#art

Inspiring Art-Filled Villas in Bali

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One of the best things about private villas in Bali is that none of them are the same. Forget uniform lobbies, drab bedding and boring white walls. Think fascinating artefacts, colourful furnishings, amazing art and unique design from around the world, all representing the heritage and lifestyle of their owners. To give you an idea of the delights on offer, we’ve scoured Bali for ‘art-full’ villas that will win over the heart of even the most sophisticated art connoisseur.

Villa Asada, Candidasa

Villa Asada is a contemporary expression of Balinese style, filled with antiques and comfortable furnishings. In every corner is a spot of simple elegance and luxury, lovingly strewn with Oriental decor.  Buddha and other characters in Asian history take centre stage. Little pockets of space prove that in decorating, as in life, less is truly more. 

Villa Canggu, Canggu

Indonesian contemporary artists turn Villa Canggu into a living exhibition that could easily compete with many art galleries around the world. Eddy Susanto’s visual interpretation on the heritage of the Mayan people, who scandalised the world with their 2012 Armageddon prediction, is displayed here just around the corner from Yudi Sulistyo’s interpretation of modern-day life: a hanging metal spaceship entitled “World Without Sea”. Ronald Apriyan’s series of three paintings represents how modern-day women can choose to be whatever they want to be. Grab a glass of wine and start exploring.

Kaba Kaba Estate, Tabanan

For more than 20 years, the owners of Kaba Kaba Estate have been avid art collectors, and the villa serves as a showcase for their beloved treasures, which range from fascinating antiques to contemporary works of art displayed throughout the gardens and pavilions. These include Cai Zhi Song’s Ode to Motherland #5, a striking 2013 bronze of a male figure, inspired by an ancient image of a Qin dynasty warrior, to Sohan Jakhar’s Untitled (2009), which hangs above a guest bedroom headboard, and Hannes D’Haese’s sculpture Just a Dog, a pink resin bulldog that, along with its yellow counterpart, guards the entrance to the guesthouse. 

Then there’s the surprisingly recent (three decades old) 8-foot-long Indonesian carving of paddlers in a boat, displayed above a puckish Dodit Artawan oil on canvas depicting Barbie dolls and liquor bottles; Dadi Setiyadi’s White Goat, a 2011 canvas that reimagines Caravaggio’s John the Baptist as a loincloth-clad figure festooned with swirling Dayak tattoos,

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Heaven in a Muntigunung Hammock, Handmade in Bali

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Handmade Hammock

Nothing says tropical holiday quite like a hand-woven hammock which evokes thoughts of bleached white beaches, dream-filled siestas, sea-breeze cocktails and star-gazing nights.  

There’s something magical about being suspended in mid-air; the hammock’s gentle swaying calms your thoughts, settles your heartbeat, and lulls you into reverie or slumber. That’s true whether you’re beachside in Koh Samui or nested in a goose down comforter someplace cold, daydreaming about a good hammock swing.

And yet, unlike Central and South America, Asia has no hammock-making tradition. That is set to change now, thanks to the persistence of Daniel Elber, whose non-profit Future for Children has been changing the lives of the poorest communities in the drought-prone mountain slopes of eastern Bali. 

BALI HAMMOCKS  

Daniel was looking for new ways to provide a sustainable livelihood for the women of Muntigunung, whose sole source of income was begging in Bali’s more prosperous tourist areas. Could their basket-weaving skills be re-imagined for making hammocks, he wondered?

Handmade Hammocks

That’s how one master hammock-maker Walter Cruz from El Salvador —the ‘Land of the Hammocks’ (and considered to produce the best in the world) spent three months in the remote village of Kulkul, teaching his ancestral craft to 35 mountain women. And while they had no common language — he spoke Spanish and they a Balinese dialect — what they now share is an uncommon ability to craft absolutely stunning hammocks.

BALI HAMMOCKS

Lighter and less expensive is the chongos-tassle-decorated Muntigunung, which is as stylish but, without the spreaders, will even go into your hand luggage. If you prefer a more upright seating position to lying supine, the chair hammock will appeal — it looks as good in a living room as by the pool.

BALI HAMMOCKS

There are also custom hammocks and chair hammocks, and anyone with a tiny tot in the family will find the baby hammock irresistible. These incredibly comfortable artisan hammocks are so much more than an alternative seating choice or lifestyle accessory. Each is an individual work of art, and each requires not hours but weeks to make… patiently and painstakingly by hand, with pride. If that is not enough incentive to acquire one, then think of this:  with every purchase, you are providing an income for the women of Muntigunung and a means for them to raise their self-esteem,

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Bali Souvenirs Worth Buying

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Textiles outside a Bali souvenir shop

Bali holiday agendas can quickly fill up trying to satisfy everyone’s expectations – I want relaxation, you want adventure and our kids need to upload impressive new images on Instagram. Let’s do this!  In-villa spa therapist: check, romantic dinner: check, snorkelling trip: check, WIFI: check – and at the end of a satisfying stay, everyone wants the same thing: Souvenirs. 

Picking up gifts and treating yourself to something exotic is part of a good tourist experience. This is especially true in Bali, where there is a great selection of things to buy – genuine leather bags, wallets and sun hats are priced at a good value, but are not only found in this locale. Souvenirs which scream “I <3 Bali” are indeed popular buys, like key chains, pens, T-shirts and even tattoos of Mt. Agung. Although they’re all Island of the Gods exclusives, those aren’t the quality goods I recommend to my guests. 

