Last week, our team went on a trip together. We are finally able to get a couple of dates where everyone is available so we decided to make a road trip out of it. Though we had a work schedule planned, I was pretty excited about the break away from our office. Most likely in need of some sun and fresh air.
Sawidji being in our early days the work can be intense, yet trips that make memories like this is already a part of our dreams coming true. I was fortunate to have seen examples of those who paved their own way. Mentors who guided me in my career not on how to get a promotion. But on the value of a positive internal culture. To take good care of your team and colleagues. I’ve always found those lessons stuck with me a lot clearer than the others.
Positive community culture needed for our future..
Perhaps many of us had enough years working in an organisation whose internal systems may not be kind to our well being. Sometimes those working years are kind, other times we struggle against different forms of oppression and even toxicity. When people are thrown together out of necessity, this does not mean they will find a sense of community there. In an age of competition, of value being measured through professional achievements and material rewards, it is no surprise that many work environments become a minefield of direct or indirect rivalry and pretense.
We all bring a degree of this baggage with us. Some more than others. I think this is why we are so adamant about nurturing a positive community culture. This is integral to the kind of community we will grow into. How we cultivate our internal environment determines who we will become. So, when we have an opportunity to work on something together in our studio or out in the field, it is a precious opportunity for all of us to contribute into our development as a community.
Our first stop is to visit a friend and artist Shuai Feng in Amed. In preparation for a project we are working on for the coming months. We had a lovely afternoon enjoying Shuais’ wonderful pieces whilst taking the time for ManButur and I to get some portraits of Shuai and her beautiful paintings in her studio.
Afterwards, we headed towards the hills of Ababi in Karangasem to spend the night in Geriasemalung hosted by Ibu Michiyo. Where Kaprus Jaya took out his colours and painted against the beautiful sunset. We will be back in Geriasemalung, not only for its beauty and peaceful atmosphere. Also because here we found the community spirit of which we are building. The gift of meeting other individuals who share the same vision and joy in nurturing this honest and simple sense of community.
In the evening on this beautiful hill overlooking Tirta Gangga, sitting down for dinner with Ibu Michiyo, we were content. The Villa Geriasemalung is actually still closed since the pandemic but is getting ready to reopen in December and we are fortunate guests welcomed on this special occasion. Ibu Michiyo Tezuka, A close friend of Kaprus Jaya for over 25 years deserves and requires a dedicated introduction of its own. A sculptor and doll maker whose talent is frightening and magical. But for now, today, I wish to share another story that was unexpected.
Meeting Gede Juli
During our short stay, over dinner and conversation we met Gede Juli. The caretaker at Villa Geriasemalung. Ibu Michiyo mentioned that he is wonderfully talented. However, despite his talent as an artist it seems that Gede Juli is often troubled and his path has often been full of difficulties. Throughout our conversation our team was soon touched by this beautiful, troubled and sobering creative talent.
The next morning I am sitting with Gede Juli in the open dining room of Geriya Semalung. Gede Juli took out a black drawing book, and with such humility he shared with us some of his works. With some encouragement from Ibu Michiyo, Gede Juli wrestled with his embarrassment and with a frankness I admire he opened up himself. With his permission I am sharing now our conversation.
Finding July in September, a conversation with Gede Juli.
Since when did you first start to draw?
“Since I as little I liked to draw and paint.. About twenty years ago I had the courage to buy canvas and materials..“
I asked him why he chose the word ‘courage’ to buy canvas and materials.
“My parents are farmers and we did not have a lot of money. To even consider spending money on something like canvas, something that was not seen as a necessity is something that one needs to think about quite a lot. It is a risk to spend that money for something that does not help survival.”
Gede Julis’ illustrations are remarkable. They are executed in a purely pointillist technique using black and white ink. Similar to the well known works of artist Harijadi, whose detailed pointillist masterpieces have been known for over 20 years. I gathered very soon that Gede Juli has had no background in art. He did not study it. He came to draw in this pointillist style due to his taking up tattoo art.
“Because I learn tattoo, the technique is the same, it was a natural progression for me to make these ink drawings with this technique“
I was taken aback, because I recalled on my first visit to Ibu Michiyos’ home, I recall a drawing set on top of a corner table with her dolls sitting in front of it. That work was an image of a path in the dark woods, with a figure whose shadow depicted some surrealist aspects had made quite an impression on me. I had not thought to ask too much at the time, but I recall the image clearly and felt it was sorrowfully beautiful.
In Search of the Light
It was titled ‘Mencari Terang’ (In Search of Light). When I asked Gede Juli what in his own words were his feelings and thoughts behind this image he answered,
“Maybe because I suffer from depression, often everything feels like it is dark. But there is still a desire to get better,. Perhaps that is what it means to look for the light”Gede Juli
We spoke for some time of his experiences through depression and he expressed his meaning of darkness as a state whereby
“I cannot do anything because I cannot see anything..everything stays still. I want to move but I cannot.”
Yet Gede Juli battles his despondency and at times succeeds. During these moments of clarity, these phases of emotional and mental stability the intricate language of his symbolism pours out of him. In the most natural and remarkable way.
Though Julis’ themes may have arisen from darker chapters in his life. Each composition is filled with a philosophical web. A fusion of the traditional images of Balinese Hinduism with the free flowing narrative that comes from Gede Julis’ own consciousness. Each intricate piece a map of his own personal journey. Where his past, present and future converge.
Contextual Sidenote: Its all ‘Stress’
Having spent many years in Australia, I notice a marked difference in the level of awareness about mental health overall. Especially here in Bali. There is not a lot of familiarity with the symptoms and causes of depression. Also a lack of information on how to constructively deal with states of depression. Quite often, I recall all manner of mental conditions categorised simply as ‘stress‘.
During our morning conversation, through Gede Juli’s courage and trust in sharing a private part of himself, I am also learning. I am reminded that the problems we face in our different walks of life have similar causes. Whether we are in our little paradise island or in a city far away. Many are suffering the same handicap. The same pain. Regardless of economy or culture.
A sense of isolation, even amongst the crowd. Even in a thrivingly social community a sense of disconnectedness and hopelessness can ensue. Social demands often breeds competition that is often unhealthy. Leading to social envy. As human beings we have an innate need for connectedness and a sense of belonging. For those sensitive souls, braving the world can be a challenge. Finding nurturing and positive connections is seldom easy.
When there is no strong supportive foundation, even the most remarkable talent can struggle to survive.
It brings me to the unplanned conclusion of this article. I had set out to write a simple summary of our teams’ road trip. Which for the most part I have. As is typical of adventures, there are surprises. The wonderful surprise was in meeting and uncovering the hidden talents of Gede Juli. Our meeting reinforces our conviction in the fundamental need for a positive and nurturing community.
The joy of finding July in September..
Hopefully, even through some distance, our small community can be a place where Gede Juli can find encouragement and support. To help him overcome what forms of darkness that has been overwhelming. To find his path and be inspired to continue his art. An art that is full of lifes’ bittersweet contrasts. Like finding the cool winds of July in the warmth of September.
The Prints of Juli
The sombre and beautiful works of Gede Juli are available in Archival Giclee Prints. Sales from prints goes to supporting Gede Juli on his journey in search of the light.
The art of Gede Juli is impressive, and that it arose from his depression brings to mind the old adage that every cloud has a silver lining. Not sure if that is a good trade off for an artist, but at least in this case it made for good art.