Painted in 1980, this lot is of particular notability as it is one of Arie Smit’s earlier, larger works. Renowned for his poetic realism, Arie paints not in exacting detail, but with characteristics of impressionism, as he determines essential themes that would provide insight into his artistic view of a world that joyfully inspires him to paint. Hence, the motif of temple gates is often depicted in his works albeit always with a fresh perspective and an original interpretation of the scene. One can also observe the mature thought that goes into his composition, as he desires to create dialogue with the viewer – first catching the eye and then drawing viewers in, to ponder and contemplate the details of his work. Red Temple does exactly that and beckons viewers closer to discover the bare essence of Balinese beauty that similarly captivated Arie himself.
Red Temple is also a standout piece as it harks back to his sketches with its simple color scheme. Like a sketch done in oils, the artist uses a drier brush lightly loaded with paint, achieving strokes that look a little irregular, yet energised. Arie’s brush work is confident and spontaneous, recreating the wild, overgrown foliage that surrounds the striking temple. A central point amongst the muted tones of the natural environment, the titular red temple represents the innate visual and spiritual strength he found within traditional Balinese architecture. The red of the temple seems to have an almost luminescent feel, perhaps evoking the effect the natural light has its red walls.
Although this work does not showcase Arie’s quintessential bright colours, his artistic language is still prominent within the canvas. The artist has famously spent the larger part of his career trying to capture what he describes as “riotous” light, and observing the behaviour and effects of sunlight in the lush environment. Such aspiration and execution of his ‘broken colours’ technique is observed in his skilful employment of white paint. Arie stipples the white paint in between the foliage and creates mosaics of light that would naturally break through from behind the trees.
The expert depiction of natural light can be seen in the varying translucency of the white paint that he uses. Thicker, more opaque paint is used as organic curves and flecks between the foliage, where the sunlight would first hit and be the strongest; thinner whites highlight the ground and the temple, in dashes, with the increase in its translucency to signify the light at its softest. The control of the paint’s consistency is key to Arie’s ‘broken colours’ technique, as he builds upon layers of paint but never completely masks the previous layer underneath. This study of light ultimately imbues immense depth and dimension into the canvas, elevating it from sketch to painting.
Indeed, the entire canvas captivates as a centrepiece of the artist’s dedicated study of his beloved environment and his masterful artistry. Red Temple is a stunning work that encapsulates the rhythm and liveliness of the Balinese landscape and only serves to further affirm Arie Smit as one of Indonesia’s masters of modern art.
 Garret Kam, ‘Inner Dynamics’, Poetic Realism: The Art of Arie Smit, Centre for Strategic and International Studies Neka Museum, Bali, 1990, p20.
 Garret Kam, ‘Vibrant Visions’, Poetic Realism: The Art of Arie Smit, Centre for Strategic and International Studies Neka Museum, Bali, 1990, p18.
 Ibid, 2.
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