• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 2380

    Southeast Asian Modern and Contemporary Art

    25 November 2007, Hong Kong

  • Lot 99

    HENDRA GUNAWAN (Indonesia 1918-1983)

    Banana vendor

    Price Realised  


    HENDRA GUNAWAN (Indonesia 1918-1983)
    Banana vendor
    signed, dated and inscribed 'Hendra/3-3-56/Jogya' (lower left)
    oil on canvas
    46 7/8 x 28 3/4 in. (119 x 73 cm.)

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    Much has been discussed on Hendra's keen interests on the celebration of woman with his glorious colours on canvas. An unmistakable member of the Indonesian Modernists, the artist's sympathy or perhaps more appropriately, empathy towards the common folk is also evident in his works. Last but not least, is Hendra's profound love for his country and all things that he considered as the 'beauty of Indonesia.' In sum, celebration of woman, the empathy towards the common people and the portrayal of Indonesian beauty are the main elements in the works of Hendra.

    Such is the paradigm that the artist constructs for the reading of his works that an onlooker is rarely puzzled nor paused to reflect upon a hidden message. The effects are immediate and unabashed. Colours are used generously and in the most idiosyncratic manner that are regarded as the artist's signature style. In proclaiming the beauty of the woman, shades of reds, greens and yellows are simultaneously used to highlight and accentuate thus creating a buoyant imagery which is subdued by the characteristic big, earthy-brown feet, an allegory to the role of woman as the provider much like mother-earth. The landscape, on the other hand is often in the cool blue-greenish tone that contrasts with the riotous colours of his female sitters, but nevertheless presents the grandiose of the Indonesian landscape.

    The omnipotence of colours in Hendra's works could not be over emphasized. While Affandi as an expressionist uses a fiery style of applying oil paint directly onto the canvas and the viewer is more often than not, impressed by the fervent energy transmitted by the physical movement of the artist that rejuvenates old and established persectives; Hendra as an expressionist uses colours both symbolically and aesthetically.

    In this aspect, one could see the influence of traditional wayang kulit (Indonesian puppetry) as evidenced in Hendra's portrayal of exaggerated forms of side profiles of his sitters and also on the use of the colours - an influence which he derived from the traditional Indonesian textile - Batik. The vivid colours from Batik is transposed on his canvas with an unprecedented purity offers an infinitely subtle and flexible alternative to the traditional massings of light and shade.

    The present work presents a more sober palette in comparison to the artist's later works which are brighter and more vibrant in hue. Nevertheless, the riotous treatment of colours remain the same, contrasting bright and profound shades is his technique to heightened the drama of his canvas. Hence, the little girl who is presumably a banana vendor is wearing a light top, the only lighter shade that contrasts with her earthy environ, thence making her the unmistakable protagonist in the composition.

    The Modernists is a group loosely linked with the artists' rejection of the colonial Mooie Indie (Beautiful Indonesia) style of painting that is criticised by the former as single-mindedly colonial (western) in perceiving the Indonesian people and landscape hence naively, over-setimentalising the subjects, reducing to the frequent portrayal of sensual women and picturesque landscape. However, a first glance at Hendra's oeuvres, the modernist seems to share the same penchant for the subjects of the Mooie Indie school of artists while attaining a sense of genuine 'Indonesianess' unprecedented in the early school. The key is then not the subjects but the manner of which they are treated as it is commented "The 'Indonesian' quality of Hendra's work has been remarked upon by other eminent Indonesian painters. Because of his sensuous depiction of tropical landscapes and people, Hendra has occasionally been likened by foreign observers to Gauguin. Apart from their styles being quite different, this comparison misses an essential point: unlike Gauguin, an outsider and tourist in Tahiti, Hendra is painting a world with which he is intimately familiar, a world with which he was deeply involved from childhood until death, even during the decade in prison, when his depictions of it took on a certain dreamlike intensity." (Astri Wright, Soul, Spirit, and Mountain: Preoccupations of Contemporary Indonesian Painters, Oxford University Press, Kuala Lumpur, 1994, p. 171).


    Formerly in the collection of Dr. Jacob Vredenbregt, Jakarta.


    Agus Dermawan T and Dr. Astri Wright, Hendra Gunawan: A Great Modern Indonesian Painter, Ir Ciputra Foundation, Jakarta, 2001, p. 82 (colour illustrated).