Saturday, August 16, 2014

Balinese Paintings – Ider-Ider[1-2]

Marie-Therese Wisniowski

Balinese paintings fall into five categories: flags and banners; (ii) ceiling paintings; (iii) ider-ider (cloth painting in a horizontal strip format); (iv) langse (form of a cloth painting used as a curtain) and, (v) tabing (kind of cloth painting in a rectangular format hung on walls) – Part I, Part II, Part III and Part IV.

Whatever the historical origins of Balinese traditional paintings, it’s the religious affiliations within the community that are evident at all levels of societal activity: paintings were highly prestigious and sought after decorations for festivals in all kinds of temples. The chosen themes in a painting made to decorate a village temple, often emphasized the triumph of the less powerful.

Theme of the Bali Arts Festival XXXV 2013 - “Taksu: Brings about Creative Power and Identity”.

Today’s post will focus on the ider-ider form but before we do, we need to discuss the techniques used in the forms of Balinese paintings.

Techniques Used in Balinese Paintings
Balinese paintings are now done on machine-made cloth or occasionally on wood panels. Large imports of white cloth appeared to have started at the beginning of 20th Century. Earlier records suggest that Bali was in fact an exporter of coarse plain cloth spun and woven from locally grown cotton, and it is this material in various degrees of fineness that was traditionally used for painting, as well as bark-cloth imported from East Indonesia, mainly Sulawesi. Note: Bark-cloth comes primarily from trees of the Moraceae family. It is made by beating sodden strips of the fibrous inner bark of these trees into sheets, which are then finished into a variety of items.

Bark-cloth-style botanical pattern on skirt-weight cotton fabric.

Bark-cloth needs little preparation for painting, since the wood is prepared with ground made from bone-ash. However, cotton - whether machine made or home spun - needs treatment before the first stage of producing a painting can be entertained. The surface of the cloth must be smoothed, so that pen lines can be drawn fluently, while the cloth must be able to absorb the ink.

The cotton cloth is first boiled in a rice paste, which impregnates it, and after drying it must be polished with a shell, usually a large cowrie under considerable pressure.

Cowrie shells.

The cloth is then laid on a flat board and pressure is applied by a “spring” made from strong pieces of fresh bamboo; one end of the bamboo fits securely into a slot in the roof of the pavilion, while the cowrie is on the other. The bamboo is bent to allow the cowrie to reach the painting and so enable a continuous applied pressure to the cloth, while the cowrie is moved backwards and forwards across the whole surface of the cloth. This process is usually repeated before the final finishing stage or sometimes after the whole picture is finished. Carefully and properly done it produces a highly glazed surface.

Kadek and his wife work together (see above three photographs). They size the cotton cloth with rice starch, draw the image with a pencil, ink over pencil lines, and then fill in the colors with a combination of gouache, watercolor, and hand-ground Chinese paint.

There is a careful balance to be achieved in the amount of rice paste used for preparing a cloth. In the 19th Century the amounts were small and the surface - although it took split bamboo pens well - still was a little rough. Sometime in the 20th Century it became the custom to use more rice paste, producing a thicker ground which could be polished yielding a much shinier and smoother surface. This change may have heralded the introduction of steel nibs, which have the tendency to splutter in the face of any surface roughness. The thicker paste produced paintings that looked more vivid and could take finer detail. The disadvantage lay in the fact that the paint no longer penetrated the polished surface and so could not reach the cloth. Hence repeated folding or water damage that may cause the surface to flake would leave the cloth bare of paint. The better artists then resorted once more for the thinner glaze resulting in the ink reaching the cloth. Moreover, by mixing the colors with glue, the ground was not only penetrated and so the cloth absorbed the paint, but the glue also assisted the colors to adhere to the cloth. More recently artists working for the tourist market have adopted the “antic” style, which uses thin unbleached cloth, often of a rather open weave, which is meant to simulate hand woven old Balinese cloth. A thin rice paste coating is applied and although the colors appear rather dull, the end results does yield an aged or antique appearance.

Temptation of Arjuna, Scenes from the Arjunawiwaha (The Marriage of Arjuna) 
Indonesia, Bali, possibly Kamasan, early 20th Century. 
Watercolour, ink, and charcoal on cloth.

