Until the start of this century, the dominant form of painting was the portrayal of Hindu epics, on 'Langse' - large narratives painted either on broad, rectangular cloths or on 'Ider-ider' which were much narrower (about 30cm wide and several meters long). Langse were placed in temples as wall hangings or used as curtains in the palaces. Ider-ider were hung around the roofs of temples and shrines and were used decoratively at court on festive occasions. The artists also painted on wooden boards which were placed between rafters as ceiling friezes. A side from large representational paintings, the 'Sangging' were also expected to decorate everything from gourds, wooden altars, bamboo vessels, headboards for princely bed chambers and in particular to illustrate astrological wall hangings on bark paper or cloth.
The style for which the artists of Kamasan are famous is based on the East Javanese 'Wayang' art. These were basically two-dimensional, iconographic representations following strict rules and guidelines as to how the characters should be portrayed. For example a person's character and status can be seen from the colors used to portray them, his headdress of even the direction in which he is facing. Noblemen always have very refined faces while coarse characters have large, bulging eyes and fangs. Today in Kamasan you can still find people who are dedicated to painting in the traditional 'Wayang' style. One of the most famous Kamasan artists is I Nyoman Mandra, who, aside from producing his own paintings and doing restoration work, has started a school to try and keep the Wayang tradition alive.
It wasn't until the early nineteen hundreds that Western influence reached Bali. The use of Asian symbols in the works of, amongst others, Paul Gauguin, Toulouse Lautrec and Camille Pissaro created a new trend for Asian-influenced art and European painters began to move to Bali. Ubud's fame for art can be traced to the arrival of German painter, Walter Spies and Dutch painter Rudolf Bonnet. Together, with Indonesian artist Gede Agung Sukawati, they established the Pitamaha Group which encouraged Balinese artists to more expressive and less tradition-bound. Aside from the Kamasan school of painting there now exists a wide range of different styles. Some characteristics are listed briefly below.
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