The humble act of selling bananas seldom inspires great art, but in the eyes of Hendra Gunawan, it is transformed and transposed into the grander scheme of things.
This monumental painting of two women selling bananas by a stream is one of many mercantile scenes that Hendra painted in his life. Against a backdrop of flowers and water, this common, everyday scene is given an idyllic, pastoral effect.
The painting could very well be composed with just the two women sitting by the stream in leisurely idleness. Their hands are long, tapered and polished, hardly like the hands of a common fruit vendor. Their gestures are graceful and ladylike, instead of rowdy and boisterous, as illustrated in the paintings below. The bananas become more of an afterthought, as though the artist decided at the last minute that the figures needed a more practical pursuit.
The relaxed atmosphere of the piece is further enhanced by the languid posture of the women. The woman on the right has her legs stretched out almost parallel to the length of the canvas. Her elongated legs and the flowing skirt she wears exaggerate the sprawling nature of the painting. Her companion sits with her legs stretched too, albeit towards the viewer. Even the bunches of bananas echo the sense of space with their fan-shaped arrangement
Hendra's treatment of figures is consistent throughout the last three lots. The exaggerated body and enlarged hands and feet, draw attention to themselves. Their rounded, soft shapes serve only to enhance the femininity of the women and how important their hands and feet are in their daily lives.
Brightly coloured fabrics are undeniably a characteristic of Hendra's figure painting. It is interesting to note the Balinese influence on Hendra in his work. In this painting, the vivid dress that the women are wearing stem from batik prints. It would not be going to far to say that Hendra used these women as a vehicle to display these beautiful Indonesian prints. They not only enhance the beauty of the women, but also acknowledge the artisans who make them.