Ode To The Sun

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Citra Sasmita: Ode To The Sun

10 January – 29 February 2020

Prepare to have all your preconceived notions about Balinese art upended as the Yeo Workshop presents ‘‘Ode to the Sun’’, a solo exhibition featuring artwork by the maverick young Balinese artist Citra Sasmita.

A rare exception in the otherwise male dominated world of Balinese art, Citra Sasmita challenges the patriarchal nature of Indonesian society. Her artwork unequivocally rejects the ubiquitous aesthetic depiction of Balinese women as passive decorative elements that exist primarily for the gratification of the tourist gaze. Consummately utilizing traditional elements that have been selected from the ancient but vibrant cultural legacy of Bali, Sasmita endows her female figures with a powerful agency.


The artwork of Sasmita is motivated on a fundamental level by the need to forge a connection with her past. This sentiment is clearly manifested in her various artworks that incorporate narratives from classical Balinese literature, and elements of traditional Balinese aesthetic conventions. Nevertheless, Sasmita departs from the canon of conventional Balinese art by producing artwork that often castigates the pervasive sexual and social inequality that is so deeply ingrained in Balinese society. She wishes to trace marginalized narratives of women in particular, who once played a key role in Balinese societies and held influential positions. The themes that frequently recur in her artwork stem from Sasmita’s deeply rooted feminist convictions and her determination to resist what she regards as the overweening patriarchalism of a conservative society.

Sasmita’s paintings are frequently dominated by the figures of nude women. Depicted in bright and vivid tones, these female characters are often portrayed as the heroic protagonist in conjunction with potent symbols that have been selected from the primeval realm of Balinese mysticism. Sasmita paints on a variety of mediums, ranging from canvas to leather. However, as a versatile artist, Sasmita has also ventured into the realm of the three dimensional as evinced by her creation of installations. These installations incorporate discarded materials such as words written in turmeric, natural fibers, and pieces of meat, striving to convey themes linked with female solidarity and empowerment. At a previous solo exhibition entitled ‘‘Under the Skin’’, one such installation consisted of vegetable fibers that had been woven together. Representing a braid of human hair, it alludes to the story of Drupadi from the Hindu epic known as the Mahabharata. Dishonored in public by the Kaurava brothers, Drupadi undertook a vow never to braid her hair again until her tormentors had been slain. Sasmita hence uses this mythical reference to symbolize female resistance in the face of ongoing efforts to suppress women.

Ode To The Sun is the third part of the Timur Merah Project that Sasmita previously presented in Biennale Jogja XV 2019. The exhibition turns a critical gaze upon the world of traditional Balinese literature which has historically confined itself to celebrating the exploits of male aristocrats while excluding female voices. Invoking a Balinese past characterised by the existence of powerful female rulers such as the 19th century queen, Dewa Istri Kanya, Sasmita transforms classic narratives of war and romance by imbuing them with a female perspective.