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The Power of "Visual Movement:" Re-shaping and Re-affirming Religious Practices in Modern Balinese Paintings


This thesis examines specific works from a range of styles, and contrasts the images to understand different types and degrees of “visual movement.” The Balinese painters Ida Bagus Made, I Ketut Madra, Anak Agung Gde Anom Sukawati, and I Gusti Nyoman Mirdiana merge new artistic methods and techniques with Hindu subject matter to create paintings with embedded symbolism. Their innovative methods are used to depict Hindu characters and narratives in a fluid and dynamic manner to represent physical or bodily motion in a painting. The Balinese-Hindu figure in motion that emerges in these works demonstrates an interlinked web amongst visual and performance forms. Most notable is the dual role of painting, shadow puppet-theater, and dance as “narrative” media; this shared function reveals an interconnection of art forms that is particularly relevant to Balinese culture. The Balinese have retained cultural and religious identities, which find a strong expression in Balinese art.

Further examining the history of Balinese painting and dance reveals that artistic innovations and shifts in style are an ongoing process that often coincides with cultural exchanges with European painters, as well as touristic and national issues. Ultimately the production of paintings demonstrates that Balinese artists actively appropriated new techniques and materials to create distinctive and personal images. Balinese art forms reflect practices and beliefs. In this way, specific paintings present a visual account and representation of Balinese identities that are isolated amidst the religious and political climate of Indonesia. Artistic developments in Hindu-themed paintings demonstrate that individual artists are interpreting and representing similar Hindu stories and themes as earlier “traditional” paintings with visual twists, such as “visual movement,” that continually reinvent and re-affirm their beliefs.

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