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Ni Tanjung, the "Queen" of Agung Volcano on Bali

Her story.

Ni Nyoman Tanjung : an untraditional artist, an extraordinary talent.


21 Janvier 2020
     

An example of Art Brut

Ni Tanjung in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia during Agung Volcano eruption 2018 © Lucas Djaou, Galerie Patricia Dorfmann
Ni Tanjung in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia during Agung Volcano eruption 2018 © Lucas Djaou, Galerie Patricia Dorfmann
Ni Nyoman Tanjung, a Balinese woman of humble birth, was born around 1930 in the eastern region of Bali, Indonesia. She never learnt to read or write, but instinctively taught herself the artistic gestures that she carried out later in her life. Ni Tanjung as she is known, suffered many traumatic events, including personal dramas, which punctuated the period from 1942 onwards on the island of Bali.

For decades, Ni Tanjung lived with her husband in a small wooden shack, building a stone repository for her gods and ancestors who, according to Balinese belief, visit the living during certain sacred rituals. These painted volcanic rocks resembled faces and the installations were found on the side of a small road in Buda Keling, near Karangasem, Bali.
 

Ni Tanjung, 2016, unique piece, colored pencil and chalk, paper cutout on bamboo stick© Galerie Patricia Dorfmann, Paris
Ni Tanjung, 2016, unique piece, colored pencil and chalk, paper cutout on bamboo stick© Galerie Patricia Dorfmann, Paris

Discovery of Ni Tanjung's works

In 2003, Swiss art scholar familiar with Bali, Georges Breguet came across the woman, and recognized her talent as an extraordinary, if untraditional artist. Breguet began collecting her more mobile pieces and introduced the woman’s work to the outside world as an example of art brut.

According to another Bali-based art expert, Jean Couteau, Ni Tanjung’s form of raw art - a term coined by French artist Dubuffet to describe works created by non-traditional artists, distanced from mainstream society as a result of mental or social constraints – is very rare for Indonesians.

After the death of her daughter, one of four children she had with her husband Ni Nyoman Kembang, she became deranged and began her work on stones and later, after the loss of more of her children and her husband, increasingly on paper. Ni Tanjung prefers to look at people with the help of a small mirror to avoid their direct gaze and detect evil. The gaunt old lady has extraordinarily long and mobile fingers which help her to carry out her creative impulses.
 

Ni Tanjung, 2017, unique work, colored pencil and chalk, on paper cutout, fastenen on bamboo stick© Galerie Patricia, Dorfmann, Paris
Ni Tanjung, 2017, unique work, colored pencil and chalk, on paper cutout, fastenen on bamboo stick© Galerie Patricia, Dorfmann, Paris

After the loss of her husband

After the loss of her husband, Ni Tanjung moved to the hamlet Saren Kauh, to live with her remaining daughter, contributing modestly to the house-hold with the little money she earned selling her paper creations. The Indonesian woman artist Kartika Affandi, daughter of famous Indonesian painter, Affandi, had bought a stone installation to be re-assembled at her museum of women’s art in Yogjakarta, Central Java, contributing to Ni Tanjung’s extremely modest fortune.

Before her husband’s death, Ni Tanjung was very active and made complex offerings to the gods. She also danced the rejang, singing and chanting traditional Balinese arias while creating her works and she was a prolific weaver of textiles. Now she is less active, but still chants while portraying her imaginary theatrical world of gods and ancestors on temporary altars, many of the faces often resemble auto-portraits. The brilliant colors and imagery reflect the luxurious vegetation of Bali and rich cultural heritage of her ancestors.
 

Ni Tanjung, untitled 2019, colored pencil and chalk, paper cutout on bamboo stick©Galerier Patricia Dorfmann
Ni Tanjung, untitled 2019, colored pencil and chalk, paper cutout on bamboo stick©Galerier Patricia Dorfmann

Temporary Hiatus and continuation of Ni Tanjung's artistic endeavors

For a short period of time, Ni Tanjung was moved to temporary safe quarters near Ubud because the volcano, Gunung Agung began to erupt seriously. Now she is back in the hamlet Saren Kauh, near Buda Kling, close to Karangsasem on the eastern coast of Bali. At present over ninety, she continues her trance-like fabrication of paper objects, dolls and even painting on stones.

Usually in the solitude of her windowless room at night, lit by a single lamp bulb, Ni Tanjung draws thousands of imaginary multicolored faces on the paper given to her by visitors, including fellow Balinese artist Made Budhiana, while others gifted acrylic paints and chalk crayons. Many brought scissors and special metal cutters for her to cut out the images from paper or other metal objects. Breguet brings medical supplies and house-hold implements for her to share with her daughter, besides acquiring paper creations for the Museum of Art Brut in Lausanne where she is now considered to be a major artist.
 

Ni Tanjung, unique work, 2014, colored pencil and chalk, paper cutout on bamboo stick© Galerie, Patricia Dorfmann, Paris
Ni Tanjung, unique work, 2014, colored pencil and chalk, paper cutout on bamboo stick© Galerie, Patricia Dorfmann, Paris

Lucas Djaou and Galerie Patricia Dorfmann, 61, Rue de la Verrerie, 75004 Paris

Lucas Djaou, constantly on the look-out for extraordinary creations world-wide, was fortunate to meet Patricia Dorfmann several years ago. Patricia Dorfmann's gallery is ideal for presenting works of most contemporary talents Djaou has come across. The team has produced many exhibitions in the Marais Gallery which is generally open from Tuesday to Saturday during exhibitions.

Djaou was introduced to Ni Tanjung in 2017 by Georges Breguet on his first trip to Bali, Indonesia.They visited the elderly Balinese woman in the eastern part of the island where she now lives with her only remaining daughter on the slopes of the Agung volcano. Lucas was mesmerized from the beginning by the dynamic creativity of Ni Tanjung and her way of living in her own world, yet deeply influenced by Balinese culture and religious rites. Since then he has paid two visits to Ni Tanjung, once in Ubud where she lived while Agung volcano was erupting, and then again back in the hamlet Saren Kauh, not far from Karangasem. Inspired, Djaou launched the project of displaying the work of this eccentric 'artist' at the Galerie Patricia Dorfmann which opens end January.
 

Ni Tanjung, the "Queen" of Agung Volcano on Bali
Exhibition curated by Lucas Djaou at Galerie Patricia Dorfmann
61 rue de la Verrerie 75004 Paris.
Displayed from January 30 until February 22, 2020 are painted volcanic stones, extraordinary dolls, and paper or metal cut-outs mounted on bamboo sticks, assembled by Balinese Ni Tanjung.
 


Kunang Helmi-Picard
Free lance journalism (Indonesia, for The Jakarta Post, Dewi and other Indonesian publications,... En savoir plus sur cet auteur



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