Andong (Horse Cart)

Andong (Horse Cart)
signed with artist monogram and dated '1969' (lower right)
oil on canvas
90 x 142 cm. (35 3/8 x 55 7/8 in.)
Painted in 1969
Private Collection, Asia
Bob Urbain Dirix, Affandi - Prix International Dag Hammarskjueld, 1976 (illustrated, plate. 203, p.117).

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Lot Essay

"Most of Affandi's paintings could not be called genre paintings, however; their style and feeling are too existential for that. Nevertheless, they spring out of an attitude which signifies profound respect and admiration for the hard physical labour and the life experience of those who maintain society in the most fundamental of ways."
- Astri Wright

One of the most expressive artists in the 1950s and 1960s, Affandi’s unique vision and artistic approach reflects the evolution of Indonesian modern art. Deeply patriotic, Affandi displayed his nationalistic sentiments through his strong sense of humanity, a quality which emerged when he was involved in the Pelukis Rakyat (The People’s Painters Association) during Indonesia’s fight for independence. It is no surprise then, that throughout his entire artistic career, Affandi’s body of work was largely devoted to the representation of scenes of everyday life in Indonesia. His commitment to painting scenes of daily life in Indonesia was a life-long passion, for he strove to depict—in his opinion— the best and most beautiful aspects of his homeland. Andong (Horse Cart) (Lot 17) is beautiful embodiment of the painter’s affection for the humble people of Indonesia.

Bearing the same school of thought as S. Sudjojono, Affandi believed that ‘true art’ is art that showcases a genuine representation of a present moment, as opposed to the focus on the beautification or idealisation of the idyllic Indonesian landscapes, a practice that was popularised by the Mooi Indie painters.

In the 1950s, Affandi began painting directly from the tube and eliminated the use of the paint brush in his works. This technique would eventually become the ideal outlet of expression for an artist possessing a tremendous sensitivity towards his subject and art. Affandi unwittingly created his own brand of expressionism with his development of this technique. Allowing him an immediacy and directness that was hindered by the brush, Affandi was able to spontaneously transmit his overwhelming energy onto the canvas, in the process, becoming one with his subject. The artist describes his process like a ritual, assimilating himself with his subject, and giving in to impulse in the moment of creation: ‘When I paint, I always want to become one with the object I paint. I lose myself, and then there is a feeling as if I am going to fight against something.’

As a result, his works draw viewers into the scene and into experiencing the raw emotions felt by Affandi while creating his masterpieces. Affandi’s expressionistic quality of painting can be compared to Edvard Munch, one of his muses, as well as Vincent van Gogh, as seen through his use of vibrant colours, strong brush strokes, and the heavily-textured nature of his works. With his vigorous lines and bold colour choices, Affandi captures the spirit and life of his subjects, a quality aligned with his philosophical views on dynamism— that there is an undeniable energy in every being that drives every phenomenon of matter or mind.

Besides Bali, Affandi also had a few other places in Indonesia that he regularly visited to paint, namely Yogyakarta, his home-town, with its horse-cart (andong); the nearby beach of Parangtritis as well as Tawangmangu with its horses. In the present lot, the artist depicts a group of andong jockeys resting under an enormous tree on a fine day in Yogyakarta. The painting intentionally blurs perspectives with the subjects emphasised to the viewer as a whole, rather than as separate entities. Composition-wise, Andong sets itself apart from other paintings done within the same period for the bare canvas that peeks through in certain areas; as it was then usual for Affandi’s compositions to dominate all areas of the canvas, leaving little or no negative space in his wake.

It was only at the end of the 1960s when Affandi started to explore looser compositional strategies for his paintings by leaving some negative space in his works, such as in the present lot. As a result, the viewer’s attention is quickly directed to the centre of canvas where the main activity takes place.

Horse carts were one of the most popular means of transportation back in the early days in Indonesia and was a common sight in areas of central Java, such as Yogyakarta. With an animated selection of colours and the use of swirling expressionistic lines, Affandi outlines objects, small human figures, as well as horse carts dwarfed by the expansive background they are set upon. Horses are dynamically painted, energetically interacting with each other even during this period of rest. The painting is completed with a soft group of clouds rendered in white impasto with hints of blue surrounding the central composition, while swirls of the sun rays in a gleaming yellow impasto gently touches the top of the carts, eventually scattering onto the ground below.

Despite the vivid colours used on his canvas, Andong conveys a calm and peaceful atmosphere to the viewer – presumably the emotion felt by the artist when surrounded with the familiar faces and scenes of his hometown in Yogyakarta. Recognised for his artistic finesse, Affandi was awarded the Prix International Dag Hammarskjold au Merite Artistique in 1977, where the present lot was featured in a special memorial publication for the occasion Andong showcases a distinctively beautiful side of Indonesia, a true testament to Affandi’s passion toward his nation. Exuding a sense of rhythmic movement in the stillness of his capture, Andong is exemplary of Affandi’s masterful artistry. It is without a doubt that Affandi is one of the most significant artists within the canon of 20th Century Southeast Asian Art.

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