Presse: The Jakarta Post (anglais)

3 October 2009

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Jakarta Post, Tue, 03/10/2009.

Melting barriers with art and soul.

Rita A. Widiadana

Bali-based French artist Jean-Philippe Haure prays each day for a gra­te­ful life.

Born in Orléans 40 years ago to an arti­san father and a gra­duate of the pres­ti­gious art school L’Ecole Boulle in Paris, Haure could have pur­sued a flou­ri­shing career in France, a heaven for artists.
Instead, he fol­lo­wed his “His cal­ling”: Attracted to the spi­ri­tua­lity of the Benedictine congre­ga­tion, he joined the monas­tery of Saint Benoît sur Loire.

In 1991, he landed in the small town of Gianyar in Bali as a volun­teer to teach art at Sasana Hasta Karya voca­tio­nal school, deve­lo­ped by the Catholic Church of Bali, thou­sands of kilo­me­ters from his home­town. “As human beings, we don’t have any free­dom to choose or to design our lives,” Haure says. “Our task is just to strug­gle to fully accept the kind of life which has been given to us.”

When he first arri­ved in Bali, he was, he admits honestly, quite confu­sed. “I just fol­lo­wed it and enjoyed every minute of the day.”
Living in a modest house equip­ped with a barn-cum-studio in the green and shady artist vil­lage of Kububingin near Ubud, he is almost iso­la­ted from the hustle and bustle of the island’s glit­te­ring art circle and gla­mo­rous tou­rism indus­try.

“I lead a very ordi­nary life: taking chil­dren to school, tea­ching and nur­tu­ring my artis­tic works,” he says. “No­thing is so spe­cial. Yet it can be spe­cial depen­ding on how people see and feel it.”
After tea­ching at the school, he spends hours wor­king in his studio built on the slope of a small river.

His labo­rious efforts have yiel­ded dozens of dis­tin­gui­shed art­works, some of which are now on dis­play at D Gallery in Jakarta until March 18.
“My art­works reflect my own life,” Haure says. “It goes bet­ween abs­tract and rea­lism, spi­ri­tua­lity and mate­ria­lism. I really don’t know how to clearly define it.”

For many cri­tics, Haure’s art pieces are dif­fe­rent from the works of other Western artists who explo­red Bali as their sub­ject. Take for exam­ple his por­trayal of Balinese women, as com­men­ted upon by the res­pec­ted art critic Jean Couteau, who wrote an insight­ful review of his work.

“What cha­rac­te­ri­zes Jean-Philippe Haure’s atti­tude in his treat­ment, in his works, of the social issue of Balinese woman­hood, is his total absence of pre­ju­di­ces – colo­nial as well as post-colo­nial,” Couteau wrote. “He seems to tell us that Balinese women may be beau­ti­ful, but this should not entitle Westerners to ‘see’ and treat them as sexual objects in the name of an ‘exotic’ dif­fe­rence ensh­ri­ned in colo­nial his­tory.”

Couteau also found Haure’s atti­tude to art to be far from any nor­ma­tive cultu­ral ste­reo­ty­ping; it is, he wrote, “an atti­tude much heal­thier than his [Western artists] pre­de­ces­sors.”

Haure could easily fall into the trap of deli­ve­ring a ste­reo­ty­pi­cal por­trayal of the island as depic­ted by many Western artists in the past. He refu­ses to allow that, even as a band of foreign artists seek fame and for­tune by exploi­ting “Ba­li­nese exo­ti­cism”, although, Haure says, “There were often mis­per­cep­tions and misun­ders­tan­dings about the term exo­ti­cism.”
When people visit a fara­way place occu­pied by “strange” people with an alien culture and tra­di­tions, they tend to see it as exotic, he says, which is a kind of shal­low­ness in the unders­tan­ding and appre­cia­tion of other people’s culture and tra­di­tions: “In my opi­nion, they [groups of first-time Western artists in Bali] try to stron­gly express the island’s exo­ti­cism in terms of its uni­que­ness and dif­fe­ren­ces without trying to really unders­tand them.”
Haure belie­ves that once people unders­tand and accept the dif­fe­ren­ces and diver­si­ties, there will be no more “exo­ti­cism” in any social and cultu­ral contex­tual forms.

But unders­tan­ding a dif­fe­rent culture requi­res time and effort, Haure says.
“When I first arri­ved in Bali, I found it very dif­fi­cult to adjust to a new living envi­ron­ment. I remem­be­red how I should learn to taste local food, to feel the hot and humid wea­ther, to unders­tand the way the local people thought and beha­ved and even the way they walk and sit. Everything seemed so hard to me.”

Spiritually, it was even more com­plex. “The way I looked at the concept of my self­ness was dif­fe­rent from the people around me,” he adds. As devout Catholic and a European, Haure found it par­ti­cu­larly hard to adapt to life on the pre­do­mi­nantly Hindu island.

“It requi­red hard work and it took me quite some time to try to build a strong bridge to secure a way of phy­si­cal and spi­ri­tual com­mu­ni­ca­tion,” he says.

During his first years in Bali, he stayed with the Balinese noble family of Puri Abianbase in Gianyar, where he lear­ned tra­di­tio­nal Balinese music, Ble Ganjur, and the arts. More impor­tantly, he built direct inte­rac­tion with the locals by socia­li­zing inten­sely with them.

In that way, Haure expe­rien­ced a gra­dual and natu­ral cross-cultu­ral trans­for­ma­tion as he began to learn, embrace and res­pect the values of his adop­ted land’s culture, tra­di­tion and beliefs.

“The Balinese society has taught me some­thing very valua­ble – the com­mu­na­lity, a sense of toge­ther­ness.” In such a society, he points out, no per­so­nal ego is allo­wed to stand out.

“As a child and a man edu­ca­ted in the ratio­nal and indi­vi­dual Western culture, the com­mu­nal concept was hardly reco­gni­zed....”
His newly acqui­red know­ledge and res­pect of the local people and culture had the effect of mel­ting away com­mu­ni­ca­tion bar­riers. He began to see the Balinese and Indonesians as his fellow humans whose values and thoughts must be unders­tood and res­pec­ted rather than as “alien people and attrac­tive art objects”.

All of these beliefs and expe­rien­ces are clearly mani­fes­ted in his work and his simple and reli­gious life.

He now shares his values with his family and his stu­dents, who come from dif­fe­rent parts of Indonesia.

“I feel so moti­va­ted to intro­duce my chil­dren and stu­dents to the vir­tues of lear­ning and res­pec­ting the diver­sity and dif­fe­ren­ces that often sepa­rate people from one and ano­ther,” he says. “It is the real and dif­fi­cult lesson that eve­ryone should master in order to suc­ceed in life.”

  J-Philippe, Bali Press review Presse: The Jakarta

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