30 April - 23 June 2004
Curator: Janice Baker
Drawn largely from private collections in Perth, the Indonesian textiles and Balinese art in Threading Cultures cover a time period of nearly a hundred years, from 1907 to the beginning of this century.
The exhibition, expressive of the long-standing connections between Indonesia and Australia, reflects the diverse cultural history of our closest neighbour, a country of more than 300 ethnic identities spread across 13,000 islands of the Indonesian archipelago.
Textiles are arguably the most enduring and culturally significant art form throughout the Indonesian region. The wax-resistant batik and woven cloths displayed in the Maller Gallery highlight regional aspects of textile production from Java and across Indonesia. Originally produced for personal adornment or ceremonial purpose, these textiles are distinguished by rich colours of blue, brown, cream and red vegetable dyes as well as by distinctive patterns and motifs.
Many of these motifs have their origin in the Indian textile city of Gujarat and were brought to Sumatra and Java by early 7th century traders. These include continuous patterns of stars, flowers and tendrils, and wide borders dominated by a triangular grid (pucuk rebung). Through the centuries, as a result of continual trading as well as immigration and colonisation, other design elements were incorporated including Chinese stylised animals and Dutch floral bouquets. These motifs were amalgamated with Javanese symbols, including the broken knife design (parang rusak), dragon-snake (naga) and geometric kawung patterns. Most of the batiks in the exhibition were acquired by Elizabeth Scott when she lived in Indonesia during the 1980s.
The Balinese paintings and drawings in the exhibition, reflect changing artistic practices and values on the island of Bali since the 1930s. Rapid social change and the commercialisation of art associated with tourism have resulted in a distinctive art charactersised by symbols and legends from the past as well as aspects of the modern. Numerous works feature highly decorative detail and intricate lines, the result of artists working with Chinese ink applied with fine pens and brushes home-made from bamboo.
Most of the paintings and drawings in Threading Cultures were acquired in Bali by Chris Hill who has carried out extensive research on the succession of teacher-student relationships in Bali. Many of the artists represented in the exhibition are linked - the mentor of Dewa Putu Mokoh and Gusti Putu Sana was their uncle Gusti Ketut Kobot. He learned to paint from Tjokorde Oka Gambir, who had another student Wayan Tohjiwa, also represented in the exhibition. One of the early works in the exhibition is Wayan Tohjiwa's Balinese temple cloth Struggle for the Amerta(1939). Reflecting a very different style and subject matter Mokoh's recent paintings portray life in contemporary Bali.