The 'mountain' has always been a powerful and significant symbol in many cultures and ancient mythologies. It is particularly so for Indonesia, a country where one finds the largest number of active volcanoes. Hence it is observed that "Mountains have an acute objective reality in Indonesia, which is a chain of volcanic islands, both extinct and active. To many Indonesians, the sight of a smoking volcano is a familiar part of life; to some, the threat of an eruption still nourishes ancient beliefs in the need to pacify the destructive power of the spirit residing in the mountain." The 'mountain' serves as a rich source of imagery for the many art forms in Indonesia, "...throughout Indonesia, the mountain figures in local myths of origin are still told today, from Sumatra to Kalimantan, from Sulawesi to Timor and Maluku. The mountain as abstract sign - sometimes as decorative form - is found in the lines of running triangles on prehistoric kettledrums and in the patterns of textiles, such as batik from Cirebon; on supplementary weft cloth from Lampung; and on songket (supplementary weft pattern with use of gold-wrapped thread) cloth from Bali. The triangle is found on the miniature art of illuminated Javanese manuscripts and jewellery. It is the main geometrical configuration that characterises the upper elevations of monumental architecture, ranging from the Hindu or Buddhist stone temple to the wooden mosque; from the steep, tapered roofs of the Javanese village houses to the chief's house on South Nias, in South Sulawesi, Timor, and elsewhere. The first and last image to be shown on the screen of the wayang shadow puppet play is name gunungan - 'like a mountain' "(Astri Wright, Soul, Spirit, and Mountain: Preoccupations of Contemporary Indonesian Painters, Oxford University Press, Kuala Lumpur, 1994, p.35-38).
Such is the importance of the mountain to the Indonesian people which led to its frequent usage, be it in a realistic or abstract form that has resulted for it to become a visual clichi. Therein lies the potential for an expressionist such as Affandi. It allows the artist to create his own dialogue with his subject and thereafter present it in a new light in his work. As a resident of Yogyakarta in central Java, the sacred Mount Merapi as well as Mount Merabu are very much in his vicinity and hence the subject of the present work.
For Affandi, all his works allowed a new outburst of subjectivity, to an expressionist unleashing of instinctual forces which is only possible with his keen observation of his subject for a considerable amount of time. Describing his painting technique, Astri Wright has written "Affandi would spend a long time looking for painting subjects, and then a long time studying the subject, probing into its being, until he felt he had become part of it. Only then would he start squeezing and smearing paint from the tubes on to the canvas, working it with his hands, palms, wrists, and the back of his hands. Painting for Affandi was a process of fixing into colour and form the storm of energy from his emotions which had risen through concentrating on something which had initially inspired him." (Ibid., p. 112).
Subjectivity reigns in the works of Affandi who places his personal and therefore unique interpretation of his subject before anything else. Hence, he often relishes the opportunity to assault the realistic representation of his subject, be it a human form or a mountain such as the present lot. He lets the mountains fill up the canvas with no explicit spatial context. The landscape is constructed in clusters of smears, varied colours and textures, placed against a clear sky with a suggestion of yellowish-shadowy landscape afar. This composition allows the form of the mountain to float across the surface of the canvas and animated by the ebullient brushwork which suggests the vigorous nature of the erupting volcano and effectively conveys a vivacious atmospheric effect for the present lot.