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After a long history of dark painting styles, it is refreshing to see an artist interpret the Bali landscape with a colourful impressionistic interpretation. It suits it so well.

I fell in love with the work of Arie Smit when I visited the Neka Museum in Ubud. His paintings are alive with moving  colours in the way that Van Gogh's landscapes vibrate off the canvas.

Given his background, Smit's decision to let colour and celebration flow through his work fills out the viewer's appreciation. At least, it did for me. Enlisted in the military in the Dutch East Indies in 1938, Smit was captured by the Japanese invading forces and spent three and a half tough years in forced labour camps building bridges and roads in Singapore, Burma and Thailand.

After the war ended he decided to stay in Indonesia and taught graphic design, the subject he had studied, in Bandung. Eventually settling in Ubud, he was sponsored by Neka Museum founder Pande Wayan Suteja Neka, better known as (Suteja Neka), and became the founder of the “Young Artists” movement. The movement grew out of a necessity when the eruption of Mount Agung caused food shortages, and Smit taught two young duck herders how to paint so that they could earn a living. In recognition of his contribution to the development of painting in Bali, Smit received the Dharma Kusama award.

Arie Smit turned 99 this year. After seeing his paintings and finding out more about him, I became excited that I live so close to a master artist of his kind. His niece, Lucienne, manages a Facebook page about him and is about to publish a book about his life and work. She herself is a talented artist with a studio in the Netherlands. We exchanged a few emails. She informed me that unfortunately, Arie Smit is too frail for visitors and has lost his sight. What unimaginable loss this must be. But I am sure in his mind's eye he will always see the colourful Bali of his works. And that is a sure blessing. 

 

Update 30 March 2016:

Arie Smit passed away on 23 March, which fell on Nyepi, the annual day of silence. This year there happened to be a partial solar eclipse as well so he chose a special day indeed.  In the end, I sadly did not meet Arie himself but I ended up meeting Lucienne Smit and her husband Jos when they came to Bali to attend the funeral ceremonies. She presented a book about Arie's work that she had been dedicating her life on the past 4 years, to the Neka Museum. We had an amazing connection. Finally, the best part was that Lucienne bought a Unity bracelet from my Emi & Eve collection for Mrs. Neka as a thank you gift for their kindness. 

You never know what events a visit to an art museum could gift you. Seek inspiration everywhere and find that what you seek is seeking you. 


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