Saturday, September 5, 2009

‘Punching the Devil’ in Ubud

People often complain about the lack of craftsmanship in the fine arts, and they may be right, but Australian conceptual artist Rodney Glick is adept at combining the best of both worlds.

His latest exhibition, titled “Punching the Devil,” is scheduled to open at Gaya Art Space in Ubud, in the center of Bali Island on Saturday night, and will include a number of wood sculptures that were whittled, carved and hand painted by Balinese artists and artisans over hundreds of hours.

Glick photographed Westerners in poses associated with Hindu gods to illustrate the way in which ordinary people and the divine are joined.

The photographs were digitally altered to create images of people with eight arms or three faces, for example, or carrying a severed head by the hair, and these images are included in the exhibition.

Glick said that his collaboration with the Balinese craftsmen and painters had been mutually beneficial.

“Everyone’s getting credited on it. They are my initial designs and photos. I’m employing them [Balinese artists], in a sense, to do a particular job.”

“Since before the Renaissance, Rueben, Leonardo, many artists, would map out things and have a team doing the work. It has become more obvious in our contemporary society because you’re not contained in one studio,” Glick said.

Carver Made Leno, originally from Kemenuh village near Ubud, collaborated with Glick on previous sculptures and carved five pieces for the current show.

Painters Wayan Darmadi from Bona Kelod, and Dewa Tirtayasa from Abianbase are both art school graduates and are collaborating with Glick for the first time in “Punching the Devil.”

A number of the exhibited works feature knives and blood.

“To Westerners, this is quite gory,” Glick said. But he challenges viewers to see beyond the gore to the exhibition’s larger themes of love, loss, learning and rebirth.

“The [woodcarvings] intrigue us because of the mix of ancient and modern, religious and secular, Eastern and Western,” said Chris Hill, an Australian artist, who also collaborated with Glick on the exhibit.

“And we might find some comfort in knowing that the states of mind we share with the rest of humanity we also share with the gods,” he said.

This is the first time that Glick’s art has been exhibited in Bali.

“Punching the Devil” will also be shown at the Salihara arts complex in South Jakarta in December.

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