Wayan Tuges is a master woodcarver. Growing up in Guwang a community known for the skill and deep spirituality of its woodcarvers, he began carving at the age of five, learning from his father, one of the great Balinese woodcarvers. By the time he was in second grade, Wayan had mastered the complex, traditional Garuda figure ridden by the Hindu god Vishnu and was selling his work in the local art market. He never looked back, eventually opening his own studio.
Wayan’s deep knowledge of Balinese traditions and religious practice gives him a high standing in his community, where he often presides over the many religious ceremonies that crowd the Balinese calendar. He also makes time to work with a United Nations project to plant 20,000 hectares of unused fertile land with teak trees providing a sustainable harvest and creating new employment opportunities.
In the early eighties, a European tourist visited Wayan’s studio and invited the young carver to demonstrate the Balinese style of woodcarving in his art gallery in Belgium. Always ready for a new adventure, Wayan accepted. A few years later, he again travelled abroad to represent in an international woodcarving symposium in Kemijarvi, Finland where he was voted “best of show”. This exposure helped to build his international reputation and his work now sells throughout Europe and Asia, with major works in temples in Tokusima, Japan and Jakarta.
Students from all over are routinely sent by the government to Wayan’s studio to learn woodcarving and the spiritual and philosophical traditions that underpin all Balinese art. Wayan teaches that carving is both a craft and an act of devotion. Carving transforms a simple piece of wood into an object of beauty; but by offering it to God, he explains, the carver infuses the object with a spirit so that it is something more than just a carving