Monez Draws on Balinese Folklore to Create Art with a Twist

Ida Bagus Ratu Antoni Putra, popularly known as Monez, is one half of the duo behind the recent installation art at Bali International Airport. While the piece is a timely critique of Bali’s plastic waste crisis, Monez has been creating illustrations and murals inspired by his island home, and particularly its fables and folktales, for over a decade. Born and raised in Bali, Monez inherited his passion for art from his grandfather who was a traditional painter. Unlike his grandfather, however, Monez lacked what he refers to as “the ability to draw in proportion.” As such, he initially focused on graphic design rather than illustration, believing that those were supposed to be “perfect, realistic pictures.” During a stint at a garment factory, where he learnt about pattern design and coloring techniques, Monez realized that his drawings do not have to conform to what most other artists are producing, setting off a chain of events that would lead him to his current success.

Monez recently collaborated with Marmar, one of the first ogoh-ogoh artists not to use Styrofoam in his pieces, to design and create an installation from around 3,500 pieces of plastic waste. The 3D piece, which took four months to complete, is on show at Bali International Airport until 31 October 2019. Monez says that the installation aims to connect.

Bali’s plastic waste problem with its trademark as a world-class surf destination. “Marmar and I used surfing and the shape of waves as our theme,” says Monez. “I think that the Bali Airport, as an international hub, is a perfect place for this installation that bringing the message of reducing the use of single-use plastic to the world. For us Balinese, the installation is also a reminder that Bali is our home and it is our responsibility to take care of it.”

Just like Monez’s latest work, his whole artistic style, which he calls Fablelous—a play on the words fable and fabulous—is influenced by the island that stands at the core of his heart. Perhaps it was Monez’s lack of the ability to draw in the realistic style that encouraged him to look to Balinese folklore and mythological creatures for inspiration. He says that as a child he was particularly taken by the tale about tonya or memedi, an “unseen creature” that roams the island, kidnapping children to take them to another dimension. As such, it is not surprising that Monez’s art world is filled with colorful monsters—however, this time most with a friendly disposition. In a similar spirit, Monez’s apparel brand MONSTERO, which he set up in 2009, has been inspired by overcoming one’s fears—whether it be of childhood monsters or more modern limitations. “Bali is an abundant source of ideas, from folklore to our traditional dance. It’s a unique blend that continually inspires me to produce new images,” he says. “I use MONSTERO as a platform to inspire other Balinese artists to incorporate their artworks into apparel that in the end will align with the fashion industry.”

Monez’s illustrations can be found in books, while his large-scale murals grace the walls of numerous Bali restaurant and hotels such as Folie Kitchen in Canggu and Anja Jimbaran. He has also created illustrations to promote Bali’s “night at the zoo” tours. Once inspired by the characters in his childhood books, Monez has recently created illustrations for a children’s book entitled How I Send My Hug Around the World. “This is my first children’s book project. I was very excited to work on it. It took about a year for me and Donna Conrad, as a writer, to finish this book,” he says. “The book features a very valuable message for children. It tells how a small act of kindness, such as a hug, can have a positive influence on our surroundings and the environment.”

Last year, as a part of the Singapore Art Week, Monez collaborated with Apple to lead an art class, teaching participants how to use Affinity Photo for iPad to create illustrations, something he refers to as a major career step. Monez says that he now also does a lot of his work digitally on an iPad Pro, as he feels that it offers a more practical way of producing art, making it both easy to edit and print.

“Sharing is one of my ways of giving something back to the community, especially the creative community. I particularly enjoyed sharing my knowledge at the event in Singapore, which was attended by such a wide range of people from different age groups and backgrounds,” he says. “I taught them to create monsters using Affinity Photo. I think they were surprised about how well their work turned out and how easy it was to create.”

With such a diverse portfolio of work, it will be interesting to see in which direction Monez’s work progresses. His oeuvre is increasingly becoming more visible both in Bali and the region, including Malaysia where he recently had an exhibition. He is also appearing at the Frankfurt Book Fair this month. Most significantly, however, Monez says that his art has taught him the most important skills of all—to imagine and have fun. “When you are in the creative industry, skill is not everything. It must go along with the right attitude and commitment.”

By Anita

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