All of the ider-ider presented below are steeped in Hindu tradition. It is impossible to give a background to each story behind each ider-ider since each one would be the length of a post in its own right. Thus for greater detail on each of the stories associated with the artwork you should procure reference[1] for your library or visit the Sydney Museum web site[2].

Traditional Balinese Painting: Ider – Ider
These very long hangings are tied under the eaves of pavilions in the temples or palaces, just under the end of the hatch. They should circumscribe the outside of the building. The story is told in a series of scenes, usually reading from left to right in the manner of strip cartoons. To follow the story, the viewer walks around the building in an anti-clockwise direction. Some ider-ider read from right to left, so that the story goes in a clockwise direction around the building. Such reversals are common in the rituals associated with death and so these ider-ider are used in death temples.

Ider-ider: Malat (?) - Two Court Scenes (a detail only of a part of first scene).
Size: 33 x 300 cm.
Courtesy of reference[1].

Comment[1]: Kamasan work, mid 19th Century; artists unknown. Sadang work but very fine and precise drawing and coloring. It retains a very high polish. Medium cloth with many insect holes.

This ider-ider had only two scenes, both of which are court interactions. The painting is extremely hierarchical with its static array of nobles and small grotesque Sudras (members of the lowest caste). The hairstyles are those of the “post-mythological” type and the dress, ornaments and the carrying kris (i.e. Indonesian and Malay ceremonial dagger), are based on actual court practice. The subject is possibly from a Malat story, but there is so little narrative it is impossible to identify exactly the subject of the story.

In the first scene (see above) a Sudra man is telling a story to a raja (i.e. King), behind whom is a modest princess. Presenting the Sudra is a patih (i.e. title of a high ranking King's advisor) – a senior minister – supported by two noble courtiers of whom the paler skinned one might be Panji, the protagonist of the Malat cycle. At each extremity of this scene are grotesque servants with sirih boxes (i.e. boxes holding betel chewing gum) of gilded wood.

Ider-ider: Gods (Commissioned – detail of only one part of cloth – first scene). Note: This is a contact photograph and so the colors do not match the original colors.
Size: 30 x 467 cm.
Courtesy of references[1-2].

Comment[1]: Kamasan, Manku Mura, 1972. Halus (fine and delicate) work on European cloth but not using the most expensive finish.

This ider-ider was commissioned by A. Forge[2] from Manku Mura in order to show the full variety of eye and other facial features, headdresses and so on, used in Balinese paintings. The artist complained that he could not do that in just one story and so he completed the commission using parts of several stories. The first scene (from the left) features the gods: Yama (not shown), Bruna (shown), Daniswara (shown), Wraspati (shown) and Indra (shown) and so on. There are in fact a total of four scenes in this ider-ider.

Ider-ider: Rangda – Barong, and Bharatayuddha (Krisna greets Kunti).
Note: This is a contact photograph and so the colors do not match the original colors.
Size: 29 x 364 cm.
Courtesy of references[1-2].

Comment[1]: From Djasi, Karangasem; presumably local work; artist unknown; possibly 1920s. Halus work (i.e. finest workmanship); two pieces of thick Balinese cloth sewn together before painting. Styles of the two halves are very different.

The right hand portion has two scenes showing the visit of Krisna to the Korawas, to try and prevent the start of the long battle that constitutes Bharatayuddha. In the first scene (above) the leaders of the Korawas receive Krisna (from left to right): Karna (not shown), with Delem kneeling in from of him (not shown), Sakuni (shown), Duryodana (shown) and the blind father of the Korawas (shown).

Ider-ider: Ramayana – Battle.
Note: This is a contact photograph and so the colors do not match the original colors.
Size: 23 x 575 cm.
Courtesy of references[1-2].

Comment[1]: Kamasan; artist is probably Kaiyun; ca. 1900 (?); halus work on thick Balinese cloth, but uses no kincu. In excellent condition.

In the last section of the battle scene (above) Angada is shown driving Indrajit, Rawana’s son, from his chariot, and killing the charioteer (shown full face with a skin like a tiger).

