Kadek Wijaya is a popular artist who moved from Ubud to start a new life with his Australian wife, Jacqueline. After finally settling into an unfamiliar culture and welcoming two sons into their family, Jacqueline was diagnosed with cancer. His story of survival and an unexpected artistic journey is inspirational.
Kadek, you moved here from Ubud, Indonesia. It is such a beautiful place there.
Ubud is my home, and my studio reminds me very much of Ubud. There is lots of art surrounding me, with plants, flowers and water features. It’s peaceful here.
Ubud is the art mecca in Indonesia, yes?
Pretty much all art that finds its way throughout Indonesia and to the shops is from Ubud, and many people know that when you visit the mountains you will see great traditional art in Ubud.
And that is the best way to purchase too, is directly from the artists.
Do you like living in Forster?
I really like it here, and I know most of the people here now. I came direct from Ubud to Forster with my Australian wife Jacqueline, who grew up in Castle Hill, Sydney.
Australia is a nice place and I love living here, but the culture is not as rich as it is Indonesia. In Bali, it’s much richer. I like action and the fast pace though! Bali is not perfect; the traffic itself is like a decoration … people going everywhere … no rules. Those who have visited would know. Here, of course, there are rules.
Have you been back to Bali at all?
Since Jacqueline, my wife, passed away nearly eight years ago, I have not been home. I am focused on our life here. I am a father, and I must have stability for my family.
How did you meet Jacqueline?
We met at a Warong, or what you would call a local eating place or restaurant. I didn’t speak too much English – just what I had learned from the tourists. She helped me with my passport and visa when I was going on a vacation to England, and when I introduced her to my family, they were quite shocked and said,“Who is this!” and I replied,“ It’s Jacqueline!”
We were just friends, and after their shock had subsided, they liked her when they got to know her. She also went to England and we had the same circle of friends, but we lost contact after a few years. I made my way back to Bali, and surprise! I ran into her again.
We were together, and then we considered coming to Bali … but she wanted to get married first.
After living in Australia for a while, I went back home to Bali after one of my family friends fell ill with cancer. When I got back, I discovered that my wife, too, had fallen ill with the same disease, and very quickly, she passed away. I was working at the time but had to leave to help my family …
How did Jacqueline introduce you to art?
Jacqueline was a really great portrait artist, and we both admired each other’s works. She was the one who pushed me into an art career. She said, “Why don’t you exhibit?” to which I replied, “No! There is already enough art in the world.”
She convinced me that Australia wanted to see more Indonesian styles. So I painted three, and suddenly I sold all three and won an award. I could not believe it! People would ask me lots of questions about the art, but I insisted it was just for fun.
And then enquiries and orders came rolling in, and I thought to myself… I should be serious about this now!
You have two sons, Daniel and Nathan, whom you look after on your own. Tell us a little bit about them.
Daniel is 17 and Nathan is 14. Of course, it is hard for anyone to raise kids on their own, but I do my best, and I love them very much. They speak good Indonesian, and they are going to Bali at the end of the year to visit their family.
What is the main subject for your artwork?
I love colour and work mostly with ocean themes, fish and underwater animals.
I think this comes from the fact that to come from Ubud – the beach, although it’s fifteen minutes away, it still impacts me … I also follow the directions of what a customer wants, which will see me explore other themes.
How many times do you exhibit per year?
Three usually, and all around the area.
Where do you hope your art takes you?
I hope to maintain my art client base, who are a mixture of local and city clients. And I am really looking forward to exhibiting in June at Pacific Palms and for more people to see the work.
Thank you Kadek.