Balinese impressions: Bringing paintings to life
Pura Paibon Pasek Tangkas in Kamasan Image: Siobhan Campbell
© Siobhan Campbell

Show and Tell: Paintings in ceremonial cycle.

It is often a cause for grievance that museum stores are full of objects not on view to the visiting public. The magnificent collection of Balinese temple paintings and ceremonial accessories here at the Australian Museum is a case in point, with hundreds of exquisitely painted cloths rolled up or folded and stacked away in quiet spaces away from public gaze, rather like exalted guests.

In the hallowed place they call home for much of year, the paintings are treated with great reverence by their custodians in the hope that with due care they will survive the ravages of time.

This is not dissimilar from the way the paintings are handled in Bali where, for much of the year, they are carefully packed away in temple compounds until the time of a temple ceremony. As seen here in the family temple, Pura Paibon, of artist Mangku Muriati in Kamasan, at times of ceremony they are removed from storage and displayed on the various shrines.

Far from being objects of individual contemplation, when displayed in the temple, the paintings contribute to the general atmosphere of revelry, designed to entertain the gods who descend to the temple as esteemed guests who must be entertained and fed! At the end of the ceremony the paintings once again return to the relative seclusion of their storage chamber.

Here at the Museum we are preparing to bring parts of the Balinese Painting Collection into the public domain on Thursday 4 May, with a special presentation ‘Insights Into A Vibrant Culture’. Not only will we showcase some of the fascinating stories relating to this special collection, most importantly, the paintings and the audience will be enlivened by a live Balinese dance performance!

Siobhan Campbell