LEMPAD OF BALI – Another Look, by Rio Helmi

Saturday 20th September saw the launch of yet another major book on legendary Balinese artist I Gusti Nyoman Lempad, this time penned by six highly regarded experts on Balinese art and culture. Intrigued, we went along to the press conference at Puri Lukisan Museum in Ubud.

After decades of drought, suddenly it’s raining Lempads. This time the Puri Lukisan Museum, the original art museum of Ubud started in the early 1950s under the patronage of Ubud’s royal family of Puri Saren, has published a weighty tome:  Lempad of Bali, the Illuminating Line. There is a special and unique significance to this sponsorship, as the artist I Gusti Nyoman Lempad had a very close and special relationship with his royal patrons, the Tjokordas of Ubud., and also as theMuseum Puri Lukisan is closely linked to the Pita Maha creative art movement of the 30’s of which Lempad was an important part.

Kicking off the press conference on Saturday was Tjokorda Putera Sukawati, who pointed out that prior to this movement there were no “artists” as such in Bali – creative people worked in their socially definedroles as undagi  (a traditional amalgam of artist, artisan, architect, and cultural conoisseur) and pragina (traditional dance and theater performer); their work was to serve the public by using their creativity in temples and palaces. He also pointed out that Lempad would frequent the palace to listen to readings of traditional scriptures, and so was steeped in the mythic lore of Bali. Tjokorda Putera pointed out that the 30s marked the first real intersection with the outside world for the Balinese.

The need for, and significance of, a publication of this nature cannot be understated, as those close to Lempad were imminently aware.  As Bruce Carpenter pointed out, this book had always been one of the great wishes of the late I Gusti Made Sumung, Lempad’s son, and of the late John Darling, who was something of a Sumung protegé.

A few months ago, another large book book, Lempad,  was published by Picture Publishers of the Netherlands. It is to Lempad’s credit that two large books could be dedicated to his work in such quick succession. Indeed, Lempad could be said to be the most internationally significant Balinese artist to date. As curious about it as I was, I put the question to Bruce Carpenter: what is the substantive difference between Lempad of Bali, the Illuminating Line and the previous book, Lempad?

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