AFFANDI (1907-1990)
AFFANDI (1907-1990)

Pasar di Bawah Pohon (The Marketplace Under the Tree)

AFFANDI (1907-1990)
Pasar di Bawah Pohon (The Marketplace Under the Tree)
signed with artist’s monogram and dated ‘1964’ (lower right)
oil on canvas
100 x 135 cm. (39 3/8 x 53 1/8 in.)
Painted in 1964
Private Collection, Asia
Irsan Suryadji, Musee d’irsan, Affandi Dalam Kenangan, Indonesia (illustrated, p.88)
Sale room notice
This Lot is Withdrawn.

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Jacky Ho (何善衡) Senior Vice President, Deputy Head of Department

Lot Essay

Celebrated as Indonesia’s foremost modern maestro, Affandi is recognised for his creation of a signature style of painting and his unique choice of subject matter. A humanist at heart, Affandi believed in the universal human experience above all else and dedicated his life’s practice to capturing the essence of the human condition in his paintings. This determination to depict life truthfully set him apart from the romanticised depictions of Indonesia of the popular Mooi Indies and Pita Maha styles that were favoured by the foreign patrons of the arts.

Pasar di Bawah Pohon (The Marketplace Under the Tree) depicts a fascinating glimpse of daily life, a vibrant and busy communal market scene in a Balinese village, overflowing with movement, activity and life. Painted in 1964, in a decade generally considered outstanding for Affandi’s earlier works, the present composition is a rare and overall masterpiece revelatory of the artist’s mode of painting, as well as his penchant for capturing natural landscapes and the humble human and animal subjects that he observed around him.

In the present lot, Affandi conveys the pleasing warmth of the tropics in cacophonous swirls of sunny yellow, deep emerald, and earthy shades of brown, while pigs and their piglets are peppered around the scene in a stark shade of black, mischievously darting across the foreground where a pair of wild dogs frolic. The market rises in the background, its leafy canopy gently swaying in the breeze as the villagers conduct the day’s business within – two ladies in the middle huddle over a large basket intent on examining its produce, while three women gather to their left, perhaps enjoying a quick moment of chatter while the other tends to her market stall. A woman dressed in a simple sarong emerges full-figure in the lower right of the foreground, a large tray balanced atop her head filled with an assortment of dishes containing meat and other condiments as she prepares to head home for the day.

There is certainly a spirit of gotong royong (neighbourly camaraderie) in the bustling composition that extends from the villagers all the way to the protective caresses of a grand Banyan tree in the distance. Its verdant foliage reaches long and wide across the top of the canvas, enveloping the community below in a comforting embrace, while providing soothing shade from the sweltering heat of the tropics. Centuries-old, yet standing tall and powerful across the ages, the Banyan tree is an important symbol to the Balinese, signifying eternal strength, unity, protection and longevity – an enduring reminder of life’s true purpose that flourishes in the nurture of communal harmony and resilience. Affandi’s art was very much rooted in depicting the day-to-day existence of village life, capturing his subjects just as they are, unadorned and unmarred by idealized beauty, and giving emphasis to essential or dominant features and characteristics that are crucial to our comprehension of humanity and nature. Spontaneity was also key to the success of his best paintings and he would trust only his sight and intuition, insisting on being physically and emotionally present in every moment recorded on canvas. Painting plein air in order to maintain the purest expression of the sudden frenzy, he lays his canvas on the dirt ground and works straight onto its surface with his bare hands, darting his eyes up from his makeshift workspace to catch glimpses of the flurry of movement while attacking the fresh paint with equal vigour. With his palms, he spreads the paint quickly outwards and across the canvas, while his fingers dig deep into the thick lines of tube-squeezed paint, guiding the pigment to reveal the bare canvas beneath the raw, unmixed colours, breathing life into the figures.

While Affandi’s works are often compared to the likes of Vincent Van Gogh, perhaps for his heavy impasto and unblended colours, the former’s works are far more expressionistic in their execution and thus much closer in spirit to the works of Gutai artist Kazuo Shiraga. Shiraga’s use of his hands and feet allowed him to transmit his bodily energy directly onto the painted surface, with the paint providing a record of his unhindered actions. Famed American Abstract Expressionist Jackson Pollock similarly favoured the spontaneous and gestural in his free-formed expression of his inner turmoil.

However, while Shiraga and Pollock worked in the absence of visual stimuli, Affandi’s strength lies in his ability to grasp the fleeting emotive quality of a scene in real life through his curvilinear strokes and motions, deftly translating the energy of a moment into its fullest expression – each quick and spontaneous line smoothly pulled to its very fullest or coiled tightly into itself, displaying Affandi’s true mastery of his technique in his sure and steady execution.

Unlike the artist’s later oeuvre, which transitioned into works of greater abstraction,Pasar di Bawah Pohon (The Marketplace Under the Tree) captures the viewer’s attention through Affandi’s successful balance of space along with the strong use of colour and line that work in harmony to breathe life into each figure and landscape. From the market’s thatched roofs and walls as the focus of the scene around which village life and nature thrives, to the artist’s dynamic and energetic strokes, the composition appears to flow onto the canvas with lively vigour, filling its expansive size with a generous viewpoint of the entire scene. Indeed, the present lot is exemplary of Affandi’s commitment to the honest expression of human nature, as he employs his unrivalled technique in his depiction of humble village life, ultimately illustrating the innate kampung spirit that binds the Indonesian people together.

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