese culture. In one of the rooms, I admire a winged Garuda painting by I Gusti Kobot (1917-1999). Kobot began his career making traditonal Wayang Kulkit, leather puppets, before he started to paint on paper and cloth. Although his style is based on puppet iconography and epic mythology, it is still highly individualistic, with softer colors and less stylized figures, due to the influence of Bonnet.
Outside, I am drawn to a trio of wood sculptures by I Ketut Muja (b. 1945). Muja began his sculpting career as a child by fashioning souvenirs for tourists from wooden roots. Each root, shaped by nature, creates an impression, which Muja brings out by carving it into a statue. This type of free-form sculpture was also influenced by Bonnet.
Wherever I go in Bali, I feel like I am walking through an art gallery. The Balinese love of beauty is everywhere, from the smallest ceremonial canang offering to the biggest carved stone puri temple. All of it, even the modern art, reflects a deep connection with the natural and spiritual worlds. I am happy to see that Puri Lukisan preserves the best of this outpouring of Balinese creativity.