Remembrance of Being
A solo exhibition by Ida Bagus Putu Purwa
“Reminiscences of self are reminiscences of a place, and how he positions himself in it, navigates around it.”
—Susan Sontag, Under the Sign of Saturn
At Warung Gung Kak, Sanur, Bali, Saturday, June 25, 2022, at around 8 pm, after eating lamb and pork steak plus a little vegetable and potato—Ida Bagus Putu Purwa and I talked about fine arts for about 150 minutes while drinking lemon squash and local red wine. That was our third relatively long talk after I visited his studio in Sanur on Saturday morning, June 25, 2022, and Thursday morning, June 16, 2022, with St. Eddy Prakoso, owner of Srisasanti Gallery.
On that Saturday morning, we could not talk for long because we had to share time with the artist Mola and a friend from Ciamis, Bandung. Meanwhile, on that Thursday morning, I spent more time alone observing some of Gus Purwa's paintings—that is what I called Ida Bagus Putu Purwa these days—which had not yet been fully prepared for his solo exhibition Remembrance of Being, and then I chatted with Pak Oyik—my nickname for St. Eddy Prakoso—about matters that have not been and are already in aesthetic development and artistic achievements of his paintings—and ended with a lunch in the afternoon at a fish soup stall in the corner of Denpasar.
At Warung Gung Kak, I was convinced that at the age of nearly half a century, Gus Purwa was not a mere artist but a priestly and wise artist. In his position, Gus Purwa comprehends the artistry and priesthood as a calling—not a mere career—which is “many hands make light work.” That means artistry and priesthood no longer burden him socio-psychologically as they did about a decade ago. Instead, they allow him to internalize anything that has been and will silently be adrift in daily life in Bali, especially in Sanur and its surroundings.
That way, we can understand Gus Purwa's state-of-the-art paintings, especially those on display in this exhibition, as a kind of window to the artist's inventiveness that allows us—borrowing Susan Sontag's words—one cannot use life to interpret the work but one can use the work to interpret the life.
On that understanding, of course, I do not mean to dismiss Gus Purwa's paintings in this gallery as mere tools or weapons—borrowing Susan Sontag's words—interpretation is the revenge of art upon intellect. More than that, I want to emphasize that Gus Purwa's paintings in this exhibition deal with both aesthetic and ethical matters.
In other words, for Gus Purwa, painting is an existential practice that allows him to talk about and reflect on the social and spiritual reality that has changed with the works of art, as well as understand and internalize the works of art as his human ability to be creative with beauty without overstepping his own experiences.