I Nyoman Tjokot
I Nyoman Tjokot, founder of woodcarving style that is known as “Tjokotism”, was the third son of I Gentar and Ni Kinut. Cokot was born in Banjar Jati, Tegallalang village, Gianyar, Bali. There is no exact information on the year he was born, some say he was born in 1888, others say in 1886. As a man Tjokot was down to earth and lived quite modestly. He was a small man compared even to most Balinese. When he was twenty he married, Ni Gonta, who gave him seven children. The modest life of Cokot was quite the opposite with his talent and legacy to Balinese art especially woodcarving.
As his name suggest, Tjokot (“Tjokot” means “take” in Balinese language) took any size and any form of wood, weather it was root, branch or trunk and turned it into a masterpiece. The insightful eyes of Cokot could see the artistic potential of the roots or twisted branch. He could turn detritus logs and roots commonly found along the river’s edge and turned them into exotic masterpieces. Surprisingly, the talented Tjokot was not born in a family of artists. Neither of his grandfathers, I Wayan Tambun and I Made Punduh, were sculptors. His artistic talent came naturally and spontaneously without any outside influence. Armed with chisel and mallet he carved his fantasy spontaneously, creating three-dimensional figure that even he could not have predicted.
“Tjokotism” as a style can be described as primitive, coarse, spontaneous, and full of realism and strong personal expression. As ‘primitive’ creations, his works are highly exotic, traditional, and without any kind of academic influence. His works have a frighteningly macabre feel, his animal carvings eerie, his figurative sculptures showing strange and frightening forms, as well as beasts whose features are indistinct. Tjokot drew his inspiration from his habit of meditating at Taro temple some five kilometers from his village where there are many primitive carvings and stone relief. He also drew much inspiration from the stories in lontar leaf manuscripts. His creative process rarely involved advance planning. He simply picked up his tools and began to chisel away, his imagination being led by the form of the particular piece of wood he was working on, controlled at the same time by his fantasy and keen aesthetic judgment.
Tjokot was a workaholic, even though his legs were weak and his eyesight fading, he continued to work on small carvings right up to his dying moments. Despite of his old age he still managed to wield hammer and chisel and produced masterpieces. Tjokot died at 83 years of age on the 1st of October 1971 from tuberculosis. He left little material wealth for his children and grandchildren but he passed on a style which became known as Cokotism and which later enabled his descendants to improve their economic standard, and also served as sign of creativity and vitality Balinese art and culture that will never be drowned in a sea globalization.