Ubud & its neighboring villages have been known as the center of Balinese art for centuries. The most popular Balinese art form, which has gained world reputation, is wood carving. You can find rows of wood carving galleries in Mas, a village a few kilometers south of Ubud. These galleries are mostly family owned, where wood carving skills are passed on from generation to generation. There is usually a workshop area where you can watch the wood carvers transform a chunk of wood into a piece of art. The themes of these woodcrafts are influenced by Hinduism or Balinese mythology, & many draw inspirations from daily life.
During my recent trip to Bali, I visited Mas and grew appreciation for Balinese wood carving. I was fascinated by how the wood is selected for its expressive power, the connection that the wood carvers make with thewood, & the intricacy of the design. My favorite gallery is that of Njana Tilem. The gallery ground has a traditional Balinese feel; there is a family temple, a woodcraft shop, workshop areas, & the gallery. Although other artists’ works are fascinating, these artists’ work feels more captivating & alive, as if they have souls. Each piece tells its own story: the hardship of a fisherman catching fish in the ocean expressed through his facial lines, the simplicity of a villager feeding chicken expressed through his eyes, the pain screamed through a man’s distorted face.