SRIHADI SOEDARSONO (Indonesian, B. 1931)
SRIHADI SOEDARSONO (Indonesian, B. 1931)


SRIHADI SOEDARSONO (Indonesian, B. 1931)
signed 'SRIHADI' (upper right); signed, dated and titled 'Srihadi 1967 Landscape' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
130 x 205 cm. (51 1/8 x 80 3/4 in.)
Painted in 1967
Acquired directly from the artist by the original owner, Diplomat Raul Jos de S Barbosa, Brazil
Thence by descent to the present owner

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Lot Essay

“[Pandy’s gallery] was located by the sea in Sanur. The beach was still clean and quiet. I would stay on the beach from early morning till sunset. As if under a spell, I would let my mind flow freely across the sand, the beach and the limitless sea and sky…It was after meditating like this for months in a row that I came up with the theme of the horizon.” Srihadi Soedarsono (Jean Couteau, Srihadi Soedarsono, The Path of the Soul, Lontar Foundation, Jakarta, Indonesia, 2003, p. 30)

Hailed as one of the most significant living modern Indonesian painters, Srihadi Soedarsono’s is known for his paintings of expansive, sweeping landscapes, as well as his iconic depictions of traditional Indonesian dancers. The artist was at the forefront of the modernist input in Indonesian art from the 1950s, moving beyond “aesthetics” in works that hover in manner between “informal”, ‘brut’ and ‘expressionistic’ in the 1960s, where his favourite subject themes included scenes of beaches, mountains, fields and sky.

A trip to Bali in 1953 on the advice of Dutch painter Arie Smit engendered a love of the island’s spirit, a source of inspiration for the artist who began painting beach scenes, which later became synthesised into compositions of colour fields delineating seascapes and horizons. With a penchant for creating works that portray Nature in its unbound expressive form, the beach as a locale has its own lure for the artist for it also represented the unification of the elements of land, water and sky, harmonious essences to life in the natural world.

In Landscape , the artist articulates his interest in the beach as the dominant pictorial subject of the composition. Painted in 1967, shortly after Srihadi’s return from America as a student at Ohio State University, the present lot stands as a rare and early masterpiece, the first large abstract work by the artist ever to be offered in Christie’s Hong Kong Evening Sale. Bearing exceptional provenance from the diplomat Raul Jos de S Barbosa, who acquired the piece from Srihadi himself, Landscape reflects the influence of an abstract expressionist technique, gleaned from the artist’s exposure to modern Western art in America.

In this early horizon seascape painting, physical elements are reduced and simplified, abstracted into shorthand notions. Textural strokes in shades of ochre and brown are applied in thick swathes of impasto across the canvas, delineating the beach in an expressive gestural rhythm that implies an exuberant mood. Light from the afternoon sun bathes the sand in lighter hues layered with burned orange, casting a warm glow over the area, and merging with accents of white and deep blue for the horizon which occupies a thin band on the upper edge of the work. The separation between land and sky is not as clearly defined as some of Srihadi’s later horizon works, and the artist’s illustration of the skyline is in fact not executed by line, but is borne at the edges of colour fields representing different elements of nature, an effect reminiscent of the colour-saturated multiform works of Mark Rothko, the leading pioneer in the Abstract Expressionism movement.

A consummate colourist, Srihadi features sub-layering within his colour planes, and Sanur Beach displays almost-spontaneous or even disorderly lines and splotches of colour that disrupt the general horizontal axis of the work. Dabs of emerald green, yellow, white and red impasto are mixed and overlaid onto the canvas, breaking the regularity of the ochre and brown field and visually stimulating the viewer to different parts of the work. Small, vertically oriented strokes breach the realm of the beach, a reference to mankind perhaps, swiftly scattered across the plane and bringing a subtle modulation of form to the composition.

Srihadi’s horizon seascapes convey expressions of emotions. These almost abstract works—which also communicate references of action painting—reveal the artist’s feelings, expressed through the emphasis of line, texture and brushstrokes. However, unlike works of gestural primacy from artists like Franz Kline and Jackson Pollock, Srihadi’s abstraction was never the kind achieved through moments of impulse and random gesture. His was a painstaking and controlled experimentation in form and colour governed by Javanese notions of balance between the elements of earth and sky, the symbiosis of seemingly polar natures.

This is particularly reflected in the achievement of colour harmony in Landscape , where the cool palette of blues and whites in the painting exudes an air of tranquillity and stillness in the sky. The unblended brushstrokes and saturated pigments of the sand below do not form a harsh effect, but instead produces soft and soothing layers across the canvas, a meditative beauty that transcends words.

Landscape stands as a superb example of Srihadi at his most expressive during his early years as a painter. The scale of the work, which transmits a monumentality of expression, makes it an ideal representational piece of the artist’s Horizon series dating from the mid-to-late 1960s, which constituted an important part in his career. The strikingly minimal form of the composition allows the reign of colours in a play of nuance and contrast, an extremely important element in the artist’s oeuvre, with the strength of the painting ultimately enabling viewers to feel and appreciate the multidimensional meaning appearing through the treatment of the artist’s uniquely expressive language.

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