- Dogs Fighting
- signed and dated 1964
- oil on canvas
- 107 by 138 cm; 42 by 54 in.
Private Collection, Indonesia
Private Collection, Singapore
The present painting Dogs Fighting perfectly exemplifies the artist’s painterly style and insightful understanding of his external environment. Rather than focusing on their physical appearances, Affandi oftentimes depicted animals in action. The way the artist chooses to represent the dogs in the present piece with their bodies intertwined and teeth bared, connects viscerally with the audience and aptly communicates the canines’ instinct for survival. Dogs Fighting marks a rarity in Affandi’s artworks, for it is one of the very few works dedicated to this subject matter, and therefore a very special piece from his oeuvre. Among his limited known paintings of dogs fighting, the present lot is arguably the strongest.
The artist’s decision to concentrate on dogs in the present work also reflects his want to expand on the theme of endurance within a brand new context. There is a certain poetry in Affandi’s portrayal of animals as seen by the deliberate choreography of their interactions with each other. The scenes are usually absent of people, allowing for the animals to dominate the composition and consequently enrich the audience’s imagination of the drama unfolding. The event in Dogs Fighting may be one from his personal history, as remembered from an alley fight witnessed in Indonesia, however the artist has subsequently adapted the event into his own version to fuel the narrative of this specific painting.
He was rarely a painter who embraced quietude as a motif, and the animal paintings reiterate this fact. The works centered upon cock fighting are one such example, for the birds encompass the entire compositions, the excited flurry of their movements inciting a certain restlessness throughout the narratives. That particular subject matter was repeated throughout his oeuvre for it was a popular pastime amongst locals, while representing on a greater level their strength as a nation. Dogs Fighting follows in this vein. The animals are part of the artist’s creative diction to create a story that is arresting for the audience.
Affandi was known for his distinct painterly style that embraced expressionistic brushstrokes to succinctly convey the passion he felt for a particular subject matter. The technique of squeezing paint from the tube onto the canvas enforced a certain rhythm within the paintings. By forgoing with a paint brush and using his hands, Affandi establishes a psychological connection between the artist and the audience, instilling a powerful voice that commands respect and appreciation for the scenes taking place. The animals in Dogs Fighting are shown as a series of vivid hues that emphasize the frenzy of their heated exchange. Only the dogs standing on their hind legs and profiles mirroring each other are painted in detail. The rest of the composition leans towards abstract expressionism, with the adrenaline and passion of the fight conveyed as vibrant shapes and forms.
The artist garnered himself a reputation as an individual who was able to recognize and recreate the life force of his subject matters, and with a sensitivity that is apparent in his oeuvre, share these emotions with the public. In the current work he has poignantly recreated a memory. By relying on the audience’s psyche to color in the rest of the scene, this further serves to intensify the chaos and din of the artist’s recollection of that given moment. Dogs Fighting succeeds in conveying the heightened emotions of the animals in mid-battle, their instinct to survive seen as a symbol of humanity’s courage and hope in the face of adversary. These are values that Affandi championed throughout his lifetime and strived to convey in the body of his works.