Nyoman Nuarta, one of the most well known sculptors in Indonesia, was born in Bali in 1953. He joined the Faculty of Fine Art and Design, Bandung Institute of Technology in 1973 and graduated in 1979. When he was still a student, his works invited controversy because, against the advice of his professors, he chose representation as the basic concept of his sculpture, while the art academy favored a kind of modernism that produced semi-abstract sculptures.
“To me, reality is only a source of ideas. Realistic depictions in my works do not always have any connection with reality. In my works ideas from reality can have symbolic meanings” - Nutria
I am a big fan of Nuarta's work. I visited his family compound again, yesterday, in a fairly posh neighborhood in the city of Bandung, on the island of Java, Indonesia. It was the third time I had been. I only had my phone with me, and one is, err, not supposed to take pictures inside the gallery. Mea Culpa.
Let me start with one of my favorite pieces. This is called "Nightmare." It was done in 1999. My picture does not do it justice, given the lack of scale; it's 4.5 x 2.5 m and 1.75 m high; I was on a second story balcony to overlook it. You cannot see it too well, but this is composed of hundreds of individual metal rods, each formed and side-by-side in order to create the observed form.
The story here is typical of Nuarta: in May 1998, there were significant riots in Jakarta, and elsewhere, that led to the resignation of President Suharto's government. One of the darkest moments was the report of literally hundreds of gang-rapes and subsequent deaths of Sino-Indonesian women.
This smaller piece is perhaps 0.67 m, and I think it speaks for itself when you remember that Indonesia is a predominantly Muslim country.
In this piece, which is larger than life size, Nuarta recalls a trip to Paris, where he asked a local for directions. She cast her gaze aside, turned up her nose, and refused to address this English-speaking Balinese artist. When he returned home, he commemorated the event.
Here are some more from inside the gallery, for your viewing pleasure:
Outside, there are lots of other installations.
The compound houses a large, three-story gallery and a number of smaller buildings. The family homes are now on this site, as is the foundry where the work gets done. When art is partly purely large-scale architecture, there is a huge element of simple metalwork labor, as it true with the construction of anything. It is really quite fun to watch this juxtaposition of art, architecture, direction, and labor.
Nuarta is a smart showman and a cheerleader for Indonesia. He recognizes the need for iconic identity. When you think of New York City, you think of the Statue of Liberty... and when you see an image or partial image of the Statue of Liberty, or the Golden Gate Bridge, or the Gateway Arch, or... you get the idea... there is an immediate connection to the place, along with a strong sense of "I need to see that for myself one day."
Nuarta lobbied and finally won approval for a 172 m construction of GWK or Garuda Wisnu Kencana, which is a name for Vishnu (Hindu God) who rides his mystical half man and half bird companion known as Garuda. The GWK cultural park, cut into the limestone plateau of Ungasan Hill, Jimbaran, south of Bali, is still under construction. It will be dominated by this sculpture of GWK. The marketing mission is that the initials GWK are as eventually familiar as "Lady Liberty" or "Golden Gate" or "Eiffel Tower" or "Big Ben" ... The second image gives you a sense of scale.