• Denholm Hewlett

[Art/Culture] I Gusti Nyoman Lempad (1862 - 1978)

The almighty master of Hindu Balinese mythology and the arts who believed that he was reincarnated on earth to create directly for the ancient gods that enrich and protect the island of Bali.


I Gusti Nyoman Lempard was born in the village of Bedahulu, in Gianyar, south-central Bali, around the year 1862 and passed away in 1978 in Ubud at the incredible age of 116 years old. Lempad is the best known Balinese artistisan in history. A legendary architect, stone sculptor and prolific painter whose immense and enriching artistic influence has permanently changed the landscape of Balinese art and culture forever. Lempad's intricate ink drawings on paper, many with flash of colour, are famous around the world. The artist's clarity, composition, expression and form are still unmatched to this day. Lempad's incredibly long and transformative life journey has solidified his everlasting artistic memory.


Lempad was birthed into a golden pre-historic age of Balinese culture, they were a proud and refined people with a strong cultural identity and all life on the island revolved around the hierarchy of the royal palaces. The mystical religious traditions of Bali represented a dynamic blend of Hinduism, Buddhism and traditional Indonesian animism.



Lempad grew up under the artistic guidance of his father, learning to design and carve supernatural Barong masks. From a young age Lempad became acknowledged as a remarkable architect and stone sculptor. He designed the famous Saraswati Water temple of Ubud which was a clear demonstration of his architectural and design skills. In later years, Lempad began creating hundreds of linear folklore and mythology paintings.


Lempad was known in Europe during the 1920's for his superb erotic and religious art, but it's his work as a sculptor and architect in his homeland of Bali, that he is most recognised, he designed and built elaborate palaces and temples in Ubud that combined the supernatural imagery of traditional Balinese mythological and folklore characters into the structures.


Lempad's masterful architecture designs soon caught the attention of Bali's ambitious Prince, who commissioned Lempad to design hundreds of sacred palaces and temples and sections of the Royal residency. The Ubud of today is largely Lempad's making, his unique designs have immortalised his legacy. He's the most talented of all the pre-war Balinese painters and is unanimously deemed the most important Indonesian artist of the century.


During his extensive lifetime, Gusti Nyoman Lempard bared witnessed to Bali's various cultural and political transformations from a pre-historical feudal and agrarian island ruled by 9 sacred kings, to a war-torn stronghold of the brutal Dutch colonial empire, to a small province of the republic of Indonesia, to ultimately become one of the world's most popular tourist destinations, with millions flocking to the island per year.



Centred in the very heart of the East Indies, this rich and independent island was a tantalising prise for the Dutch fleets who dominated the region, but the Balinese were renown warriors and the ancient kingdoms of southern Bali resisted the Dutch colonialists for more than half a century. Lempad lived through the most horrific century in Balinese's history, he journeyed from the pre-historic age of omnipotent princes and supernatural deities to the dawn of human space travel and astronauts on the moon.



Through his remarkable ink paintings, Lempad illustrated famous and lesser known episodes and legends from Balinese folklore and Indian mythology, many with erotic and humorous story elements. The artist's narrative work was focused primarily on figures, movements and details. The blank backgrounds and simple character design evoke the appearance of Wayang Quilt (leather shadow puppets) against a plain white screen.

In his architecture, Lempad was wildly innovative and experimental maestro, he chose to broke away from tradition Balinese design and based his style amidst the experiences of his youth living among the pre historic ruins of the ancient Balinese kingdoms. Lempad believed that mankind was incapable of creating anything that is "perfect", so instead of pursuing the illusion of perfection, he always decided to leave his work "unfinished".




This segment from the landmark documentary series Ring of Fire: An Indonesian Odyssey features Dr Lawrence Blair's famous encounter with Gusti Nyoman Lempard at his home in Ubud at the incredible age of 116.



~ Psychic Garden

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