Hendra Gunawan's women have always come across as lush, overtly sensual figures. From their voluptuous figures, to their puckered lips and dramatically made up faces, they hint at a fecundity that Hendra perceives in females.
Depicting a young woman bent at the waist with birds on her back, this lot is slightly different from the two lots that follow. Her face is devoid of makeup, and painted in an even, bluish-beige. Her outfit matches the muted overall colour palette, made up of mostly blues and greens, instead of the usual bright reds and oranges.
Hendra juxtaposes the tall, vertical canvas with a horizontal composition. Using bold bands of colour used to represent different surfaces and textures of the land and sea, he creates the illusion of depth despite little shading. The woman's bent back, and her rich brown sash cut horizontally across the canvas, and the birds also seem to mimic the woman's pose and gaze.
This painting shows a strong, young woman at the peak of her youth. Her gaze is expectant and eager, as though she is looking forward to meeting her friends or a lover by the beach. Hendra plays up her innocence and youth with the freshly scrubbed face and the simple topknot blown upwards in the wind.
The positioning of the birds directly behind the young woman, in an almost mirroring pose seems hauntingly foreboding. The birds, though likely to be common farm fowl, seem to take on a predatory stance when depicted in a group like this. They look very much like vultures stalking their prey, though given the context of the piece, quite improbable.
The suggestion of a loss of innocence might not necessarily be viewed as something negative. In all likelihood, it can be taken as a transitional scene bridging adolescence and adulthood. The young girl's veil of innocence is to be metaphorically stripped away by the predatory birds in a rite of passage towards the sea.
As such, perhaps this painting can be read as a stunning critique of the newfound freedom and independence of women in Indonesia, albeit tinged with a warning of the dangers of unrestricted and ungoverned freedom. The viewer feels duly sobered and suitably uplifted.