Robot dapur (Kitchen robot) is a fresh and distinctly characteristic work from one of Southeast Asia's most successful contemporary artist, Indonesian I Nyoman Masriadi. The painter extends his pictorial interest in rendering black muscular figures in a new direction with this painting. One recollects, for instance, the bodybuilder with the unstoppable appetite and ambition from a 2001 painting, Badanku kurang besar (My body is not big enough) (Christie's Hong Kong, November 2007, Lot 17). With a fork and a spoon clenched tightly in each hand, the bodybuilder is posed, ready to devour in a symbolic gesture of insatiability.
The well-toned muscular bodies of previous protagonists in his paintings like the bodybuilder have been replaced by a battle-worn black steel-clad robot warrior in this painting, signifying an exciting direction in his practice of figurative painting. The artist's continuing preoccupation with power and association of the colour black to strength, endurance, resilience and power is evident in Robot dapur (Kitchen robot) and indeed gains a new and deeper dimension as he replaces the depiction of flesh with steel, with all of the latter material's attendant association of hardness and sturdiness.
Underlined with keen visual wit and irony, the sentinel red eyes of the robot draws the audience's attention away from the somewhat ridiculous oversized fork and kitchen lid that it is holding as weapon on each of its two hands. A chicken poses ridiculously in an oven near the heart of the robot, a visual allusion to chicken-hearted cowardice. Blowing hot steam from its ears, the robot chides its audience with the double entendre, "Ayam lebih berguna dari pada you!" (A chicken is more useful than you!).
The aggression and abuse conveyed is seemingly real but also knowingly underlined with Masriadi's signature irony. Ridden with contradictive signs, one does not know what to make of the robot's true disposition, if it indeed has any to begin with. Seen as such, Robot dapur (Kitchen robot) stands latest in a line of memorable protagonists created by the painter noted for his wry and ironic observation of power relations between individuals in society.