In the artist's own words the subject of wayang should be perceived symbolically. "The wayang provides a complete illustration of man as microcosm in relationship to the world as macrocosm. Its rich symbolism explains the ethical and aesthetic norms that should be followed. The value system expressed in its stories is universal and relevant within all historical contexts. The stories themselves are the means for conveying these teachings.
The wayang themes in my work reveal in a symbolic way the process of my meditative nature for the divine. I maintain the shape, features, and character of the puppets, although I take some liberty with their visual representation. I choose the colours intuitively, on the basis of aesthetic considerations. My purpose is to develop my own visual language, while producing a message of true relevance." (Jean Couteau, Srihadi Soedarsono: The Path of the Soul, Lontar Foundation, Jakarta, 2003, p. 190).
The depicted wayang golek puppets refer to the still thriving and important folk art puppet theater of Java in Indonesia. These puppets are mostly used to tell the tales of Hindu epics, Javanese history plays and the Islamic Menak cycles. These performances were given in towns and villages on holidays and for a variety of festivals, as are the distinctive shadow-puppet plays, wayang kulit. A dalang, or puppet master, manipulated the puppets, spoke their parts, and coordinated the puppets' actions with music from a gamelan orchestra.
Like so many other handicrafts in Indonesia and Southeast Asia, making wayang golek is a hereditary skill handed down through families. The master puppet-maker usually makes the head because it expresses the personality of the puppet and hence is the most important. Again like the making of many ceremonial folk art, ceremonies are performed before commencing a deity or a demon, while the making of ordinary folk is done more casually.
Whilst a recurrent theme, the artist rarely depicts the wayang golek in the recent years as he concentrates on the lyrical movement of the various Javanese and Balinese dances. As a subject, wayang golek provides the essential elements that inspire that artist, a dramatic form that could be abstracted to the simplest yet most powerful in meaning, a symbolic colour that is rich in connotation and last but not least, an ethereal meaning to the subject that transcends its immediate material form.