Click here to toggle detail image
Arthur Fleischmann 1927-2008
Medieval Bali and her exotic kingdom was quite unknown to the world until early into the 20th century. Gauguin abandoned Europe for Tahiti at the end of the 19th century in search of a new way of life, more real and more sincere. It took another generation of artists, inspired by Gauguin’s break away from western society, to discover the unspoiled beauties of Bali and by the 1930s it was the new South Seas Paradise on Earth for travellers seeking exotic experiences.
Arthur Fleischmann was one such artist. In Bali Fleischmann’s sense of spirituality found freedom to express itself and, under the influence of a Dutch colonial missionary, Father Buys, he converted to Catholicism. While in Bali Fleischmann created many figurative sculptures and took hundreds of photographs. He became captivated by his two year sojourn in Bali and its influence remained prominent during the following decade in Sydney and his long career in London where he spent the last forty years of his life.
Born in Bratislava in 1896, Arthur Fleischmann qualified as a medical doctor but soon turned to sculpture, which he studied in Vienna. In 1937 he left Europe for South Africa, then via Zanzibar he travelled to Indonesia, staying in Bali for two years. He would have remained there had it not been for the invasion by the Japanese in 1939, forcing him to seek refuge in Sydney. There he settled for the next ten years, becoming part of the celebrated artists’ commune of Merioola.
But those two years in Bali were especially formative, witnessing an expansion of Fleischmann’s vision. For many who fled the instability of Europe during the 1930s, the southern hemisphere represented a distant escape, and Bali especially, as the artist put it ‘a land of complete harmony between nature and the people, their art and customs.’ It produced more than the sculpture he is best known for:
‘I came to Bali as a sculptor, and the Balinese have been a tremendous inspiration in my work. But sculpting is slow… such that it can give only a few crystallized symbols of life. Photographs can capture the beauty of the human figure, especially the beauty of Balinese women.'
With a miniature Dolina camera and 35mm film he took many photographs, enlarged ‘with the aid of daylight and an old wooden box camera fixed in the opening of the blacked out window.’ Markets, harvesting scenes, temples, landscapes; all were captured by his roving lens; but it was the dancers, with their movement and lithe bodies adorned with richly textured costume, who appealed most to his sculptor’s sensibility.
Fleischmann intended to publish a book, “Bali through a sculptor’s eyes”, but it never progressed beyond transcript, the prints and the negatives remained stored in his St John’s Wood studio after his death in London in 1990. Now at last, through the efforts of his widow Joy and son Dominique, it has been published by Pictures Publishers in the Netherlands, specialists in art books pertaining to Indonesia. The text by Paul de Bont is based on Fleischmann’s original manuscript written in Sydney between 1939 and 1948.
RichGallery dealers & agents in art