The Wayan Gama Painter Group sits on a dusty road connecting agricultural villages not far from Ubud, Bali. At the end of a day trip that took us to a Kopi Luwak ‘poop coffee’ plantation, the Elephant Cave and Rock Cave, our driver, Mowgli, suggested that we visit the quiet art studio directed by his friend, Wayan. Mowgli explained that much of the art that lines the walls of Ubud’s shops is mass-produced, whereas at Wayan’s art school, one can mingle with the artists and see them painting, exhibiting extreme patience and a penchant for painstaking detail.
When we arrived at Wayan’s family home, he led us into the tranquil courtyard and greeted us with a refreshing beverage – straight out of a young coconut via a straw. A bird gently chirped from a nearby cage. One of Wayan’s older family members wove vessels out of palm leaves, while sitting in the shade of the family temple; a young child toddled about.
Wayan, probably in his twenties or thirties, explained that he descends from a long line of artists. As we walked through the serene courtyard, Wayan told us of his passion to keep his village’s style of art alive. In order to do so, Wayan teaches young men how to meticulously put paint brush and colored ink to paper so that they can create art depicting Balinese Hindu gods, as well as agricultural and cultural vignettes. Small pieces may require three or four days to complete, whereas larger works will take months.
The courtyard’s walls are dressed in paintings that are each bordered by hand-carved, hardwood frames. The fire dance scenes and images of Balinese gods are impressive. When you look at the minute detail and consider the time required to do each painting, you can see why these artists reach their peak in their thirties or forties, due to their eyesight declining around that time.
In an age of short attention spans, omnipresent electronic gadgets and hectic schedules, the artwork is even more impressive. Observing the young men at work made me ponder what can be achieved if one is patient, time-rich and passionate about something.
Shawn and I purchased a small piece of art with vibrant tones and impressive detail completed by a student named Agus. The painting depicts Saraswati, the goddess of wisdom and knowledge. We thought the painting would be fitting since we were in Bali on the day that’s devoted to celebrating Saraswati. Proceeds from our purchase will go to the art school’s cooperative structure, hopefully helping to ensure the continuation of this artistic tradition for generations to come.
Where in the World?
- The I Wayan Gama Painter Group is located at Keliki – Tegallalang – Gianyar, Bali. Contact them in advance either by email: Iwayan_Gama@yahoo.com or telephone: 081-5580009878 or 0361-981-283.
- During our 2 weeks in Ubud, we stayed at the pretty and tranquil Nirwa Homestay (affiliate link), run by Madde and Ayu. The family-run guest house was surrounded by a panorama of vibrant rice paddies, and our soundtrack was that of nature: soprano crickets, confident roosters and babbling canals. If you go, be sure to order Ayu’s legendary green banana pancakes for breakfast.
- Would you like more planning inspiration? My Bali guide highlights our favorite moments spent on the island.
Photography & text © Tricia A. Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.