Jason Monet Exhibition: Ubud

Art and orangutans don’t appear to have much in common. However, for internationally recognized artist Jason Monet, conservation of the threatened primate starts with bamboo. According to the Bali-based artist, the more the arts, architecture and just about everything else from food to furniture uses bamboo, the longer orangutans on Sumatra and Kalimantan will have a home. Jason has been working with bamboo for the past two years, using it for his sculptures and to frame his paintings.

Now there are bamboo homes in Bali, he said.

“When I first started using bamboo people said it would not last. But David Bellamy (internationally recognized conservationist) told me he had seen 600-year-old bamboo houses in Japan and skyscrapers built with bamboo scaffolding. Six centuries is not a bad innings for any material.”

Bamboo is a renewable resource taking the pressure off rainforest timbers, giving orangutans a break in the process, he said.

Orangutans are bordering on extinction because their jungle homes are being chainsaw massacred for their timber.

The timber can be replaced by the vigorously growing bamboo. The hardy plant yields a high volume of oxygen and, according to Jason, “Fields of the stuff could address some of the damage done by humans to the planet.

“Time is running out for orangutans. These primates are the mainstay of our rainforests. They spread the seeds for new plants across the forests. They are an extremely important member of the rainforest community.

“If they are lost to extinction, our forests will also be degraded. Orangutan habitat protection is why I work with bamboo and have been a member of the Sumatran Orangutan Society (SOS) for many years,” Jason said.

The Sumatran Orangutan Society is an international NGO raising funds and awareness of the Sumatran orangutan’s plight.

Out of the two orangutan species, the Sumatran orangutan is the most at risk of extinction with just 7,000 left in the wild. And the number is plummeting by about 1,000 every year. At this rate, the Sumatran orangutan will be extinct within seven years.

To help raise funds for SOS, Jason carves bamboo masks for school children, and has done so for several years. The aim of the project is to teach young children about their forests and bamboo.

Furthermore, the artist is exhibiting a retrospective collection of his work with a percentage of the sales going to SOS.

“The works in the retrospective span my last 20 years in Bali. Many of the works are available at special Balinese morning prices. By making available these works, I am hoping to raise some funds for SOS,” Jason said.

Jason’s works are highly prized in the international market.

Collectors of Jason’s bold, powerful paintings and sculptures include celebrities Barbara Streisand, Elliot Gould, Rolf Harris and Frankie Howard. Given the mastery of his stroke and his ability to depict his subjects, his collectability is not surprising.

The Jason Monet retrospective also showcases the artist’s exhibition space and home in Banjar Dangin Labak, Singakerta, Ubud.

“The house and exhibition space are completely built from bamboo, as is most of the furniture. With these buildings I want to show how much can be done with this renewable resource that is incredibly strong and lasts lifetimes if you look after it.
“Bamboo is cost and environmentally efficient. Depending on this material for building, rather than rainforest timbers, could dramatically improve the chance for survival of the Sumatran orangutans.

“The retrospective exhibition is an opportunity for people to not only see two decades of artworks, but also to raise people’s consciousness of how much can be done with bamboo,” said Jason.

The Jason Monet Retrospective Exhibition opens Monday, May 5 at the Bamboo House, Br. Dangin Labak, Singakerta, Ubud. For more information contact SOS on 081 337 012 164

Trisha Sertori, Contributor, Gianyar