Ider-ider: Arjuna Wiwaha – Arjuna and Siwa (detail of scene four).
Note: This is a contact photograph and so the colors do not match the original colors.
Size: 23 x 392 cm.
Courtesy of references[1-2].

Comment[1]: Kamasan work; artist possibly Kumpi Karta; second half of the 19th Century; halus work on Balinese cloth, some holes in the fabric.

In scene four (depicted above) Siwa returns to his godly shape and receives exaggerated forms of sembahs from Arjuna, Twalen and Morda. In one of his two right hands, Siwa holds an arrow, presumably the magical Pasupati, which he is going to present to Arjuna.

Ider-ider: Hanoman and Bima.
Size: 30 x 524 cm.
Courtesy of references[1-2].

Comment[1]: Kamasan, Pak Remi; ca. 1910; kasar (crude or rough) work on thin Balinese cloth with a good polish.

This kasar features one hero from the Ramayana – Hanoman – the monkey general; and one hero from Mahabharata – Birma – the unrefined Pandawa brother.

The above image depicts a symmetrical scene in which Hanoman and Bima kick each other over, because of the jealousy between the two rescuers for the princess affections.

Ider-ider: Bima Swarga – Bima’s Visit to Hell.
Note: This is a contact photograph and so the colors do not match the original colors.
Size: 22 x 442 cm.
Courtesy of references[1-2].

Comment[1]: Kamasan, mid 19th Century; sedang work on Balinese cloth, somewhat torn and faded in places. Two pieces of a longer painting, which were previously sewn together with a false join. There is also a piece missing from the end.

The story of Bima’s journey to hell, and confrontation with Yama, the god of the underworld is a favorite with the Balinese.

The above scene depicts Bima (shown) with Dharmawangsa (shown), Nakula (shown) and Sadewa behind him, takes leave of his mother Kunti (shown), who is accompanied by Arjuna (not shown).

Ider-ider: Bharatayuddha (Cantos 8-12) – Death of Wirata’s Sons.
Size: 29 x 1075 cm.
Courtesy of references[1-2].

Comment[1]: Kamasan work; artist possibly Sambug; late 19th Century; Halus work on thin Balinese cloth; in excellent condition.

This painting portrays the first day of fighting between the Korawas and the Pandawas. The first scene (depicted above) is the conference held at the Pandawa camp, before they set off to do battle. To the left of the tree is Krisna, with other allies of Pandawas standing behind him: Drupada (shown), Sikandi (shown), Drastadyumna (shown) and Satyaki (shown). Krisna is reporting the failure of his peace mission to the Pandawa brothers, who stand to the right of the tree behind their kneeling servant, Twalen. From left to right they are: Dharmawangsa, Arjuna, Bima, and the twins, Nakula and Sadewa. The other servant, Morda, completes the array.

Ider-ider Bharatayuddha – Death of Salia (read right to left).
Size: 29 x 450 cm.
Courtesy of references[1-2].

Comment[1]: Kamasan work; probably Kak Lui, 1910-1920. Kasar work; an inexpensive piece for sale to poor temples or families; probably for a Pura Dalem (temple Dalem) as it reads right to left and is concerned with death.

The last scene, which is depicted above, shows a Rudra’s heaven reception in which Salia and their attendants offer his two wives ambrosia. The immediate transfer to heaven is a reward for the fulfillment of the Ksatria duty to die in battle – or in the case of the women - to kill themselves on the death of their husband.

Ider-ider Folktale – Calonarang Episode.
Size: 28 x 785 cm.
Courtesy of references[1-2].

Comment[1]: Kamasan work; artist probably Nyoman Dogol; early 20th Century. Obtained from the Pura Dalem Bugbugan in Gelgel. Sedang style, but good work. Thin cloth with many splits, locally repaired. Last scene missing. Paint in good condition.

