Hearing about the artist (painting and sculpture) Richard Winkler’s story so far, and more importantly seeing his artistry it is tempting to think that his new life in Southeast Asia was pre-destined – the Swede who married his Indonesian pen pal and ended up sharing his artistic life with her on Bali in Indonesia. There is definitely something tropical and Balinese about his striking paintings.
“I didn’t know really where I was moving, I was heading for the tropics. I only knew for sure that I had found the woman in my life, and loved the tropics,” recalls Richard in his Sanur-home.
Pen-pal correspondence was the norm back in the 1990’s as a way to seek new friends abroad (today all but forgotten and replaced by Internet platforms such as Facebook and Skype and various matchmaking portals), and the method used also by Richard and his would-be wife, Regine, to initially meet.
And eventually they met in person, but on Sri Lanka, the first tropical destination that Richard had started visiting. There they fell in love, and, as they say, the rest is history.
For Richard this tropical island was inspiring and he assumed that Indonesia could not be so much different from Sri Lanka.
Bali the perfect place to thrive
He had looked at two interesting places for artists – Ubud and Yogyakarta, of which his wife suggested they should opt for Bali, as the more happening place of the two. Said and done and they moved there and set up business based on Richard’s artistic talent combined with his wife’s marketing and communications skills.
And on this Hindu island of the gods – known for its thriving arts and culture scene, with many painting artists and niches which has developed as a result, Richard found the ideal inspiration for his style of art rich in nature and fauna. Bali was the perfect place for his creativity to thrive.
Richard, who is an art director by profession and has been sketching and drawing ever since he was a child, then started studying the traditional art in Ubud and doing sketching.
“That started influencing my paintings too; I found something common with the way in which I paint, from dark to light etc. All traditional paintings here work that way.”
“I had found a Balinese postcard with a painting and I thought that if I could recreate it but with my own way of painting, it would open up a whole new world for me.”
By studying this, sketching and trying to transform all figures into his own forms (making it less detailed and clearer) he turned it into his own art – which then also consequently changed.
“This is my interpretation, my version of the traditional Balinese art,” explains Richard whose own art incorporates the human body as main motif.
“The environment is inspired by Bali for sure; the rice fields, mountains etc. And all the people doing things and labour work, and the women are influences from here that has entered into my paintings.”
Hang-up on humans
Everything started out from the body for Richard and when he started travelling to Sri Lanka the tropical nature became a part of his paintings as well; everything – trees, bodies – taking the same kind of rounded forms. Before then he had worked in a more abstract way, almost entirely focused on painting bodies.
There is also a sound explanation to this interest in the body and nature; relating back to his childhood. He shows pictures from a lecture he held during the Singapore Arts Festival from his younger days and development as an artist.
“I have a hang-up on the human body because I have an unusual genetic, skeleton disease. What happens then is that tumours grow on the bones near muscles until your body is fully grown. So you must undergo operations, and I did nine. And this is quite traumatic as a child, so I became very conscious – and fascinated – about the human body,” says Richard and continues to tell about his childhood’s enchanted garden: “I grew up near an old garden, a wild garden where flowers of various kinds grew. I loved flowers and fruits, so we played there and I was happy there and forgot all the problems I had with my body.”
‘When analyzing I can relate to these events in my childhood and somehow I try to find the balance there the human body and the soul becomes one, one with nature.”
“I was very aware as a child that I had a body and that my soul was separate, something else. I almost had to, since I had a body suffering from pain.”
While his art has evolved there will not come anything radically different onwards; Richard will continue painting bodies and the tropics – going from abstract to figurative and back to abstract again.
“Before moving to Bali I was very much into abstract bodies and figurines. After coming here, all of a sudden they had faces, hands, and they started doing things, there were animals etc. Now, in recent times I have started going back to the abstract bodies, playing around more with the forms; which is also what I started with sculptures.”
Playing with the forms
As for sculptures this is a natural continuation of his idea of getting his three-dimensional figures translated into a three-dimensional form that could be touched.
“It has been a process where I started carving in stones. Then I tried with clay and finally tried with plaster and that works well.”
“I sometimes still mix but focus on the body and trying to defeature it. I wish that also my sculptures could become more abstract, complicated; playing more with the forms. So that is more my direction lately, but I still have my style that I think will follow me for a long time.”
So far he has enjoyed great success, only producing art at his own pace – spending up to a month on one large painting. Thus the price tag is then also high.
More info: www.richardwinkler.com