About Made Kaek
A contemporary artist residing in Banjar Palak Sukawati Bali. A graduate of law and a self-taught artist. Made Kaek is a creative pillar with pivotal contributions to the landscape of contemporary Indonesian art.
The biography of Made ‘Kaek’ Dharma Susila, are of his experiences in his own words, as translated by Dewi Dian Reich.
Getting to Know Made Kaek in His Own Words
We grew up quite democratically actually. But perhaps by DNA, I am more like my mother. My feelings, sensitivities and how I perceive something is maybe a little different.Made Kaek
Background and Education
In high school, I liked drawing and doing things like making wall art. I studied in a regular high school. When it was time to continue my studies I was advised to go to Yogyakarta to do law. So I did. In Yogya I found that law is a little conflicted in my life. Perhaps with my character and perception. But I also thought it could be something good in my life and continued with the study of law.
You can say I went to Yogya to study law but in Yogya I became an artist. I met Nyoman Gunarsa.. he lived near the campus and we often met at his house. There are many places where Balinese students from ISI would gather. I would say that I found my true self there. It was a long process, going through two extremes. On the one side, there is the law and on the other is art.
It was enough of a conflict for me to ask my father to give me time. I needed time to process and choose for myself. My father gave me the freedom to do that. I chose to focus a year at that time doing art. Together with friends. I socialised a lot with them, seeing many different things together and I learned a lot about philosophy from Nyoman Gunarsa. About conviction and courage, about social adaptations, English and what it was to be a true artist. They taught me to draw and paint.
The First Exhibition
So, I am grateful that even though I did not go to university to study art, I was blessed with a very good mentor.
The first time Nyoman Gunarsa invited me to join him at an exhibition in Jakarta was quite a memory. I was still going through the process of painting. Still, I joined him. My work was presented and critiqued by the team there. I was very nervous and soon I got very down. Because they said it was all very bad! They picked only 2 or 3 out of the works I proposed. But still, it was a very good experience and I learned a lot. After some more work, it was finally accepted. Thats how my first group exhibition was at the National Gallery of Indonesia in Jakarta. I was one of the only participants that were non ISI (Institut Seni Indonesia).
Made Kaek and the Law
There are many things I learned from the law,.. how I analyse something and work through something with the timeline that is right.
My father is a lawyer, initially, I entered the law because it was his plan for me. A village man, from a farming background.. he had gone to Yogya to study law and worked in Jember after graduation. He met and married my mother who is someone who loves art. She is from Sukawati, my father is from Sembung Mengwi. So they are from two quite different dispositions. Into this contrast that is a little different, there I was born.
Returning to Bali
In the end, I returned to Bali and was ready to practice law. But I was still active in Sanggar Dewata. And even from then, I was consistent and committed to my creative process. I had a following even in those early days but I was still looking for my style. I cannot paint faces. My skill is not that of a realist. My mentor Nyoman Gunarsaha always told me ‘it is not important that you can. not draw the best. You have a skill, you have a style that is your own.’ He gave me mental encouragement. I was very lucky to have met him and others there.
After a few months it became very clear to me that I could not continue to do law. There was quite a bit of confrontation and discussion with my father. But in the end I made the choice to live my life through art. Until 1991 I had good files with my artwork and sketches that recorded my journey.
In the Pursuit of Art
This was not an easy time but I was given good advice from senior friends.. ‘you have talent, skill and will, go ahead and do it!..
I continued to be active in Sanggar Dewata. To be honest, I like organisation. Maybe that part of my character I inherited from my father. I enjoy socialisation and working with people. I was secretary to Putu Sutawijaya who founded and built Sangkring Art Space in 2007.
A Constant Student
I enjoy my life in Bali and life as an artist here. And throughout those earlier days, I continued to explore and find my true self in art. I brought some work to a few art shops..and I was pleased they were well received. My parents started to recognise that I can survive and support myself through my art. So things started to settle down.
In life, things are always evolving. The more I socialised and settled in, there were new things I needed to learn. I started to meet many people from overseas. I realised I had to learn English to communicate better. So I took a job in marketing and worked in Kuta. I practised my English in the field.
There were periods then when I realised even though I can survive with my art, it was not always stable. It’s not a regular paycheck that is consistent. So I applied for a job also in the tourism sector. I worked as an office worker in a travel agency. Using skills I learned from my law background to do my job there. I made sure though, that I had set boundaries. I needed time to do my art, that was my priority.
Returning Home.. Sukawati
After three years in Denpasar, I wanted to move back to Sukawati. We had an empty family house in there. So in 1997 I moved back to Sukawati. It was still very quiet in those days. Nothing like what you see today. I thought I should make it. a studio there… So it is here that I can build my dream. I worked in the office during the day and went home to paint. From those early beginnings, there are many steps that we go through.
Art Inseparable from Life
My two worlds did merge. My professional world and where I continued to meet many people from all over the world converged with my world of art. It was inevitable. The professional world and the free creative world, are contradictive but they were part of my life. So for a while, I continued to polish my skills in my work.
Tourism became something of a step towards managing events for art. Here in Rumah Paros, we have exhibitions and social events. This is perhaps this inevitable merging of my social and professional experiences merging with my world of art.
But as art is inseparable from life, it is ultimately, simply my home.Made Kaek
Rumah Paros is situated in Sukawati, 5.3 km from Tegenungan Waterfall, Rumah Paros & Gallery. The studio and home of Made Kaek.
Exhibition in contempoary art, literature and performance are regularly held at Rumah Paros.
The Logo of Rumah Paros was designed by artist Made Budiana.
Related Article: An Insightful Contradiction of Art and Law
The dimensionality in the art and life of Made Kaek.
To learn more of Made Kaek, career and affiliations, read article ‘Made Kaek: Amorphous and Colorful Self’.