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


I NYOMAN MASRIADI (Indonesian, B. 1973)
signed and dated 'MASRIADI 5-5-2013' (lower right); signed and dated again, titled 'ONLINE' and inscribed '200 x 300 cm/ACY ON CANVAS' (on the reverse)
acrylic on canvas
200 x 300 cm. (78 3/4 x 118 1/8 in.)
Painted in 2013
Gajah Gallery, Singapore
Private Collection, Asia
Hong Kong, Art Basel Hong Kong, 23-26 May 2013.

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Eric Chang

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Lot Essay

"When I'm in front of the computer and people try to get inside my mind, they can't. For instance, if there is a problem and I'm playing a game - it's like running away Playing computer games makes me forget about everything, makes me feel free." (I Nyoman Masriadi in conversation with Professor T.K Sabapathy in Nyoman Masriadi: Reconfiguring the Body, Gajah Gallery, Singapore, 2010, p. 107).

The immediately recognizable and striking visual language of Indonesian artist I Nyoman Masriadi is what has made him one of the most successful contemporary painters to emerge from Southeast Asia. His bold, hyper-masculine figures rendered in iconic hues of black began to feature prominently in his work from the year 2000, and have since become synonymous with any discussion of the artist's work. Following his first solo-exhibition held at the Singapore Art Museum in 2008, Masriadi's work gained critical attention from curators, gallerists, collectors, as well as the art market. The tremendous hype surrounding the artist's work in this mid-2000s period was fuelled by the incredible strength and singularity of Masriadi's artistic vision. In more recent works, Masriadi has shifted toward a more narrative approach in his paintings. In Online, Masriadi's familiar theme of masculinity and performance is transposed to the world of virtual reality.

A powerful, fresh work that depicts the central figure emerging from a dramatic video-game landscape, this is the alter-ego of the young generation who finds solace and empowerment through the online domain of virtual reality. An image full of dualities, the figure brandishes two swords - one of recognizably European design, and the other with elements of Asian tradition. The fantastical backdrop and the stereotypical kungfu attire of the figure are also contrasted against the modern everyday elements of a backpack and headphones. Masriadi presents a generation with the ability to straddle and reconcile two realities, virtual and actual, and across cultures fulfilling a new hyper-masculine performance through online gaming.

Having spoken on his love for video gaming, Masriadi has tackled the topic of virtual reality in his art on previous occasion, most notably in Masriadi Presents - Attack from Website (2009) that commented on the power of the image in today's internet-age (Fig. 1). Also a continuation of his representation of fantastical figures and superheroes, such as in Fatman (2000), Masriadi's subversion and reimagining of stereotypes is played out in the virtual world in Online (Fig.2).

In Online, Masriadi has rendered the painting in fine detail - from the figure's straining muscles to the artist's characteristic drawings in marker pen. These scribbles disrupt the medium of painting, and add a whimsical, tongue-in-cheek quality to the painting. The aggressiveness of the figure and his cinematic backdrop are ultimately an elaborately performed fantasy of machismo, and only existent within the virtual realm. Despite this, the figure confronts us with aggression and anticipation of impending confrontation. His bloodshot eyes - a common indicator of prolonged time spent in front of a screen - are here a sign of perseverance, blood thirst, and a heightened sense of awareness.

With video gaming being a key hobby and form of escapism for Masriadi himself, this painting makes clear the artist's preference of being "online". Masriadi posits the power of going online - the possibilities for escapism and imagination, and the ability to perform otherwise unattainable characteristics of bravado and masculinity. A reflection of the increased influence and importance of virtual reality, and of the construction of virtual personas, Masriadi makes a wry and fitting commentary on our modern condition.

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