Symon was an extraordinary artist based in Ubud in Bali since 1998, who painted bright and bold, remarkable and stunning canvasses that are a treat for the wall and a pleasure to live with. His art is great fun, always eyecatching and full of energy, rich and colourful, a delight. Eccentric is probably a fair word for Symon, whose Art Zoo studios are open to visitors, and this personality comes through in his paintings, a wonderful mixture of portraits, landscapes, still life and pop art. His passing aged 73 in April 2020 robbed the world of a truly remarkable artist.
Born on April 13th 1947, as Ronald Thomas Bierl in Detroit, Michigan, Symon made Bali his home in 1978. Symon’s art is cherished for its vivid color, strong outlines and exuberant energy. His figurative paintings and sculpture project a friendly, fantastical appeal, combining the rawness of real-life models and scenes within compositions from mythology and lesser-known Bali history. His sense of line, hue and witty slogans draw from his origins as a cartoonist in the 1960s American counter-culture.
To quote from Philip Cornwel-Smith’s book “Symon – Property of the Artist”: “Executed with a broad brush, Symon’s paintings are rugged resemblance. Far from finessed, they nevertheless convey great passion and personality. If he honed everything to perfection, the subject would lose its character and Symon would be less open to reinterpreting the scene. “People are very resistant to that.” he sighs, “I like to do very strong, seething ‘under painting’, and then see the figure painted over it disappear into the brush strokes. It lets you know that it’s a painting so the illusion captures you totally.”
Another quote from a different book: “Now at last there is a ‘tropical meltdown’ by an American artist with the vision and courage to unfreeze the preconceptions about Bali that have held fast for the past century. Symon is the first artist to turn things completely upside down and be appreciated for doing it at the same time. He shows what many artists only dream about doing, those that deny themselves the creativity and inspiration that are right there before their eyes. Symon turns his dreams and the fantasies of others into what he calls a ‘functional reality’ that has a greater and wider appeal. He abandons the typical tourist images to show Bali as a multi-faceted jewel reflecting colours and images. His paintings are fantastic but not frivolous, humorous but not ridiculous, sensuous but not sexual” – Garrett Kam, author: “Perceptions of Paradise: Images of Bali in the Arts”