This Balinese artist started sculpting from the world he knew. After learning about the vastly different worlds of his customers, his repertoire expanded in ways he could not have imagined.
For Nengah Sudersana, inspiration has always come from his natural surroundings. “From an early age, I loved natural things – plants, animals, birds and sea life. In the beginning, I made artistic carvings of pets. I started with two things which were close to me, cats and yoga.”
“As I have learned more about the world from my customer reviews, I have discovered that people keep rabbits as pets, that ducks are loved and so my work has grown. Now I have the opportunity to create art subjects incorporating not only Indonesian wildlife but also others from all corners of the earth.”
For Nengah, art is a way of reckoning with our place in the world. It is as an expression of his environment, but also of his hope for the future and that we may learn from one another. He says, “I have a special appreciation for the often neglected dogs that populate all Balinese villages, and when I see the way Western people treat their animals, I hope someday that Indonesians will appreciate their animals as much!”
Like many of the world’s most gifted artisans, Nengah has no formal art training. His keen ability to capture “exact, realistic and original” depictions of wildlife is rooted in something much more fundamental: astute intuition and a lifetime of observation.
But his observations could only take him so far—to the limits of the world around him. To step beyond those horizons, he has had to leap across oceans and continents.
He had to imagine himself in the shoes of the customers who bought his sculptures, who placed them in their homes, who found in their intricate detailing and fastidious craftsmanship something they recognized and loved.
So, he widened his perspective: “Before, I was like a lot of fellow Balinese in that my thinking was centered on Bali only, as if Bali was the world! Now I realize more fully how we are just a piece of the puzzle.” This is the great gift of art. It creates a dialogue, one that Nengah has found a way to tap into.
And he is deeply grateful for it. His customers have impacted his life in tangible ways by enabling him to create a better life for his family. “Before, I could hardly afford to live in a single room home. Now I live in a house with three rooms.” This good fortune has spilled over into his community: “Five other families now benefit directly from my sales. I am also able to help my relatives, especially the younger children, who now have shoes, clothes, and an education that they couldn’t have before.”
The intangible element is just as powerful. Nengah says, “When I read customers’ comments about my products, I’m filled with a great sense of well-being and pride, to be able to create something that others value.” And he knows that he has YOU to thank for this. One of his great pleasures is looking at a map of the world to see all the far-flung places his artworks now live. “It is almost as if part of me has traveled to those other places and is now residing there.”
While his work may have changed over the years, his artistic integrity has not: “I will not allow anything out of my hands that I would not want to own and display in my own house. It’s my highest desire that every piece goes to a home and will give great joy for as long as the owner has it.”