“This picture is a translation of the symbols of our family tradition that grows from the culture of agriculture. It is a reminder of the passion implanted in us for the perseverance of caring for life. Flowers are icons that I borrow from memories of childhood.” – Wayan Novi (Blooming Memories, 2017)
“His work is at once hypnotic, mesmerising, discombobulating and impressive”
Iwayan Agus Novianto AKA Wayan Novi was born in 1989 in Bali. Novi works and lives in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. He is known for his canvases of intricate markings which resemble aboriginal art but is infused with a mix of pointillism and folk art. One must look closely at his work to find the hidden layers beneath a sea of dashes and swirls. His work is at once hypnotic, mesmerising, discombobulating and impressive.
Wayan, as he is affectionately referred to, was born in the mountainous village of Angsri, Bali. He recalls the chilly temperatures of Angsri and the warmth of the kitchen where his family and friends would gather for convivial meals and chatter. There is a heartfelt longing to go home in Wayan’s work, exhibited at the 2018 Art Stage, Singapore. Interspersed amongst the sea of intricate details, where the eye must train to find shapes and motifs, are infant-like sketches of teapots, cups, flora and fauna, animals and the peaks of mountains. In one piece, Wayan has included his pet, a cockerel, so reminiscent of Balinese mornings and his childhood. He played with seven roosters as a child, he recounts. As a child, he was privy to many conversations taking place in the warmth radiating from the kitchen fire and the markings etched by ball point pens represent these conversations: “[t]hey represent the life stories of an agrarian society where most work as farmers and important issues for them are, the meaning of mountains, sun, land, animals and awareness of the balance of this ecosystem”, explains the curator, Ignatia Nilu, an independent curator and a member of the Artjog curatorial team.
In these canvases, one senses that the child in Wayan is emerging in this re-enactment of home and that child wants to go home.
Initially, the viewer is left with a sense of discombobulation due to the patterns made by the repetitive minuscule dashes filling the canvas, but upon looking longer, the viewer begins to sense a blanket of tranquillity descending. The peace that comes later is a result of the familiar objects that the eye finds—a teapot, for example, or a child-like sketch of a house, another; mesmerised, the dashes and swirls finally carry us back to our own unconscious sense of hearth and home. I believe that art finds the collector or buyer and this is what Wayan has achieved unconsciously by painting from the depths of his soul; his art speaks to the wandering soul in us, the soul that is longing to find a place called home. The energy his art exudes is magnetic.
Wayan Novi is represented by Art Porters, a contemporary art gallery based in Singapore. Art Porters is housed in a heritage site once a popular area where native-born Singaporeans, the Peranakans, used to live and work. The gallery is situated in a glass-fronted Chinese shophouse that allows for the showcasing of contemporary art against a traditional and historical landscape. Hence, the contemporary works of Wayan Novi are able to blend into this landscape, yet shine on their own terms.
Art Porter’s tagline—sharing happiness with art—is the mission that founders, Guillaume Levy-Lambert and Sean Soh, live up to. The founders believe sincerely that art can transform lives.
With this purpose at heart, they have built intimate and life long relationships with the artists they represent and Wayan is one of them whom the gallery refers to as their “artist-in-the-gallery”. A current exhibition, ‘Landscape of Memories’, testifies to this special friendship between the artist and the founders. This exhibition must not be missed because it is also a narrative of Wayan’s memories—a visual description—of a particular sense of home and hearth, found only in Angsri, Indonesia. ‘Landscape’ is on until April 15, 2018.
Wayan Novi. Art Porters, Singapore Until 15 April 2018
Words: Eva Wong Nava Art Historian | Writer | Educator | Founder of CarpeArte Journal