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HENDRA GUNAWAN (Indonesia 1918-1983)
HENDRA GUNAWAN (Indonesia 1918-1983)

Street musician

Details
HENDRA GUNAWAN (Indonesia 1918-1983)
Street musician
signed 'Hendra' (lower right)
oil on canvas
46 1/2 x 52 in. (118 x 132 cm.)
Provenance
Acquired directly from the collection of Mr Carl Ganda, founder of the Oasis restaurant, Jakarta in 1984.

Lot Essay

"Although his style and colours developed, Hendra's choice of themes did not change dramatically in his painting life. From the beginning, it seems, Hendra was painting people in contexts of work and play, in celebration, struggle, and death. Such themes were well established long before he joined LERKA. Seeds of Hendra's mature style were already in place in the 1950s, such as the tendency to depict people in profile or in silhouette, with a certain stylised exaggeration of facial features, expressive body movements, and long thin arms. This vocabulary is related to that of the wayang, which has influenced so much on one of the features that make Hendra's paintings look 'Indonesian'." (Astri Wright, Soul, Spirit, and Mountain: Preoccupations of Contemporary Indonesian Painters, Oxford University Press, Kuala Lumpur, 1994, p. 170-171).

Much has been discussed on Hendra's keen interests on the celebration of woman with his glorious colours on canvas. An unmistakable member of the Indonesian Modernists, the artist's sympathy or perhaps more appropriately, empathy towards the common folk is also evident in his works. Last but not least, is Hendra's profound love for his country and all things that he considered as the 'beauty of Indonesia.' In sum, celebration of woman, the empathy towards the common people and the portrayal of Indonesian beauty are the main elements in the works of Hendra.

Such is the paradigm that the artist constructs for the reading of his works that an onlooker is rarely puzzled nor paused to reflect upon a hidden message. The effects are immediate and unabashed. Colours are used generously and in the most idiosyncratic manner that are regarded as the artist's signature style. In proclaiming the beauty of the people, shades of reds, greens and yellows are simultaneously used to highlight and accentuate thus creating a buoyant imagery which is subdued by the characteristic big, earthy-brown feet of his protagonists, an allegory to the organic relationship between man and mother-earth.

The Modernists is a group loosely linked with the artists' rejection of the colonial Mooie Indie (Beautiful Indonesia) style of painting that is criticised by the former as single-mindedly colonial (western) in perceiving the Indonesian people and landscape hence naively, over-setimentalising the subjects, reducing to the frequent portrayal of sensual women and picturesque landscape. However, a first glance at Hendra's oeuvres, the modernist seems to share the same penchant for the subjects of the Mooie Indie school of artists while attaining a sense of genuine 'Indonesianess' unprecedented in the early school. The key is then not the subjects but the manner of which they are treated as it is commented "The 'Indonesian' quality of Hendra's work has been remarked upon by other eminent Indonesian painters. Because of his sensuous depiction of tropical landscapes and people, Hendra has occasionally been likened by foreign observers to Gauguin. Apart from their styles being quite different, this comparison misses an essential point: unlike Gauguin, an outsider and tourist in Tahiti, Hendra is painting a world with which he is intimately familiar, a world with which he was deeply involved from childhood until death, even during the decade in prison, when his depictions of it took on a certain dreamlike intensity." (Astri Wright, Soul, Spirit, and Mountain: Preoccupations of Contemporary Indonesian Painters, Oxford University Press, Kuala Lumpur, 1994, p. 171).

The present work well illustrates the distinct qualities as discussed above. The subject is of a most pleasing nature that depicts a street musician playing his instrument as a group of people gathering around him. There is no division between a common ground and the stage, in place is a spontaneous feel of a daily street occurrence and the performer blends in so well with his audience that one would have the difficulty in identifying him if not for the instrument in his hand, hence effectively injecting a communal atmosphere to the composition. Characteristically, all the protagonists are in vibrant colours, the women in shades of pink, green and red and the men in blue and grey. In the background, Hendra places more people engaging in various activities which includes a group of children playing and another group of women chatting away. In short, this is an idyllic tale of a street scene in Indonesia, a place, where Hendra knows well and adores, as it is the very community he has celebrated incessantly throughout his career as an artist.

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