My idea of the best Bali souvenirs are goods made from local materials that represent Balinese culture and traditions of artistic expression. The ornately carved statues, exotic Batik patterns, beautifully adorned temples and carefully handcrafted everyday items are what make Bali so special and memorable. Well, not all of these fit nicely into a suitcase.

So which asli (real) products from Bali are beautiful, useful items you can easily carry with you to be reminded of Bali for years to come? 

With a bit of effort, you can take home keepsakes that are true to their origins. This list of souvenirs worth buying has pictures to inspire your shopping wish list and tips about where to go to find Bali’s treasure without a time-consuming hunt. 

Patung Kayu  (Wood Carvings)

Wood Barong mask Bali souvenir

Barong masks are a prevailing Bali souvenir. Barong is Bali’s guardian spirit, and masks worn to play Barong and Rangda in the traditional dance about good and evil are sacred. Nothing is more representative of Balinese art and culture than a hand-carved Barong mask made from local wood.

Painted wood figures from Bali

Matching wood figures seated together to bring good luck and fertility to couples. Balinese pairs sit with their hands together in a welcoming gesture, making them easy to tell apart from similar Javanese dolls.

Wood bowls from Bali

Wooden bowls, serving trays and other dishes are great for serving food or as décor.

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Open Studios at Phuket Art Village

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girl at phuket art village

A colourful and quirky artists’ enclave hidden away in the southern neighbourhood of Rawai, the Phuket Art Village is a hippy chic collection of working art studios; home to some of the island’s most outstanding local artists. Both eclectic and charming, the Phuket Art Village oozes artistic flair.

Home to a group of unique studios that were built by their artists (and are in many instances lived in) the Phuket Art Village functions as a creative space for both the artists in residence and the local community… travellers included.

phuket art village

As well as selling their wares on-site, the artists host painting classes, sculpture workshops, environmental awareness seminars and jam sessions. A visit to the village makes a good outing for art-lovers and groups of all ages including families (contact the venue in advance to find out about scheduled art workshops and shadow puppet shows for your kids).

There are several studios and galleries to explore within the village. Most are open daily, although hours vary depending on the season. Here we introduce two of the artists you might meet:

niran art gallery

Niran Art Gallery

A slight, kind and softly-spoken man originally from Chiang Mai in the north of Thailand, artist Niran Chanhom relocated to Phuket several years ago because of his love for the sea. And it is the sea that has become his greatest inspiration.

painting at niran art gallery in phuket

Driftwood in all shapes and sizes collected from Phuket’s various beaches are the beating heart of many of his creations. His artistic flair is perhaps best captured in his life-size wooden sculptures of fish and other marine life. These driftwood sea creatures are not only beautiful, but also reflect Niran’s hopes of protecting the ocean.

phuket art village

While making art from driftwood will always be his favourite medium, in recent years Niran has evolved his craft and taken to large canvases – often depicting a lonely fisherman with his fishing pole or catch of the day – to let his creativity explode. His abstract paintings are both bright and colourful and introduce new characters to his artistic line-up. Niran’s latest works are a series of mismatched faces and a few smaller pieces that highlight the bond between mother and child.

phuket art gallery

A visit to Niran’s art gallery in Phuket is an opportunity to admire his work and get up close and personal with the artist himself.

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The Balinese Art of Monster-making

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nyepi ogoh ogoh bali art

Nyepi is the first day of the Saka lunar calendar, a sacred occasion in Bali when people stay indoors for quiet reflection. For many visitors in Bali during this time of year, the message is strong and simple, for respecting ‘Silent Day’ is mandatory: stay in, turn off the lights and be quiet. From dawn until dawn, the island completely shuts down, including the airport. Only pecalang (neighbourhood security) go out in public, whilst everyone else takes time for personal reflection at home.

What more is there to know about the annual Nyepi holy day in Bali, and what do the papier-mâché monsters in the streets have to do with it?

paksi ireng crow ogoh ogoh

Arts are integral to Balinese culture, and the Balinese have a long history as accomplished woodworkers, stone sculptors, gold- and silversmiths, and textile- and basket-weavers, as well as being ingenious horticulturalists. Balinese artisan crafts, ceremonial customs, daily offerings, performance arts, masks, costumes, adornments and agricultural traditions are all ways of life which honour the values of Balinese Hindu ideology; at the crux a divine balance between people, God and nature.

Balinese customs preceding Nyepi are all about maintaining this trinity, known as the Tri Hita Karana, by cleansing, warding off all evil forces and giving selfless offerings before the start of the new year.

bamboo frame

The great task of ridding the island of a year’s worth of evils is taken care of by giant ogoh-ogoh statues of mythological witches, grotesque demons or modern anti-heroes.

Just one of the many essential rituals surrounding Nyepi, the ogoh-ogoh are paraded around by their creators in raucous processions late into the night on the eve of Nyepi. They scare away or encapsulate bad entities, then get set on fire at the cemetery to burn to complete non-existence.

ohoh ogoh head

Despite their short lifespans, ogoh-ogoh can be elaborate monstrosities with impressive construction and attention to detail. A popular and visually stunning trend is to create artworks which appear to hover in thin air or connect multiple figures in a dynamic pose. In each of Bali’s thousands of banjars (community organizations), young adults begin making an ogoh-ogoh weeks or even months in advance of Nyepi.

Many adults can’t resist joining in this artistic tradition. Local Bali tattoo artist and graphic designer Putu Marmar Herayukti is one of them.

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