Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A Rakshasa Mask: Bali

The Rakshasa is often considered to be the root of the Lao entity known as the Nyak. They come in a good variety of large shapes and sizes. Some interesting examples are found among the Balinesian interpretations, such as this one:

Being auctioned off at one point, it was descibed as: "An expressive mask of a Rakshasa - demon head presenting a dominant expression of enormous and staring eyes, surrounded by finely decorated borders and centered with a fine delicate nose with a knob-shaped protruding section to nose bridge presenting golden painted volutes, on forehead above a flaming medallion. Finely and intricately crafted protruding eyes with golden painted adornments. The mouth presenting sharp and arched tusks and a smaller one centered to the top lip. Moveable lower jaw, eye-slits carved beneath eyeballs. Braided goat pelt creates a wild expression."

I always think it's interesting to consider what the Balinese considered horrific features, and how to present those in their art. I think a piece like this speaks to something primal and universal, where one does not need to be familiar with the legends behind the entity, but you understand it is something to fear and loathe.

I find myself thinking many of our Lao artists around the world have gotten away from this, and perhaps it can be argued they have not yet fully mastered it. But perhaps we'll see exceptions, soon.

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