After showcasing his signature of single body object, now Ida Bagus Putu Purwa presents them in groups, in more colorful blocks and on paper

Strong muscular bodies, connected yet unorganized, in one canvas, in various positions. One sits as if it experiences fear. One are on his four, another squats, lies down and on the back as they stretch out – as if they are in a contemporary dance performance.

Cacophony of figures is accentuated with bright contrast colors in the background, distracting the audience from its focus. These colors are actually the focus of his paintings, not the muscular bodies.

These paintings are new works of art from talented Balinese painter, Ida Bagus Putu Purwa, exhibited in his second solo exhibition in dia.lo.gue artspace gallery, in Kemang, Jakarta. There are 12 new artworks showcased in the exhibition launched since 18 April to 12 May. The title of this exhibition is Imba Tubuh (Illustrating the Human Body), taken from Ancient Javanese language.

This is not Purwa’s first time of focusing on the body. In this exhibition, Purwa goes through different exploration. In the exhibition catalogue, Vidyasuri Utami who translates this exhibition into writing, explains how Purwa showcases the figures into various rhythms or positions – known as agem in Balinese dance – combined in color blocks.

This is different compared to Purwa’s works of art of men in motion – as if they fly or jump high. The background now jumps forward with their contrasting colors. “I personally have not satisfied with body exploration I did in my previous works. I got bored with my old styles. I want to explore new frontiers through different colors and medium,” explains Purwa.

Entering the gallery, visitors are greeted with 200 x 285 cm painting titled Under the Full Moon. Those who are familiar with Purwa’s previous artworks will immediately notice the difference. Purwa no longer shows one single figure, he now presents dozens of them in various poses.

Interestingly, he positions his figures in a harmonious composition to the background. “We simply notice the dimension from the positioning of subjects in Purwa’s work. When we incorporate perspective element however, the dimension collapses because the objects are essentially flat,” explains Utami.

Through his works, Purwa would like to show his new exploration of ideas and imaginations. Details on the body appear stronger, yet he seems to put aside motion – his signature. Quoting John Cage, a well known composer from the US: “Experimental action is one of unexpected results,” Purwa admits that he is bored with his old style.

In his works, Purwa accentuates the use of color instead of figures – as exemplified in these pictures, titled In Yellow, In Blue and Golden Moon. He is not worried with the dominant background taking over the focus from the figures, because figures are not the essence of his paintings.

“Colors are not backgrounds, they are themes of my works. Through colors I express my feeling. Blue in Under the Full Moon shows my feelings of being confused, disoriented and depressed. Yellow and red in Golden Moon are identical with hope, spirit and enthusiasm,” explains this artist, born in Sanur, Bali, in 1976.

Yet Purwa equips the figures with explicit expressions and body movements. “Expression and emotion of each figure are very important. Even when one is taken aback, contemplates and remains still – he or she expresses emotion,” he explains.

In these paintings, Purwa also uses circles to strengthen the meaning. In 3 Dunia painting, Purwa uses circles to symbolize the ‘limits’ of three worlds inspired by Hindu belief and Balinese culture on lower world (the untouchable), man’s world and upper world of the gods.

Unfortunately, symmetrical circles tend to ‘restrict’ the view – unconsciously wiping the meaning of freedom Purwa has long embraced in each of his works.

Purwa also uses paper instead of canvas, another new element introduced in Purwa’s exhibition. In classic fine arts, even though paper has long been used, nowadays many contemporary artists do not use it. “I started to explore paper as my painting media since the beginning of 2013 after being challenged by Berlin Avantgarde gallery in Germany. For me, this is new. I am quite happy with the result,” explains Purwa.

In his duet exhibition with Dutch artist, Marianne van Heeswijk in Berlin Avantgarde, Purwa showcases 22 paintings on paper. He maintains his use of male muscular bodies as exhibited in dia.lo.gue artspace, to express his ideas.

Purwa is interested in using body language since the beginning of his career because they are more meaningful than words. “For me, bodies can not lie. Hence body language is an accurate self-expression. It is why I use male bodies to express my feeling, emotion and imagination,” he says.

A slight difference is apparent in his figures. They are no longer dominated by gray colors. Red, green and blue dominate in a number of paintings. Some silhouettes are painted brick red, others are in expressed in blue. Purwa also adds ornaments such as Balinese fans in the painting, an add-on he long disbands.

“I am tired of looking at the same thing. I tried to add colors and additional ornaments,” argues Purwa – a graduate from Indonesian School of Arts in Bali in 1998.

When he explores paper, Purwa admits of facing a number of obstacles. It is because he has to deal with paper that has different characteristic with canvas, and he is limited to smaller size. His painting techniques cannot be immediately translated into paper. As a result, dozens of paintings end up in the trash bin.

“Oil painting and charcoals produce very different result on paper, as well as dusel (smudging) technique I have been using,” he explains.

Utami describes how Purwa’s paintings on paper become “more delicate and more detailed” compared to his works on canvas. “We sometimes ignore an art work presented in a smaller dimension. Yet the process of creation and efforts to create it are as deep as the large-scale artworks,” writes Utami. This exhibition showcases how an artist makes his shifts from his signature style to another new technique as well as an invitation to the public to appreciate paper as a medium of artistic expression.


Indonesian version