Whose Canvas: Teja Astawa

Teja Astawa is a Balinese artist who lives and works in Sanur. His stories are told in a thematic series, with his painting inspired  by Kamasan style. He draws his inspiration from subjects that range from animal figures, to wayang stories that nurtured his childhood.

How did it begin?
I’ve always liked art from the beginning. Before delving into art, I was into literature. I used to write short stories for magazines. When I was in high school, I loved to write stories and made doodles in my books. After those times expressing words, I entered the Institute of Arts Indonesia in Denpasar.

How did your art style evolve?
In the beginning, it was from following wayang stories. Then I stopped being glued to wayang stories as I was trying to find what I actually liked. It was also due to the market, so I started working on other styles like abstract and so on. As time passed by, thoughts of wayang stories reappeared. I then went back to my ‘roots’, but with a different technique this time. Now, I’m creating my wayang stories with Kamasan style influences from Klungkung.

Why did you pick wayang stories as your main inspiration in the first place?
Indirectly, I wanted to preserve this traditional puppetry as it has become my main source of inspiration. I preserve it because I love these traditional puppets. However, my own portrayal is different from the traditional one. The traditional one has strict traditional standards and rules. Mine, on the contrary, is freer. It isn’t really attached to those prescribed rules.

What are the objects that mostly appear in your works?
Animals. Lately, I like to draw monkeys. I don’t know why, but I think its due to their posture. It’s always fun to see monkeys. For my works, I take the character of these monkeys to be portrayed. The monkey is not always Hanoman. It can be something else in the wayang story; the vice regent, for instance. And this is what I meant; I created ‘my stories’ without being too focused on these traditions and rules. I used the character as an inspiration, adding a bit of humor that attracts people to enjoy these stories until the end.

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