Thursday, February 16, 2006

Abdul Aziz: the painter, sculptor, violin maker

Dateline 11 February 2006

Abdul Aziz: The painter, the sculptor, the violin maker

Denpasar, --- Artist Abdul Aziz created the painting known as the “Mona Lisa of Bali”. Yet few people outside the circle of art-collectors have ever heard of him. A highly talented artist and musician since childhood, a member of the Student Army during the struggle for Indonesian Independence, for which he later was decorated with the “Tanda Jasa Pahlawan” and other awards, Abdul Aziz was a recipient of an Italian Government scholarship which enabled him to spend five years in Italy, during which time he received two Diplomas from the Accademia di Belle Arti in Rome, for Painting and for Decoration.

On his return to Indonesia in 1965, Abdul Aziz settled in Bali, lecturing at Udayana University, and making his home in Ubud in 1970. Here he painted some very famous works, ‘coming out of the frame’, which are held permanently in the Abdul Aziz room at the Neka Art Museum. In 1983 a British tourist, Mary Northmore, saw his work and expressed an interest in meeting the artist. They were married in 1988 and set up home together just outside Ubud. Shortly after this Mary founded the Seniwati Gallery of Art by Women, to this day the only gallery of its kind in Asia, based in Aziz’ old studio in central Ubud.

Abdul Aziz not only painted and sculpted but he was also a serious musician and, towards the end of his life, dedicated his energies to making violins, as he said:
“To prove an Indonesian could be as good as Stradivarius” .

Many collectors complained to him and to Mary, that they weren’t able to get paintings by Aziz, but he was not interested in fame and fortune, preferring to stay home and play music rather than assume the role of ‘publicly famous artist’. This is why so few people know of his amazing life and work. One year after Abdul Aziz passed away, on January 1st, 2003, Mary decided that she wanted to create a book about her husband, to show the world what an extraordinary artist he was. She tracked down his paintings and sculptures, interviewed friends from his childhood and youth, his Italian years and later, and has combined them all into a book “Abdul Aziz: The Artist and His Art”, published in November 2005.

The National launch of the book on February 11th at Gedung Arsip Nasional, Jl Gajah Mada 111 included addresses by HE Charles Humfrey, CMG, British Ambassador, Suteja Neka, and Mary Northmore, with a Violin tribute to Abdul Aziz by I Gusti Bagus Wiswakarma, together with an exhibition of Abdul Aziz memorabilia and violins.

That's the extent of the official press release, but let me add that this extraordinary man has been given the extraordinary honor that every hardworking artist would want for him or herself. It's a remarkable book, a beautiful tribute, a meticulous history.

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