Auction Highlight Spring 2010 Donald Friend (1915-1989)

The gods reside in the mountains and the sea is home to the demons – or so the Balinese believe. Donald Friend took advantage of the local superstitions and was able to acquire prime waterfront property in Sanur to build his grand house and create an outstanding garden – land with ocean views was not highly regarded by the Balinese in the 60’s, after all who in their right mind would want to gaze upon the province of demons.

Donald Friend was named “Tuan Rakshasa” or Lord Devil. His residence overlooked an island where a ferocious demon lived and one could imagine his delight in the title the locals had bestowed upon him. His nature was to engulf those around him, be they family, friends or acquaintances and to be referred to as the devil let alone Lord Devil caused him no end of mirth.

Lot 56 Donald Friend – Night Fishing Illustrated: Donald Friend in Bali, published by Collins London – Sydney 1972, front and back facing page and pages 46, 47.

“Tuan Rakshasa” lived an opulent life in Bali and became a collector of local paintings, bronzes and artefacts, many of which found their way to Australian museums and state galleries. In addition to painting the scenes of daily life and legends that proliferate in Bali he produced a number of manuscripts for books, some of which he published, “Donald Friend in Bali” and “Bumboozania” being two of the better known – both displayed his wits, skills of observation and talent as a writer.

He was impressed by many of the serious works painted in Bali. One painter in particular was Ida Bagus Rai the now well-known and highly collectable artist – Friend after seeing his work and using his network would meet him. In his inimitable style Friend was to write of Bagus Rai “he has innocence – and very bright eyes like a robins, sharply observant, quick, inquisitive, set in a net of wrinkles of constant laughter. … He is a tiny little man, about sixty years old, gentle, moved by an exquisite and courteous kindness, and full of jokes. He is timid, old fashioned, high-caste and poor as the poorest church mouse.” Ida Bagus Rai lived at Donald Friend’s house for many years and held a prestigious position in the household – he was known by the locals to have Tuan Rakshasa’s ear. Though seemingly aloof, Donald Friend was generous and caring to those around him.

Sales of Friend’s artwork was strong and enabled him to maintain and support a conspicuous life style that included houseboys and gardens. If not through a combination of ill health and bureaucratic interference visa extensions were becoming difficult – Donal Friend would have ended his days on that island even though he was downhearted about the changes Bali was undergoing. Tourists were arriving in number and the landscape was losing its innocence. Friend was to say “I have no more faith in this place -or rather in my ability to stay on and survive here.” He left Bali in 1980 fourteen years after arriving, on what was only intended as a stop over.

Night Fishing was painted in Sanur when it was mainly a fishing village and superstitions were strong. Friend has drawn on a local legend as the subject of his painting and completed it in his unmistakable style. The demon in this image is most probably the fanged Djero Geide Metajaling who lived on the island of Nusa Penida which was visible from Donald Friend’s house – night was the time the demons were active and their strength was at its most heightened. This work Night Fishing was one of the main reproductions used in his book “Donald Friend in Bali” and demonstrated the proportion demons and spirits occupy in the supernatural belief of the locals. It is a foremost work in Friend’s oeuvre.