Sacred Painting in Bali:
Tradition in Transitionby
Thomas L. Cooper
2005. 192 pp., 96 col. pl., 2 maps, bibliography, index, 29 x 21 cm., hardcover.
ISBN-10: 974-524-034-6 $45.00
Translation from book review by Annette Hornbacher
Thomas Cooper’s new book on Balinese painting is attractive for its extraordinary illustrations, and in addition presents a significant thesis on the dialectic of tradition and change in Bali.
While earlier works have dealt mostly with a single regional painting style—as, for example, Anthony Forge in his study on the classical Kamasan style or Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson in their analysis of the modern Batuan style (which they helped to create with their own commissions)-Cooper also seeks out paintings in places which have so far received no attention, in order to compare the works and painting styles of artists from all regions of Bali.
The result is a book which would be worth acquiring just for its abundance of high-quality illustrations. These are of paintings produced by different artists for local clients, in quite different places on the island, for the decoration of village or family temples. Through abundant examples, which lead the reader on a tour of discovery through the Balinese artistic landscape, Cooper describes not only the iconography of the paintings themselves, but the terms under which the artists work, their living conditions as well as their creative style, in order to bring these sociocultural and esthetic observations to bear on his basic question about the traditionalness—or modernness—of sacred painting.
[Read a review from American Anthropologist] [Read a review from the Journal of Folklore Research, Indiana University] [Read a review from the Asian Folklore Studies, Nanzan University, Nagoya] [Read a review from the Journal of Southeast Asian Studies] [More Orchid Press Reviews]
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