Bali is an extraordinary visual experience, equalled by few other locations on earth. From the spectacular, shimmering landscapes, to the architectural and sculpturally magnificent structures and monuments, the grandeur of festivals and ceremonies, and the grace of the Balinese. It is vibrant and rich in photogenic subjects that incite wonder and euphoria that continually seduces strangers, the experienced visitor, and expats alike.
There is, however, another essential element that few photographers confidently express, a mysterious realm that is not visible, but certainly can be felt. According to the ancient Balinese beliefs of sekala – niskala, we live equally in two worlds – the visible or conscious world sekala, and the invisible or psychic world niskala. Indonesian photographer Windee Winata’s serene landscape images capture the veiled dynamic of a unique life force, and arouse contemplation of one of the most compelling aspects of the Island of the Gods.
“Excited about an upcoming trip to Egypt, Greece & Turkey, I bought my first film SLR camera in 1996,” says Winata, who at the time was studying automotive engineering at the Technical University of Berlin. The camera became an immediate fixture to his body and he indulged in his newfound passion, while temporarily neglecting his studies.
“Married with a secure position at the Mercedes-Benz Technology Centre in Sindelfingen, even before the final exam of my degree, life was good. The arrival of my first child then dictated photography had to take the back seat,” says Winata, who was born in Denpasar in 1974. “Returning to Indonesia thinking Bali would be a nicer environment for our daughter to grow up, I concentrated my hobby into a profession, and with my wife established the PhotoFactory, a wedding photography business in Denpasar.”
“Cutting a long story short, one thousand plus clients, success, and years later I began to suffer from depression. Intuitively I rediscovered the joy of creativity and began focusing on fine art photography.”
Less is more is born from the simple aesthetic design values of Zen Buddhism – the Japanese philosophy states that things are left imperfect to allow the mind’s eye to make the space complete. Within Winata’s landscapes the compositions are stripped to the barest of design elements, often predominated by a blue-grey monochrome mist – appearing to visibly pulsate. The sparse iconography may include distant temple structures, mountains or palm trees, the outlines seemingly echoing within a shadowy haze.
Space is the dominant feature, characterised by abstract voids that overflow with ambience – evocative and serene. Within this realm we access deeper levels of consciousness, and temporarily our minds are set free. Creating an interlude within the blur of lineal time, Winata freezes the moment – transforming it into the eternal.
“I long for simplicity in life, and this is reflected in my photographs.”
“The locations I choose to photograph are a consequences of my need to escape, and be alone – a personal journey of solitude that is my safe haven. I gravitate to airy, beautiful places that seem to bypass my brain and resonate with my heart.”
Of his technique Winata says, “The images are captured with a single long exposure which is unpredictable, yet I bask in the feeling that I cannot fully control the outcome. The images I love seem to only emerge when the universe takes over. The process feels more like a fulfilling collaboration. The results often surprise and delight.”
My experience of Winata’s images is thrilling, and indulgent. With senses fully engaged the power of suggestion kicks in – I revel in the unseen. Bali is unique and somehow gifts us with greater awareness and insight, which I thoroughly entertain. For me, however, the invisible world is not overwhelmed by the mysterious, as I fill it with the gods and deities of the Balinese Hindu pantheon, along with an abundance of fantastic imaginings, and wonderful possibilities.
“Being a wedding photographer has given me high mileage, which helps when doing my fine art work,” Winata says. “While they are very different disciplines, when I click the shutter button, I’m transported to a happy place. Wedding is exciting, but fine art, to me, is how I live my life.”
“My works are the way I connect with the unknown. When I’m out there, it feels like a union, or as a Balinese priest once said to me when viewing my images: “The small universe meets the big universe.” The outcome is the image – it’s never about the visible setting, but rather the spirit.”
visit saatchiart.com/windee to learn more about Windee and his works.