Cloth painting, calendar, 'tabing plintangan', cotton/rice paste/ink/paint, Kamasan, Bali, Indonesia, 1850-1900
The subject matter of Kamasan paintings used in the courts was generally related to the particular ceremony, marriage, tooth-filing etc. However, the painters themselves were not from the higher castes, but were mainly Sudras and the paintings expressed Sudra values and preoccupations. Many have themes in which servants to the aristocracy are triumphant. Overall however, these paintings have a religious function within the community and were intended as part of the overall environment in which ceremonies took place.
Kamasan paintings show either a scene or a sequence of scenes from stories that exist in differing oral and written forms. They can be divided into two groups, mythological and post-mythological, which reflects differences in their content. Mythological stories - the Adiparwa group, the Ramayana and the Bharatayuddha - deal with the emergence of the world and humanity and are derived from Indian prototypes. Post-mythological stories portray more recent events and deal with folk and romantic heroes and the struggle between good and evil.
Locally handspun and woven cotton cloth was used for traditional Kamasan paintings until about 1900, after which time imported machine-made cloth was used. To provide a smooth surface for drawing, the cloth was boiled in rice paste and, when dry, the surface was polished hard, usually with a cowrie shell.
The painting was done in stages. First, a drawing in black ink by the artist sets up the design and also largely determines the quality of the finished piece. Then the paints are applied with brushes, one colour at a time, often by junior members of the artist's family. These paints are traditionally earth colours, prepared from ochres, with the addition of an imported Chinese red and imported blue. Graded colours are achieved through layering colour washes.
To finish the painting the cloth is repolished to give a smooth surface, anyobscured pen lines are re-drawn, and extra detail is added over the painted areas. The level and standard of finishing stage determines the grade of thepaintings - coarse (kasar) which are sold without redrawing in black, middling (sedang) which have some inking but not necessarily by the original artist, and fine (halus) which are carefully re-drawn in black and also red, and occasionally additionally embellished with details in white or gold leaf.
The date given is that suggested by the valuers of the donation, Sue Tuckwell and Ross Langlands.
The pigments or dyestuffs used in Balinese cloth paintings are traditionally derived from materials found and used in Bali. These are mixed in a base of ancur, often translated as ┬?glue┬?, a white substances which comes from fish oil and can be bought in Chinese shops. Regarding the derivation of the pigments themselves: white is from animal horns and bones which are burned, then crushed until soft and mixed with water; yellow gold from atal or chalk/limestone; dark red from kencu, a lipstick imported from China; blue from the taum leaf; brown from brown pere stone; black from jelaga or charcoal; and grey or mangsi banyu from jelaga mixed with water. Dark green is created by mixing yellow gold atal with grey or mangsi banyu; light green by mixing yellow gold with blue; pink or dadu from mixing dark red with white; and light yellow from mixing yellow gold with white.
The above information was drawn from http://blog.isi-dps.ac.id/bratayadnya/colour-meaning-of-god-figures-in-kamasan-painting with thanks to the author.
Cloth paintings like this were highly-regarded and much sought-after for use in the temples of Bali during festivals. When not on display, they were folded and stored carefully away. There are five types of painting, as determined by use: tabing, square painting placed against the wooden back of the raised bed used for household rituals; langse, oblong painting which screens the bed on which offerings are placed; ider ider, long hangings tied under the eaves of the pavilions; ceiling paintings, stretched horizontally under the roof of a pavilion; kober and lontek, flags and banners without which no Balinese festival is complete.
This painting is of the tabing plintangan, or calendar, type. These were used to determine the likely characteristics of someone born on a particuar day, as well as the appropriate offerings.
Early reports link cloth painting with the courts and higher castes of the island, and mention the paintings as being used to decorate the private appartments of rajas families and for royal rituals. The use of these paintings for more modest temple festivals outside the courts is thought to be an extension of what was once a royal prerogative.
This collection of Kamasan paintings was bought in Bali during the early 1970s by the donor Mrs Gisela Sheinberg. The collection, together with a group of Indonesian batik and ikat textiles, was assembled for Mrs Sheinberg by the Australian painter Donald Friend, who lived in Bali. Mrs Scheinberg owned the Holdsworth gallery and was the Sydney agent for Donald Friend. When in Bali, she was taken by Donald Friend to see a dealer in Ubud.