Amongst the modern Indonesian artists who were active between 1950 to 1970, Hendra Gunawan stands out against his peers with a highly individualistic style that always involve an intricate composition, exuberant colours and a satirical analysis beneath the images. The artist was infatuated with his people and human relations and emotions were the constant themes in his works. There were times when he discussed the intensity of the human relations and at times, he would document the lack of it as with the case of Vegetable sellers on the beach.
Dr. Lukas Mangindaan, the original owner of Vegetable sellers on the beach, who is also an avid collector of Hendra's works and a personal friend discussed the work in the context of the artist's preoccupation with the depiction of the 'lack of emotional connection'. Even if the group was seemingly in the midst of an interaction, the communication remains superficial and the personalities remain, at best aloof from one another. According to Dr. Lukas the artist has purposefully averted any form of eye contact which he feels is highly significant as 'the eyes are the window of the soul and feelings'.
he arrangement of the personalities in a circle is also highly allegorical as Astri Wright observes "Composed as a circle and evocative of a dance, four people (two men and two women) are shown, each trying in vain to catch the next person's attention, each in turn ignoring the one who is reaching out for them. This painting could be read as a satire of unrequited interest. It can also be read as an allegory of a communal relationship - a mating dance where the energy of filtration is passed on in cycles or return, the way gifts traditionally travel. The painter has placed himself outside the circle, passive, an observer wearing sun-glasses and a touristic T-shirt depicting a monster head." (Astri Wright, Soul, Spirit, and Mountain - Preoccupations of Contemporary Indonesian Painters, Oxford University Press, New York, 1994, p. 174.)
Dr. Lukas has kindly confirmed the drawing of a 'angry face' on the shirt worn by the artist himself in the right corner which Hendra himself affirmed it in a conversation with him. To Dr. Lukas the drawing on the shirt is a clear 'portrayal of the man's repressed anger' thus accentuating the aloofness and lack of communication in a community.
According to Dr. Lukas, Hendra wrongly titled the painting as Penjual Pindang. Penjual Pindang, which means the vendor of fish, is clearly not what is depicted by the present work. It is his opinion that Hendra had inscribed the wrong title on the reverse of the work as he had placed 2 works of different subjects together while doing it.