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Balinese Expressions: Dr Siobhan Campbell

By: Dr Stan Florek, Category: Science, Date: 23 Aug 2013

Connoisseur and scholar of Balinese art and culture.

Siobhan Campbell in Kamasan 2011 A

Stan Florek © Stan Floprek

In 2009 Siobhan Campbell commenced her doctoral candidature at the Australian Centre for Asian Art and Archaeology at the University of Sydney, under the supervision of Professor Adrian Vickers. Three years later she submitted her thesis and in August 2013 its examination was completed.

During her research Siobhan was closely associated with the Australian Museum, which houses one of the most significant collections of Balinese Kamasan paintings – known as the Forge Collection. This collection was the integral part of her research. As a day-to-day ‘custodian’ of this collection, I had the good fortune and privilege to work closely with Siobhan.

I had a chance to observe the progress of her research and the tangible benefit it made to the community of artists, the general public and the academic discourse. Siobhan’s research contributed to the massive enhancement of the Forge Collection and its archival documentation. It also helped to make the Collection accessible and meaningful to students, artists, amateur enthusiasts and our visitors - virtual and these who walk through our doors - via a substantial body of images and stories placed on the Museum Website.

In 2011-2012 Siobhan conducted one of the longest and most comprehensive fieldworks in Kamasan which also sets an exceptional example of community engagement. As a result, the identification and re-interpretation of paintings in the Forge Collection and his entire project by the Kamasan community was initiated. This process could continue almost endlessly - because the community perspective evolves and continuity is achieved by the ongoing change that keeps the Kamasan art tradition full of vitality. Siobhan advocates nurturing the ongoing relationship between the community and the Museum.

During fieldwork in 2011 Siobhan and I purchased 25 Kamasan paintings for the Museum Collection, illustrating new developments in this old tradition and also focusing on women artists – featured prominently in the thesis. This is a significant new component in the Museum Collection and in community relationship – it makes us proud.

I have a strong sense that Siobhan will continue researching Balinese cultural tradition and related fields that contributed so much to the Anthropology of Art and the deeper form of Museum engagements with the community. In September 2013 Siobhan is going to the International Institute for Asian Studies in Leiden, the Netherlands, where she was awarded a six-month fellowship to conduct further research on the collections of Balinese art.

I wish Siobhan good luck and fruitful study; and I know – with her passion and fortitude - it will be a very productive enterprise.