Still with our hired bikes, we walked across the suspension bridge over the Campuan River and up the steep hill to the Neka Art Museum. This was built in 1966 by Suteja Neka who attempted to gather together the best examples of local art and in so doing has served to give Indonesian artists international recognition. Until the arrival of western artists to Bali in 1930s, traditional painting was limited to temple scrolls and calendars and the themes were exclusively religious. However, Neka houses a collection of ‘traditional’ paintings by young ‘naif’ painters influenced by the likes of Rudolph Bonnet and Donald Friend.
(According to his diary, Friend’s lifestyle would now see him locked up for years in Kerobokan Prison!)
My favourite painting is Mutual Attraction by Abdul Aziz
Although painted as separate pieces during different years, these two works later were joined together into a single piece in 1980 by Suteja Neka, founder of the Neka Museum, after he noticed that the man appeared to be admiring the woman. The figures seem to be leaning in doorways; their shadows painted on the actual picture frames add a three-dimensional effect. Plain backgrounds focus attention on the figures and the mutual attraction between them. Warm earthy tones emphasize this.
The Museum is a collection of separate rooms around a three sided courtyard which overlooks a ravine. Photo albums and books of press cuttings give a personalized and hospitable ambiance. It is a beautiful setting and a calm place to while away an hour or two.
The house of Antonio Blanco, above the suspension bridge below, is somewhat different. There was no-one at the entrance with its ticket kiosk, but the gate was partly open so we went in and strolling across the lawn immediately felt like trespassers. We went into a pavilion and gazed at his pictures. These were dedicated to his wife, a Balinese dancer, and he seemed obsessive and ego-centric.
“Blanco is creator.”
The man himself discovered us and seemed quite charming: “Is anyone looking after you? We usually take a nap at this time.”
He then instructed one of his staff to put the shutters up. We unbarred the gate and tip-toed out, leaving a Rp.500 tip for the ‘government (non)attendant’.
Not finding the back route heading towards Batur, we biked back through Monkey Forest, swathes of rice paddies, villages of wood carvers and once again enjoyed the scenery.