Brash and humorous, I Nyoman Masriadi’s works often provide a tongue-in-cheek commentary on the conditions of modern society by engaging with images from pop culture and contemporary mythology. Beginning from the early 2000s, Masriadi developed a distinctive figurative style that continues to characterize his work today. Muscular, larger-than-life superheroes, warriors, and everyday people dominate his canvases – confronting the viewer with their exaggerated physiques and calling into question the familiar images that surround us on a daily basis.
Known for his depictions of inflated, masculine male bodies, it is significant to consider the female body within Masriadi’s oeuvre. Under Masriadi’s brush, both male and female bodies are subject to the same levels of distortion and deformation that often appear to be a product of steroid-enhanced athleticism. Tense and sinewy, and often taking up the entirety of the canvas, Masriadi’s figures possess a latent power that he restricts to the pictorial plane. Combined with his use of bright contrasting colours, the resultant works are visually arresting and commanding.
Masriadi’s distinctively bold caricature of the human form is evident in the irreverent compositional framing of Lifestyle where a woman in a bikini lies face down upon an inflatable pool float. Traditionally, Asian cultures have championed fair skin as the ideal standard of beauty, whereas the practice of sun tanning is strongly associated with Western culture. Here, Masriadi vividly illustrates the results when the quest for beauty according to Western ideals is taken too far. The toned, bronzed musculature of the figure glistens under the floral fabric of her bikini. Her skin is a painful lobster red under the heat of the sun as she dozes, comically unaware of the discomfort she will face when she awakes. As we look upon the length of her near-naked body, Masriadi positions us as voyeurs and spectators as we are forced by virtue of his choice of perspective to gaze down on her sleeping figure.
From a technical perspective, Masriadi’s sculptural depictions of the human form recall the work of classical and Renaissance artists (Figure 1) who exaggerated the physical perfection of their subjects as a means to highlight their otherworldliness. Like the biblical figures painted by Michelangelo, Masriadi’s muscle-bound men and women transcend the everyday, becoming part of modern-day mythology. As our ancestors looked to legendary heroes and gods for inspiration, Masriadi suggests that his characters are the super-humans of today, worthy of attention for the lessons they impart.