Reading Mantra Organic
‘Organic’ thinking is thinking based on the perception of wholeness of people, relationships, and of the earth itself. It is thinking that seeks to join together and to unify, rather than to break things down into discrete parts. ‘Organic’ thinking looks at life as a series of smaller wholes within larger wholes. It forms the foundation for a life in which nothing is separate. – Julie Redstone, ORGANIC MIND AND BINARY MIND
Mantra is the product of a long line of traditional Balinese who diligently followed the path of art as a life choice. His father was a well known painter named Bapak Pengsong, a famous painter in Bali and Lombok. >From his father’s line, he has a long genealogy that can be traced to the 16th century when the people of the Gelgel and Amlapura Kingdoms, along with troops of soldiers and artists, migrated to West Lombok. >From the Balinese community in Lombok, Mantra took in the nuances of Balinese aesthetics in what tends to be an exclusive group of the Balok (Bali-Lombok) people to carry on his religious and traditional lines.
From a young age, Mantra visually absorbed the life of his father, a painter and art teacher at the same time. His father was his first drawing teacher. Because his mother is from Ubud, one of the art villages in Bali, Mantra also had a channel to access the traditional art world in Ubud both musical and visual. During his school holidays, Mantra often went to Bali.
From a home that encouraged the roots of traditional Hindu Balu arts, and from a world of semi-traditional painters shown by his father, Mantra continued to an art school in Batu Bulan, Gianyar, Bali withi his cousin (from his mother’s side) Pande Made Taman, a young Indonesian painter whose name today is highly held on the map of Indonesian painting.
Mantra skillfully mastered the techniques of classical painting and drawing. Before formally entering art school, in his 4th year of grade school, he won a drawing competition and represented NTB in a national level competition. There he first got national recognition. The early works of Mantra from his days as an art school student, with explorations of classical Balinese painting techniques and traditional themes such as Legong and Barong, are very strong. But he did not stop there; he moved from these skilled traditional painting and drawing techniques to personal expression that he continued to formulate.
From an acoustical standpoint, Mantra is able to play the classical Balinese instrument of the gamelan. He even has a gamelan set in his music studio. But he, once again, did not stop there. He changed to playing electric guitar, organ, and music arranged by himself on computer. Playing guitar, recording and performing music that blends classic and modern instruments is his daily work in the music studio in his house. His home has become one of the gathering spots for musicians from groups of students to old musicians.
Like Mantra’s house which is split in two with a painting studio in front and a music studio in back, within Mantra himself, the acoustic and visual passions are constantly at battle. They share space and become two doors for creative energy for Mantra.
Mantra is fond of software and websites. He designs websites and graphic arts based on his ability to understand and operate computers and using his aesthetic tastes. Hundreds or perhaps thousands graphic works on his laptop fill the memory of his computer. He helps his friends draft websites and posters, banners, billboards, even wedding invitiaions. He “patented” himself in his website’s domain name: www.mantradigital.com From there we can see his “creative passions” to venture into the digital world.
If he is not careful dividing his time among painting, playing music (recording), and “playing computer”, the aesthetic abilities and accomplishments that he has reached threaten to become time conflicts. His absence from the Indonesian world of visual arts the last few years is due to his serving the many talents and skills he has mastered.
In the last two years, it seems Mantra has succeeded in disentangling and pacifying the mouths and creative doors on the way to an “aesthetic formula”: ORGANIC!
Inherited from Balinese traditions – myths and ritual, religious and traditional – he studied through philosophy and investigation, and Mantra found at a point of consciousness that YOGA represents an aspect of the visual line of that tradition. In the acoustic energy he took in, he found his “figurative representative” in the figure of JIMI HENDRIX. Yoga is a trend with roots in spiritual technology (“traditional knowledge”) thousands of years old from the lands of India. Jimi Hendrix on one hand is an icon of “urban knowledge”; he crawls in the middle finding a part of himself that is “urban” (to replace the word “modern”) studying and honing his skills autodidactically. He was a symbol of accomplishment for city children in America. He was urban and able to crystallize himself to become “something” and “someone”. “Urban knowledge” and “traditional knowledge” are two wings which can be brought together Organically. Not a left wing or right that must be in opposition, Mantra pacifies the acoustic-urban (Jimi Hendrix) with the visual-traditional (Yoga) in a way that brings them both out from those two boxes in an “organic thinking way”.
Mantra moves beyond this excavation first by being at peace with all energy and creative talents (visual-acoustical, traditional-urban, yoga-hendrix) to bring them together in an undivided way of thinking (non-dichotomic). He left the creative way of working that is based in the binary mind (left-right and dichotomy of thoughts) to free himself for the creative process of the organic mind. He perseveres to bring together all creative energies cohesively and free himself from dichotomic interruptions.
Mantra, through the works of this phase, like a pendulum clock in the stillness of night, swings to the left and right, never colliding but counting all by himself.
*Sugi LANUS is a researcher of Balinese culture who has extensively followed Mantra’s creative process for the last 5 years.