Over the past five months, Artsy Forager has been nice enough to welcome my guest posts about my arts residency in Bali. During this time, I have shared some of my favorite experiences, artists, studio visits, and reflections.
To end this series on a high note, I saved the best for last. One of the nicest and most welcoming artists and people I met during my residency is woman named Ni Nyoman Sani. She welcomed me to her home, to Mother Art Space (then called Seniwati Art Space), and to her family’s shared creative workshop and gallery Muja Art Studio. Sani also helped to arrange multiple interviews with talented female artists ranging from internationally known painters like Mangku Muriati to younger emerging artists like Emy Triani and Ni Ketut Ratnasih.
Ni Nyoman Sani’s studio at Muja Art Studio, Sukawati, Bali. Photo courtesy of Ellen C. Caldwell and the artist.
Part of Sani’s charm and charisma is that she seems to always put others first in such a generous and heartfelt way. She shied away when I focused questions on her, instead always insisting on highlighting the work of her fellow artists and family members.
With this in mind, I am going to take a few moments introduce her work with Mother Art Space and her multi-generational family studio, and then I will share my interview with Sani about her own work and art practice, in order to turn the tables and reflect some of her light back onto her art, work, and passion.
Ni Nyoman Sani with new sign Mother Art Space, Batubulan, Bali. Photo courtesy of the artist.
Mother Art Studio originally started as Seniwati Gallery in Ubud, and then later transitioned into Seniwati Art Space under Sani’s guidance and direction. There, she created a nurturing creative space that encourages collaborative workshops, exhibitions, and studio gatherings with women—both locally and internationally. In this sense, it is not just a gallery space, but a center for collaboration and shared support between women. Since there are not as many female artists practicing art in Bali (particularly in the more contemporary scene), this is really special and important.
However, Sani has recently cultivated some new changes in the space, changing its name to Mother Art Space and casting a wider net of participants to include male and female artists of all generations. Sani felt that there was a wider group of artists she could reach if they expanded their scope in this way and they are now planning exhibits, collaborations, and international residencies there.
left | Façade of Muja Art Studio, Sukawati, Bali. Photo courtesy of the artist.
right | Made Supena, Balinese stone, 2004. Muja Art Studio, Sukawati, Bali. Photo courtesy of Ellen C. Caldwell and the artist.
Another endeavor Sani helps to manage is her multi-generational family art space called Muja Art Studio. Muja features the work of six family members from three different generations – including sculpture, painting, carving, performance art, and more.
top right | Ketut Muja, Bhima, carved wood. Muja Art Studio, Sukawati, Bali. Photo courtesy of Ellen C. Caldwell and the artist.
top left | Ketut Muja, The story of knowledge, carved wood. Muja Art Studio, Sukawati, Bali. Photo courtesy of Ellen C. Caldwell and the artist.
bottom right I Ketut Muja, The story of knowledge – detail.
bottom left | Sculptural works by I Wayan Jana. Muja Art Studio, Sukawati, Bali. Photo courtesy of Ellen C. Caldwell and the artist.
Here, there is a range of working studios and gallery spaces so that one can visit this creative center and see art in process in addition to the finished work on display. The studio is a delightful and inspirational place to visit, featuring the work of:
- I Ketut Muja, sculptor, age 71
- I Wayan Jana, sculptor, age 46
- I Made Supena, painter and sculptor, age 42
- I Ketut Sugantika Le Kung, painter, performer, and sculptor, age 38
- Ni Nyoman Sani, painter, poet, clothing designer, and photographer, age 38
Together, they are a family of artists showing their works internationally in exhibits ranging from locally in Bali and Jakarta, and going to Singapore, Australia, Spain, Holland, Belgium, and Germany.
left | Made Supena, The Mountain Series. Muja Art Studio, Sukawati, Bali. Photo courtesy of Ellen C. Caldwell and the artist.
right | Made Supena, Embryo Series 2, Muja Art Studio, Sukawati, Bali. Photo courtesy of Ellen C. Caldwell and the artist.
And last but not least, I would like to end by sharing my interview with Sani, as we discussed her work and process. Her paintings satisfy and explore a cosmopolitan sense – focusing on smart fashion, both international and Balinese. There is a clear strength in the women she depicts and after meeting Sani and learning about her work, this all makes perfect sense. She is all about supporting artists – both young and old, male and female, local and abroad. And it is a privilege to know her.
Ellen Caldwell | When did you start painting/practicing your art?
Ni Nyoman Sani | I started painting on canvas in 1990. I loved to paint from when I was a little girl. And I became a member of Seniwati Gallery in 1994, when it was in Ubud. I continued my education at the Art Institute in Denpasar from 1995 – 2000. Until now still acting with my art creatively and I also lead the Seniwati Art Space [now Mother Art Space, as of July 2014] and in the future, Muja Art Management.
EC | Have you always painted or did family teach you?
NNS | Art is my second soul, and none of my family is doing the same. I feel blessed with my art life and love to continue it, for giving and sharing some changes with other women.
EC | Please tell me a little bit about your process. What is unique about it?
NNS | I love to look at in every moment of life, and focus my eyes on people and what they do to grow up. Their life, especially the specifics…not too far from daily life. And all becomes unique and accumulates in my mind. At this time, then a new idea will follow in my art process.
left | Ni Nyoman Sani’s studio at Muja Art Studio, Sukawati, Bali. Photo courtesy of Ellen C. Caldwell and the artist.
right | Ni Nyoman Sani’, painting detail. Photo courtesy of Ellen C. Caldwell and the artist.
EC | Do you have a signature style or look that is unique to you?
NNS | I paint with my own style…fashion and women. And it’s become unique with the head cropping I do.
EC | What are you currently working on?
NNS | I usually work with my ideas, and I love to combine poetry, art, photograph, fashion, and also video art…My husband always supports me, our children give us time, and our family mostly support it. My friends, we are always sharing about what we are doing to increase Balinese art.
EC | How do you think that living in Bali has impacted your own artistic practice?
NNS | Bali for me is a good place and all my life has been here. I am a totally Balinese woman. But part of myself belongs to the art world. I mean, I feel free to become who I am. But it is also hard, because I am a Balinese—with full social and traditional life.
I enjoy my life; I have a kind husband, two children who understand my life, family who always back up me, and a lot of friends who really care about and love me.
Many thanks to Sani for her creative inspiration and for all of the work she does to encourage and cultivate the arts in Bali. Contact Sani to find out more about visiting her studios or applying for art residencies, workshops, and collaborations.
To learn more about my time researching and writing about art in Bali and to see more of Sani and Muja Art Studio, please view the video below.
Ellen C. Caldwell “Bali to Cali: Bridging the Distance through Writing and Art,” 2014. Produced by Kate Johnson and Michael J. Masucci, with support from Yayasan Bali Purnati Center for the Arts; 18th Street Art Center, Santa Monica; and the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs.
Ellen C. Caldwell is an LA-based art historian, writer, and editor. For links to all of her Bali-related writing (and future writings), please visit the Bali portion of her website. Many thanks to Lesley for featuring my posts and welcoming my writing and creativity to find a home here these past five months.