Bali Art

Through the centuries Bali has seen the emergence and transformation of its arts. Balinese art has been practiced and used as an integral part of the Hindu religion since its arrival in the first century.  While some of the Balinese arts have remained relatively unchanged over the centuries like dance and music others have evolved into forms of expression only found on this beautiful island. These artistic changes are a result of influences brought here from foreign lands and the artistic abilities of the indigenous population. Influential factors in the evolution of Bali art include the 200 year Dutch occupation and later the western teachings of other Western and Eastern counties. To comprehend the vast body of art known as “Balinese Art” you need to look into Bali’s ancient Hindu religion and the works of its modern artisans.

The arts of Dance and Music have both modern and historical branches. Dances that have remained relatively unchanged in Bali are those that are closely tied to the Hindu religion. Dances like Barong, Keris, and Rejang  are performed more for the gods themselves than the villagers that perform and watch these performances. Each of these dances and numerous other ceremonies like weddings, cremations, and rites of passage have specific music pieces that have been passed down through the generations unchanged. Dances like Kecak, Ramayana, and Legong are dances that have come into being as either entertainment or to teach lessons. As these dances are not directly tied to the religion of the Island the actual dance movements and the musical accompaniment of each continue to evolve. 
Balinese Dance Masks
Gamelan and Other Bali Music Instruments

Traditional Bali paintings appear to be very two dimensional and produced with non-vivid natural inks. These traditional artworks were teaching tools more than what we now consider “works of art” so many consider these pieces primitive. In the 1920’s and 1930’s  Western painters such as Walter Spies and Rudolf Bonnet brought techniques and materials to Bali that allowed the Balinese artist to express themselves in pieces now seen to be “works of art” and far from primitive.
Traditional Paintings of Bali
Modern Paintings of Bali

Carving stone and wood in Bali maybe the two arts that have evolved the most from their religious origin. Until recently sculptures in Bali produced religious works for temples and other religious areas. With the arrival of western tourist and the market for all types of artistic sculptures the variety of carvings in both wood and stone has grown immensely. Today traditional carvers creating temple decorations and deities are still common but they are outnumbered by the number of carvers creating artworks for the domestic and international markets.

Pottery in Bali is mainly Terracotta at this time due to the kilns that are required to fire clay at high temperatures. Although Indonesia had a large domestic and international market for ceramic products these items are mainly building and commercial materials. Currently Bali is experiencing growth in ceramic work but the expense of electric and gas fired kilns is a major block for most home industry artists. Although there are a few artisans on the island that are creating both terracotta and ceramic pieces most of the pottery found on the island is either from Java or Lombok.

Jewelry has historically been part of Balinese life.
In the palaces of the kings of Bali it was common for royalty to wear elaborate headdresses, necklaces, and bracelets every day. It was also common for high cast members dwelling out side the palaces to own jewelry but these pieces were usually reserved for religious ceremonies and other formal occasions. The Balinese wear intricate and heavy jewelry pieces for weddings these pieces are frequently seen in pictures of Bali were a beautiful island girl has numerous gold flowers woven into here hair. Men also wear special necklaces, armbands, bracelets, and headdresses for weddings but they are not the same as those worn by the women.
Today it is common to see Balinese Men and some women wearing large rings set with semi –precious stones. These rings were originals worn by Holly men, Healers, and Guards as they were attributed with spirits and supernatural powers. Today you will find that most Balinese men have at least one of these rings if not more that they wear every day.
The Jewelry produced in Bali has changed greatly over the years to where it is today. Today you will find master craftsmen producing one of a kind hand made gold and silver pieces as well as cast piece for international markets. Generally Bali is known for its hand made jewelry pieces as the fabrication machines are not in place to compete with the cast jewelry manufactures in Thailand and China.

Traditional Ikat weavings are the only type or material that is truly produced in Bali. These pieces are supposedly magical and hold supernatural powers. The art of Ikat weaving in practiced by few in Bali but those who still practice this art demand high prices for pieces as the creation and oxidation of the pieces can take years.
Currently textile are commonly dyed in Bali by traditional Batik methods while numerous garment producers sew these materials into beautiful piece of clothing.

Due to western demand for affordable decorations the art of Bali has found its way into the Handicraft market be it inexpensive paintings or costume jewelry Bali is known through out the world as being a source for inexpensive handicrafts of all types.

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