The fifth scene is depicted above. It shows a large group of common people begging Mpu Barada for help. All make sebah (praise) and the women at the back have their hair covered with a cloth (a sign of widowhood). The setting is the cemetery in which he lives. The usual setting surrounds the tree. An arm and a leg – each with their own head to show their independent existence – float in the air. Mpu Barada’s servant wears the servant’s version of the ketu (skullcap) and carries a lontar box, indicating the scholarly attributes of his master. Mpu Barada himself radiates sakti - supernatural power. He wears a long coat (an attribute of the most learned men). It is of the pattern of red cloth with gold trimming, but its carefully displayed lining is black and white checked cloth – poleng. Mpu Barada’s face also shows force, with round eyes and luxuriant hair. The hairstyle with raised knobs is typical of that of some raksasa (giants), showing that Mpu Barada was adept of black as well as white magic – the power of good alone, no matter how strong, being sufficient to defeat the evil Rangda.

Ider-ider: Tantri – Prabu Gadjadruma or “The Four Ministers” (reads left to right - detailed).
Note: This is a contact photograph and so the colors do not match the original colors.
Size: 29 x 988 cm.
Courtesy of references[1-2].

Comment[1]: Kamasan, artist probably Sambug; ca. 1900. A halus work on thin Balinese cloth, in excellent condition.

The story centers on four ministers (mantra) who reside at the north, south, east and west of the kingdom. Their wise conduct has preserved the kingdom in peace and prosperity. However, on succession of a new King, Prabu Gadjadruma, his favourite followers (seeking their own advancement) tell the King that the mantra are being disloyal by building an alternative source of power. They convince him that the mantra should be recalled to Court. The first scene depicted above shows prabu suitably attended, announcing his decision to recall the mantra.

Ider-ider Tantri – Pedanda and Bull.
Size: 26 x 577 cm.
Courtesy of references[1-2].

Comment[1]: The first scene of this ider-ider leaves us in no doubt that the story to be presented is from the Tantri cycle; Tantri herself, presumably about to begin to tell her story, is shown sitting on the raja’s bed. Tantri holds his leg – a gesture both submissive and affectionate. On the foot of the bed is the old female servant. Tantri’s nurse, who appears to be prompting Tantri, as she is depicted as speaking.

The basic story centers of Siwa presenting itself as a blue bull, a gift to Tantri due to his pray. The bull - after escaping a murderous attempt - is attacked by dogs, that he is able to ward off. The dogs report the arrival of a new and powerful animal to the king of the forest.

Ider-ider Tantri – Prabu Lembu nd Prabu Singga. Note: This is a contact photograph and so the colors do not match the original colors.
Size: 61 x 520 cm.
Courtesy of references[1-2].

Comment[1]: Detail of ider ider painting depicting the Tantri story of King Lion and King Bull in conflict (detail). Gianyar area, possibly Batuan, early 20th Century, probably from a palace in Gianyar. Barely finished work of great vigor on thick European cloth.

The ider-ider continues the story above. The bull having reached the forest meets the Lion King and eventually converts him to vegetarianism, as a superior way to power. The dogs try to eat grass but are always ill because of it. They therefore feast on carcasses – having revolted against a contradictory but established authority, thereby enjoying a republican form of government ever after.

Folktale – Pan Briyut (detail).
Note: This is a contact photograph and so the colors do not match the original colors.
Size: 23 x 380 cm.
Courtesy of references[1-2].

Comment[1]: Kamasan work, artist possibly Kumpi Mesira, ca. 19000; halus work, some wear at the top, some flaking of the paint surface.

“Pan Briyut” is a very popular folk story. Mem Briyut – his wife – has eighteen children. Her husband has to do all the domestic duties. The children constantly quarrel and make their parents lives a misery. The parents are very poor, but when the children grow up, their sheer number and their hard labor, make the family very rich. They can even form their own troupe to perform the Rangda-Barong drama, complete with their own family orchestra.

Ider-ider: Folktale – Wedding of Pan Briyut’s Son (detail - reads right to left).
Note: This is a contact photograph and so the colors do not match the original colors.
Size: 33 x 865 cm.
Courtesy of references[1-2].

Comment[1]: This ider-ider tells the story of Ketut Subaya, one of Pan Briyut’s eighteen children. Although he was ugly, he had great prowess as a lover. The final scene (depicted above) shows the consummation of his marriage, with the giggling attendant being a standard extra in the scene.

[1] A. Forge, Balinese Traditional Paintings, The Australian Museum, Sydney (1978).
[2] The Australian Museum (Sydney, NSW).

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