I NYOMAN MASRIADI (Indonesian, B. 1973)
I NYOMAN MASRIADI (Indonesian, B. 1973)

Man from Bantul

I NYOMAN MASRIADI (Indonesian, B. 1973)
Man from Bantul
signed and dated 'MASRIADI 22 JUN 2000' (lower part of each panel)
acrylic on canvas, triptych
Each: 200 x 100 cm. (78 3/4 x 39 3/8 in.)
overall: 200 x 300 cm. (78 3/4 x 118 1/8 in.)
Painted in 2000
Private Collection, Indonesia
T.K. Sabapathy, Nyoman Masriadi: Reconfiguring the Body, Gajah Gallery, Singapore, 2010 (illustrated, plate 19, p. 144; p. 211).

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Lot Essay

"In Masriadi's [works], the fascination with the (primarily) male physique is mixed with a submerged apprehension of menace. His canvases record a perpetual encounter with the body as an open chasm over which concept, language, imagination, and the body's impenetrability confront and circumvent each other. What he grasps in his paintings is a process that begins in the folds and margins of the confrontation." Goenawan Mohamad

I Nyoman Masriadi has won international acclaim as a leading Southeast Asian contemporary artist of this generation. Born in Bali and currently based in Jogjakarta, Indonesia, the artist employs satirical visual imagery and poignant narratives to explicate the vagaries of socio-political life in our present environment. His works are characteristic for featuring heavily muscled, dark-skinned figures, reminiscent of the artist's influence from elements of contemporary visual culture, such as comic books and video games. Richly explicit, Masriadi's iconic paintings deliver the immediate visual impact demanded by a consumeristic and media-savvy audience, yet when critically interrogated, reveal layer after layer of profound messages.

The Man from Bantul series of 2000 was created during an interlude in Masriadi's career where the artist was keenly aware of the transition between the states of old and new: the passage of the millennium; the shifting social and political orders; the changing urban landscape of modern Indonesia. Earlier works by Masriadi have traditionally been dominated by a series of socio- political compositions which focused on the collapse of the New Order regime of President Suharto in 1998. The immediate effects of this collapse saw the near break-up of the Indonesian nation; and this instability was to rock the country for the next four years. Over this period Masriadi produced a sequence of thoughtfully critical works, known as the 'Bantul' series which distinguished him as one of the leading social commentators in Southeast Asian art. In 2000, keenly aware of Indonesia's struggles, Masriadi's paintings captured this sense of societal tension and uncertainty. Masriadi describes the widespread disillusionment, the unrest amongst the working classes, and the bleak humour of a country teetering on the edge.
Within the large scale triptych Man from Bantul (Lot 56), the viewer is exposed to three character archetypes which recur within Masriadi's oeuvre even to the present day - the military man, the boxer, and the curvaceous, nouveau-riche femme fatale. Within these archetypes, Masriadi encapsulates the essence of Indonesian society. The aggression, vulgarity and vulnerability of urban drones striving to 'make it' within the new millennium are all highlighted through the harsh glare of Masriadi's perceptive vision. They are then exaggerated upon his canvases into larger than life, pseudo-comic caricatures. Figures of fun, they at once evoke our sneers and sympathy.
Goenawan Mohamad also comments: "[Man from Bantul] depicts a man in military pants and bootsKHe is an obvious brute. Yet instead of a gun, he carries a broom. The broom becomes an instrument of ambivalence. It is a housekeeping tool mostly used by housewives to wipe out dirt. But in the Indonesian common usage, menyapu bersih (from the word sapu or broom) can mean 'total annihilation'. In such an ambiguity, the terror merges with the work's jocular mood; the violence is circumscribed by an implied jest."
This latent sense of violence is also fleshed out by the persona of the boxer in the third panel. Here, he is seen at rest with his red boxing gloves draped around his neck and a scowl on his face. In another artwork from the same series, the boxer strikes a punching bag while declaring: "Selama ini bagian penghasilan dari bertinju daku belikan sarung tinju" ("All this time, part of my winnings have been spent on boxing gloves"). This non-sequitur statement may initially seem strange, however it reinforces the idea of Masriadi's boxer as working class proletariat forced to make a living through manual labour and physical violence. Yet by being forced to return his earnings to the tools of the trade, he is trapped within a cyclical existence at the mercy of his social straits.
If the military man and the boxer exemplify the underbelly of violence and aggression, by contrast the seductive woman in the centre, bedecked in pearls and skimpy red dress, represents the superficial aspect of Indonesian society. With her false exterior, shallow values, and taste for money, she is utterly distasteful. Yet in an odd way, she is also the glue which holds a dissenting society together, the centrifugal force to Indonesia's painful march forward. The need to keep up appearances and intrinsic greed in taking advantage of a country in shambles trumps any personal grudges or issues. Hence her tawdry representation as the focal point within Man from Bantul.
Within this social critique, Masriadi augments his role as a keen observer and narrator of Indonesian history, yet his artworks continue to be imbued with a gentle sense of optimism that if one is able to laugh at oneself and environs in dire times, hope still lay ahead in the future.

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