Very much in tune with the villagers and their daily routines, Hendra’s figurative paintings are vignettes of the local traditions and activities. In the work Mother and Children with Topeng, the artist has captured the special intimacy between a mother and her child, their interaction embodying the properties of this archetype. Hendra’s paintings that celebrate women communicate the importance of their roles as mother, wife, and sister within Indonesian society. Rarely voyeuristic in context, the artist’s depiction of the female spirit revealed his great respect for their integrity, compassion, and strength in adversary. Therefore it is no surprise that womanhood was a popular theme throughout his career, for these very principles are the foundations of the relationship between a mother and her child.
The present painting exemplifies the aesthetics and styles that were favored throughout his oeuvre. Hendra actively embraced colors, finding sanctuary in the richness of hues and their ability to transcend the ordinary environment into a visual display of emotions. Fact and fiction were at times fluid in the paintings, with figures deliberately painted in greens and blues, their expressions further complimented by the sky and ocean. In Mother and Children with Topeng Hendra has rendered the woman and her child in vibrant colors that captures the power and intensity of their emotions. Held in the girl’s hand is a Hanuman mask, the monkey’s gaze looking towards the woman, while her gaze is fixed onto her daughter. The presence of the mask is an interesting detail in the painting. Many of Hendra’s figures are shown in profile perspective, their silhouettes reminiscent of Indonesian wayang puppets, always turned towards each other in silent conversation.
The bond between a mother and a child is the first emotional exchange humans experience with one another, and establishes their ability to value and sustain relationships. Mother and Children with Topeng references Hendra’s romantic nature, the part of his nationalistic ideology that placed faith in humanity. The painting is one man’s gift back to a country that bore and bred him.
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