I Wayan Januariawan (known by his artist name, I Wayan Donal) is a Balinese artist from Indonesia.  He likes to paint en plein air (or ‘on the spot painting’ as he likes to call it) capturing everyday life in his hometown of Ubud by painting the people, animals, food and landscapes. Donal studied art at the Indonesian Institute of the Arts in Denpasar, Bali. He has exhibited his work many times in Bali and Jakarta as well as in Singapore and Germany.

Why do you paint?

I paint because I love it.  Ubud is also a place full of many artists. On every corner and place I meet them. It is part of Balinese culture. Every part of life here is touched by art and the preparations for rituals and ceremonies.

Silik Fruit by I Wayan Donal

How did you know that you were good at art?

Before I went to elementary school, I knew I wanted to be a painter and I started to scratch out images on walls with a needle, without knowing. I didn’t do well at school and my teacher complained to my mother about me because I wasn’t interested in anything academic.  I loved playing and didn’t want to do homework. However, high school at SMSR – Sekolah Menengah Seni Rupa in Batubulan, was much more focused on creativity and there were a lot of art related subjects to study. I loved doing them and my confidence grew. After that, I wanted to learn English and started working hard and achieving. When you find what you love, it’s not hard work. I was happy and still feel like that now. I prefer to paint when I want; when I compromise or have too much pressure and responsibility, I feel unhappy and unwell and it affects my art.

Who are your biggest influences?

Many people say that my style is impressionistic and I agree when my motivation is to capture the moment, but that is not my driver.  When I have time for detail, it is important to put feeling into my brush strokes. Honestly, I don’t have a fixed plan. Maybe later I can make some more detailed work. I have learnt from Monet and Picasso because they painted the same way that I see. I love a lot of different art styles but the problem in society is that we buy expensive things for our pleasure but they don’t make us happy.

Blessing (Melasti), 2018 by I Wayan Donal

Finish this line, ‘in five years time I want to be making/doing…..?

I would like to travel and make a living from my art.  I also want to buy some land to build a house for me and my wife. This is a simple place and I want simple things.  For the moment though, I want to be independent and free. I don’t want to have too much responsibility and be bound by artist contracts.  Money doesn’t make me happy.

Where would you like to go to study the nature and do a residency?

I just like to be free and I wouldn’t like to do a residency with the pressure to produce work.

Heliconia by I Wayan Donal

How would you describe your style?

I used to experiment with a lot of traditional and modern styles such as batik and realism but at the moment, I do what I call, ‘on the spot painting’. It makes me feel alive because I can interact with other people.  Some people love it and some people don’t. I love it. 

Nature touches me, there is so much beauty in my surroundings and I love to observe and paint fruit. It is very different here from other countries.  We don’t pay much attention to the normal products we have in Bali.  Interestingly, people from Japan seem to love our mangosteens but we have many others fruit varieties too. Bali is rich in nature and a lot of foods that are expensive in other places aren’t here. I like painting small objects too, like ginger and turmeric.  The history behind them is that the Dutch colonists fought with Indonesia, not for the land but for our ingredients, the simple things.  These products have a lot of historical significance outside Bali.  This has made me more interested in painting other small things, like chilli.

I also do a lot of paintings of Heliconia because a lot of people love the bright colours from the sun and you can see it everywhere here. I love to share and for me, painting isn’t just about capturing beauty. The majority of art galleries these days are contemporary and have a technology and installation base. Sometimes I feel that this creates a distance for most visitors  who don’t understand what is happening inside exhibitions.  I wanted to flip that and do the opposite, so I paint simple subjects from my surroundings, like the sun falling on the leaves, a coconut or a flower using a simple technique, like impressionism.  Exhibiting that in a modern city creates a contrast but people can see what I’m doing and society can share my work and understand my feelings.  The foundation of my work is conceptual and my work goes into conceptual galleries because of that base.  We are happier when we are selling art to people with different levels of understanding.    

What drives you to share your art with others?

Sharing, opposites and what people have or don’t have interests me. I often think about what the perspective is of others and what has value for them and what I need to share. Having another viewpoint to offer others is more interesting for me than just the aesthetic beauty of my work.

Tua Pek Kong Temple, 2018, by I Wayan Donal

Who would you love to collaborate with?

Recently, five young Balinese artists put together an exhibition in a gallery in Sanur, Bali.  I created the concept and chose the participants. It was nice to have company and be a part of it.  There is a lot of conceptual and installation art happening right now in Indonesia. I miss people doing the simple things that still have a concept behind them but are by real painters. Sometimes we just want to enjoy the art itself sometimes; when you can feel that a person really knows how to paint.  

The famous artists I would love to collaborate with would be Ai Wei Wei; he is very political but I like that.  Yayoi Kusama, Jeff Koons and Theo Jansen, the Dutch sculptor. I also really like what Andy Goldsworthy is doing; collecting from nature.  What he produces is a little bit like an offering.  He is also making a living from it and has been very successful which is inspiring.

What is your favourite art medium?

I use probably about 90% acrylic paint mainly.  I cannot use oil paint because I have an allergy to it.  Acrylic dries quickly because I paint under the sun so it means that I have to catch the moment quickly.  I am interested in working with metal and plastic to make installations but for now I am focused on light painting.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

I normally just go walking and an object calls me and I look at it and think ‘wow, that’s  interesting’. I don’t know what I’m looking for but if I don’t feel it, then I don’t paint it. Normally, I go out between 10am and 5pm and normally paint for about three hours. If I’m not finished then I still go home at the same time. Sometimes I paint at sunrise because the sun is different which influences the object and whether it seems to be yellow, orange or purple.

Green Bananas by I Wayan Donal

What’s the most effective social media platform for art?

I think Instagram is good, I’m not really into technology but a lot of people find me on Instagram.

If you would like to see more of the Balinese artist’s work, you can find him in Ubud, Bali or on Facebook and Instagram.  For coverage of the best exhibitions and art happenings in and around Singapore and SE Asia, follow us on Facebook and Instagram.  You can read more of our articles here and artist interviews here.

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