The sacred arts of Ubud
No place in the world could be greener than Ubud. Everything here is green: the fluorescent emerald
flash of young ricefields, the thick curtains of foliage only greener for scarlet accents of ginger
and hibiscus. Anything that began another color, brick wall or pebble walkway, soon becomes green with
shaggy moss. Even the air possesses apale green cast, as the moisture suspended in it picks up the
pervasive glow of the leafage.
"Magic" is one of those words that travel writers must use with miserly care - usually, it's just hyperbole
for "especially pretty" but there really is magic in Ubud. When Balinese people bereave something, they
consult a balian, a benign sort of sorcerer, who tells them where they'll find it. Balians can analyze
dreams, cure sickeness, go into trances and speak in the voices of forefather. And magic, in the form of
the island's unique religion, is at the core of Bali's arts. A blend of Hinduism and nature worship, Balinese
religion is an ecstatic union of the aesthetic and the spiritual reminiscent of the civilization of archaic
Greece. Bali's famous trance dances, for example, suggest the rites of Bacchus: in the Sanghyang, two girls
who are supposed to be untrained in the dance's intricate choreography go into a trance and, eyes firmly shut,
move in faultless unison. The dance is named after the divine spirit which inhabits them.
When Walter Spies arrived in Bali, he found a culture completely devoted to art, yet to whom the concept
of art for art's sake was alien. The Balinese famously have no word for "artist"; painting, stone and wood
carving, weaving, playing the gamelan, and above all the dance were just what one did when not fishing or
working in the ricefields.
It is an axiom of art history that what used to be known as primitive art had a deep formative influence
on the emergence of modernism in twentieth-century Europe. In Bali, Europe returned the favor: Spies had
an uncanny natural affinity for the Balinese sensibility, and he totally changeed the arts of the island
in the fourteen years he lived there. The well-known Pita Maha school of painting in Ubud, one of the
principal reasons people come from every part of the world to visit here, was virtually his invention.
Traditionally, the Balinese considered painting the be among the lowest of the arts; before Spies it was
comparatively primitive, consisting mainly of astrological shadow-puppet show popular throughout the
archipelago. Painters were strictly limited by convention and the natural pigments, such as bone, soot,
and clay, that were available to them.
Spies, later joined by the Dutch pastelist Rudolf Bonnet, familiarized Balinese artists to the vivid
colors of Western painting, and the greater range of effects possible with ready-made brushes, pigments,
and fine-woven canvas. More significant , Spies and Bonnet extremely expanded the range of subject matter,
encouraging their student to paint scenes fron everyday life. Lest Spies and Bonnet be accused of tampering
with an ancient tradition, it should be pointed out that Balinese art was always innovative; the island's
most famous artist, I Gusti Nyoman Lempad, had already begun to experiment in both style and subject matter
before Spies's arrival. Just Picasso chose African sculpture as ab influence in his work, so the painters
of Bali responded freely and immediately to Spies's stimulus.
Stay with us at Ubud Green Private Villa, and our butler will take you to see all the sublime arts of Ubud.
We will ensure you will have unforgettable memories during you stay at Ubud Green Private Villa.
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