Soosan Suryawan is an artist with extraordinary technical skills and an exotic and beautiful aesthetic. Until now, her work has been known and recognized only among the elite international art cognoscenti. Her paintings are held in important private collections in Paris, Geneva, Basil, Zurich, Amsterdam, Washington, DC, Hong Kong, Los Angeles, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Bali. Collectors have also been able to see her work at the Lorin Christy Gallery in Singapore. Parisian art dealer, Agnes Verrier, (who was at the time working at the Opera gallery in Singapore), represented Ms. Suryawan privately.
In 1980, Ms. Suryawan received a Bachelor of Arts in Fine Arts from the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) While attending RISD, Suryawan discovered a strong attraction for drawing and painting the faces of exotic and powerful cultures. In 1978, RISD awarded Suryawan with acceptance into their honors program in Rome, Italy, which marked the beginning of her lifelong interest in the cultures of the world. She pursued this attraction through studies and travels in Italy, Egypt, Tunisia, Greece and the West Indies before settling in Bali, Indonesia in 1981.
Bali was the artist’s primary residence for 22 years and its rich culture and spirituality, as well as its incredible natural beauty have provided marvelous inspiration for her paintings. Bali is an ancient culture with ancient traditions that have survived the onslaught of modernity. Balinese activities continue to follow a moon calendar. Balinese religion is a combination of Hinduism, Buddhism and animism and is marked by colorful ceremonies. Images of these ceremonies often include statuesque women walking across sculpted rice fields, with towering offerings on their heads. A constant theme in the Balinese myths portrayed in their art and theater is a balance of good and evil, both in the microcosm of each individual human body and spirit, and in the macrocosm of the universe beyond. In this land of beauty and dignity, Ms. Suryawan realized that life among the people of Bali was the most harmonious collaboration between man and nature that she had ever witnessed. This perfect harmony would come to influence her paintings as well as her philosophies.
In Bali, Ms. Suryawan met and married her Chinese-Balinese husband, Wana Suryawan, a teacher of Persai Diri, the martial art form based in Indonesia with origins in the Shoulin temples of China. He also owned and operated the most comprehensive music shop in Bali, with a focus on world music. They lived together in Bali with their three lovely children, Augustina Putu, Nava Indah and Bayusana until Wana Suryawan’s sudden death in 1999.
Ms. Suryawan’s contributions in Bali reach far beyond her art and are important for anyone who wishes to understand the artist’s spirit. She has created an art, food and field trip program at a Balinese orphanage for over 60 children from across the Indonesian archipelago. She has remained deeply involved with these children during the 15 years that the program has been in existence. She was involved in establishing the first bilingual school in Bali and volunteered her time to set up its art department. Working with Balinese school children, she created a 2000-square-feet multi-media mural that portrayed Bali, its art, culture and daily life. Ms. Suryawan has always, in both her work and her life, engaged the connection that art has to the deepest levels of human spirit. Her practice of using it as a way to uplift the spirits of children is a perfect example of this practice.
The spiritual tranquility and island beauty of Bali was shockingly disrupted by the terrorist bombing in October of 2002. The island, although not for the first time, faced the immediate danger associated with the violence of Muslim fundamentalists. Although Ms. Suryawan, and others in both the expatriate and Balinese communities, had witnessed danger born of political and religious upheaval before, it was not until this terrible bombing that it became so immediate. Overnight, the climate in Bali changed dramatically, with fear and anxiety and death replacing all that was good in this peaceful paradise. The terrorist bombing marked the beginning of a new and more dangerous era in Bali, and caused Ms. Suryawan to flee the island and establish a second residence in Los Angeles.