The immediately recognizable and striking visual language of Indonesian contemporary artist I Nyoman Masriadi is what has made him one of the most successful painters to emerge from Southeast Asia in recent years. Leyeh-Leyeh (Relaxing) comes from a period where Masriadi began to extensively use the color black, and explore its symbolic properties. The figure in the foreground stands out not only for her posture and placement within the composition, but also for the iconic black paint that Masriadi has applied to her contours. Against the muted palette of the beach she lies, in stark contrast to her companion; oppositions and comparisons abound.
Known for his depictions of inflated, masculine male bodies, it is significant to consider the female body within Masriadi’s oeuvre. The strength and resonance of the figure in the foreground conforms to a pose reminiscent of classical nude portraiture, but her lewd red lips curl into a smile suggesting a tongue-in-cheek satire of exactly such traditional depictions. Her gaze is obscured by sunglasses, and she seems unperturbed by the possibility of an observer, though the staged nature of her pose betrays an awareness of being watched. In contrast, the discomfiting gaze of the second figure meets ours directly, and her arms shield her exposed breasts and face. Her body is turned in an uncomfortable position, as if contorted to put her body on maximum display. The background of the beach and the title of the work are deliberately misleading, and Masriadi expresses his sharp wit as he asks if under modern attitudes of self-absorption and voyeurism, we can ever truly relax.