Bali has been a source of inspiration for numerous expatriate artists since 1904 when W.O.J. Nieuwenkamp, one of the first foreign artists to reside in Bali, found himself mesmerized by the culture and people of this remarkable island. While the number of well known foreign painters who have lived in Bali are legion, the island has also proven fertile ground for the growing number of designers and artists working in a diverse range of materials including textiles, jewelry, ceramics and fashion.
While some of these mediums were once relegated as mere "crafts" as opposed to fine art, these distinctions have largely evaporated in the world of contemporary art.
Bali is today home to a large reservoir of international design talent. The latest exhibition at the Four Season Resort at Jimbaran Bay's Ganesha Gallery showcases the exquisite jewelry and objects d’art of Jean-Francois Fichot and the sumptuous textiles of Sebastian Mesdag – two talented European artists who make their home in Bali.
Jean-Francois Fichot, first arrived in Bali in the early 1970s, after traveling through India and much of the East following his graduation from art school in France. Within a few years of his initial arrival in Bali, he established himself as a master jeweler and designer, producing unique masterpieces that quickly caught the eyes of numerous collectors, international celebrities and designers. Combing crystals, ancient beads, gold, silver and all manner of exotic objects - his work is asymmetrical and always to some degree surprising. In addition to jewelry, Fichot was among of the first to combine silver with wood.
While less well known than his works of jewelry, Fichot's creative genius has also produced a large number of art objects that are reminiscent to of the work of Faberge in as much as they serve no other function than to delight the eye and stimulate the imagination. These objects, and a small selection of his special jewelry, are the focus of the current joint exhibition.
Although having visited Bali as a young boy, Sebastian Mesdag has only been living and working on Bali for two years. A graduate of Parson's Parisian campus, Mesdag spent several years in India attending Shantiniketan - the visionary school established by Rabindranath Tagore. There, he was introduced to the rich remarkable local textile traditions. Shortly after his arrival he began designing and manufacturing textiles using a range of labor-intensive techniques. Originally trained a painter, Mesdag's interest in the textile arts is merely a continuation of his painter's vision. Inspired by Bali, India and the Aborigines of Australia with whom he would also spend time, his textile creations are both subtle and moving.
Recently he has begun experimenting with traditional Indonesian textile techniques, including batik and ikat. His works have been exhibited internationally and are now form part of several important collections.
One of the great challenges facing Bali at the moment is establishing its international identity, known in modern parlance as "branding." Once considered a place only to produce textiles and jewelry, artists like Fichot and Mesdag, have joined their fellow Balinese and Indonesian artists and designers to transform the island into a design center where new ideas are conceived and tested. Recognition of these artists' talents and input are critical to the achievement of this task.
An ancient center of the arts, the current exhibition demonstrates that Bali will continue to inspire and prosper a whole range of ever-hanging art forms.
A joint exhibition of Jewelry, Objects of Art and Textiles by Francois Fichot and Sebastian Mesdag at the Four Seasons Resort, Bali at Jimbaran Bay from May 19 – June 19, 2008. Open daily.
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