Man From Bantul is a strikingly iconic early work of Indonesian painter I Nyoman Masriadi. Depicting a lone boxer and suffused with elements of the autobiographical, the painting reveals the enigmatic artist's sense of self-worth and is the most personal and self-revealing work from his sought-after Man From Bantul series. There are four known works from the series and the present lot is the last work from the Man From Bantul series to come to market.
The painterly world of Masriadi, oftentimes inhabited by the sole iconic painted figure, is intrinsically tied to his direct apprehensions and reactions to the larger world beyond the canvas. What sets one painting from another is the inherent capacity of the work to speak, to say something personally heartfelt. In this regard, Masriadi views his canvases almost as a form of transcendence beyond its own physicality as a painting into a powerful oratorical device. The ability of a picture to articulate, to pronounce something, to provoke the sensibilities of its viewer, is an ideal that Masriadi holds close to heart.
Man From Bantul exemplifies this distinct mode that the painter works in. The lone boxer figure is a striking figure of strength and determination, his arms raised and ready to strike, his feet planted solidly whilst maintaining an overall impression of readiness. A dialogue box at the upper left of the painting reveals the steely and determined character that Masriadi has invested into his painted boxer - "Selama ini sebagian penghasilan dari bertinju, daku belikan sarung tinju" (It is only now that I have found some success from boxing that I have bought for myself a pair of boxing gloves)
Like many of his other works, Man From Bantul is invested with specific utterances and embody personal experiences and thoughts distilled into pictorial narratives. In them, one finds elements of visual wit, humour and the comical - elements that run consistently through Masriadi's oeuvre. Underlining his canvases is an unmistakable wit, sometimes sardonic, sometimes wry and yet at other times tongue-in-cheek. Nothing is sacrilegious; anyone and anything, even the painter himself, can be lampooned or satirised. It is a brand of humour and visual wit that is pointed yet subtle, direct yet coy, emerging clearly in the various guises of the painted figures that inhabit Masriadi's painted world.
In fact, the message being transmitted through Man From Bantul is one that reveals a poignant moment in Masriadi's career as artist. Painted in 2000, the work marks a time when rewards and recognition was just beginning to be accorded to him. The young painter, then living and working in Bantul, a provincial district situated in the city of Yogyakarta, Indonesia, had just barely declared his intents as a painter in the city famed for its artistic and cultural vibrancy. At that time, Masriadi had just left the island of Bali, his birthplace to return to Yogyakarta, the city where he received training in art at the Art Institute of Indonesia.
Amongst thousands of other artists, Masriadi quickly forged a distinct visual language with his oeuvre of ebony black figures. The black figures, derived quickly after his settling down in Yogyakarta, became the dominant figurative type he produced in the years between 1998 and 2001. For Masriadi, black is the colour of strength, power and determination. These were the precise values which he propagated in various works, including the present work from the Man From Bantul series.
His works of the period presented an affront to the dominance of realist paintings, especially realist paintings that bore direct references to the tumultuous socio-political climate of Indonesia. Neither lyrical, romantic or grittily realist, Masriadi's painterly world was one dominated by a singular concern with articulating the personage of the painter himself.
Man From Bantul speaks evocatively of Masriadi's personal world, as painter and as individual. Pictorial forms and narratives in his paintings are derived from an engagement involving the self as social agent, and not as a formulaic process. If the realist depiction of the figure is the pinnacle of development in the classical arts of the west, Masriadi's figurative works illustrate a markedly different ideal. The body is the vessel of social critique, and the embodiment of a specific personal response to observed reality. The painted boxer is the painter himself embodied, speaking reflectively of Masriadi's personal career, revealing the essence of his being - one that is directed, focused and exacting. Masriadi holds himself to high standards and expects the world to see him as such. Rewards follow recognition and both are derived from an instinctive urge to compete and to emerge victorious.