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By October 2011 Siobhan Campbell, a PhD candidate at the University of Sydney, had spent nearly 12 months conducting her research in Kamasan village, with an extra two month interlude – studying Balinese paintings in the major collections in the Netherlands. It was probably the longest and one of the most comprehensive fieldworks on traditional Balinese art in the past few decades.

Siobhan’s research attempts to explain how the collection of Balinese paintings made by Professor Anthony Forge in the 1970s helps us to understand this indigenous art and also to explore the ongoing relationship between Forge’s collection and the artists, both men and women, who produced them in a broader context of evolving Balinese culture.

Stan Florek works in the Anthropology Collection at the Australian Museum which holds and curates the Anthony Forge collection – one of the most significant assemblages of Kamasan paintings.

Equipped with a small fund from the Gwendoline West Bequest and the approval of the Acquisition Committee, we set to enrich the Museum’s collection by additional Kamasan pictures. Our intention was to obtain a sample of works from the post-1970s period, illustrating recent currents in this painting tradition and focusing on women artists, which are poorly represented in Forge’s original collection.

In 17 days, Siobhan and Stan visited several art studios, select art collections, art dealers and temples. We commissioned some work and purchased paintings available for sale. We conducted interviews with artists, some of whom Siobhan had interviewed several times before. We took photos and recorded videos to document their manner of work, studios and their knowledge mixed with opinions and justifications of the artistic methods.

Among the collected paintings are those produced by the prominent and well known women artists, including Ni Made Suciarmi, Mgku Muriati, Ni Wayan Wally, and Ni Nyoman Normi. Male artists are represented by the highly respected and accomplished I Nyoman Mandra, and a younger generation artist I Nyoman Kondra. These newly acquired paintings would help us to better understand the Balinese art and the role it plays in social interaction, cultural continuity and change.