Bali & Jogja – Ruang & Waktu

by Michelle Chin

After living in Bali for almost twenty years, I made a trip to Jogja to do a survey of the art galleries there, and to visit artists’ studios. One of the first artists I visited was a Balinese friend who was still a student at ISI Yogyakarta. He had what I thought was a fabulous studio and home in a traditional Javanese joglo. I was so impressed with his joglo, I rented one myself almost the next day!

Later, after moving to Jogja, I realised that there are different concepts of space and time in Bali and Jogja. The difference in physical space or environment is obvious if we consider geographical location, but what really struck me was that artists and art students simply have a lot more space in which to work. Their counterparts in Bali often have to work in very cramped conditions, perhaps fortunate if they have a cramped corner or room of their family compound in which to work. In Jogja, due to lower rental prices, an artist or even a student can have a studio that might measure several hundred square metres for his/her studio – a near-impossibility in Bali for all but the wealthiest artists.

Wayan Danu

Wayan Danu

If I consider the time aspect, clearly most of the Balinese artists living and working in Jogja do not have the time-consuming obligations and responsibilities of family and ceremonies, which can take up so much of a working artist’s time when he/she lives in Bali, especially after marriage. Many or most artists and art students in Jogja can actually enjoy the opportunity to devote all their waking hours to art – whether they do so or not is another matter. While many artists in Bali spend a lot of time at cockfights (as well as their family and adat and banjar duties), the most common pastimes for the Balinese artists living in Jogja would seem to be visiting their friends or playing ceki – which, however devoted a player one might be, can probably not take up as much time as all the activities mentioned above for the Balinese artists.

In general, I think that the Balinese artists in Jogja enjoy the luxury of greater freedom in space and time as compared to the Balinese artists in Bali, and this may account for the differences in themes and styles to be found in the works of Balinese artists living and working in Bali or Jogja.

[published in exhibition catalogue: Danu, Arnata, Santiyasa – Dari Dalam Diri, exhibition held at Art Centre, Bali in August 2003]