When describing Srihadi Sudarsono’s art, Suwarsono Wisetrotomo and Farida Srihadi muse that a work of art is the spirit of the artist in tangible form, a reflection of his character. Indeed, Srihadi’s expansive and prolific oeuvre is the result of a lifetime of spiritual nourishment by meditation and contemplation. Only by observing his paintings with one’s true inner self, and understanding of the philosophical principles of life, can one enjoy the peaceful serenity or dynamic energy of his masterpieces. His art is the manifestation of beauty, not only in a visual sense, but viscerally and cerebrally as well—it represents the accumulation and crystallization of his creative powers. Today, Srihadi is one of Indonesia’s most renowned living modern artists, recognized for his spiritual and poetic art.
The present lot depicts Legong dancers, a classic subject-matter that features prominently in Srihadi’s work. The Legong dancers are in various stages of preparation for a performance. In the center, one kneels down, gingerly rendering the beautiful, intricate costume of another dancer. To the left and right of the pictorial space are two other dancers counter-balancing each other, one sitting and one standing, delicately holding flower offerings. The composition is of balance and harmony.
Srihadi’s choice of subject-matter bears much symbolic significance. The women are a metaphor of his search for symbolic meanings and values, and the cultural embodiment of human civilization. He places great focus on their femininity by illustrating their willowy, lithe figures, thus eliciting a mood of refinement, simplicity and gentleness. Interestingly, although the women bear the general characteristics of Balinese facial features, Srihadi does not differentiate them as specific individuals. Rather, they are identified by their costumes and body language. Art critic Dan Suwarjono explains that what Srihadi paints is “the essence of a person expressed through the use of splashes of color which give us the image of the attributes and characteristics of a human being.” In this way, Srihadi has the freedom to explore the spirit of his chosen subject matter in a more profound and sincere way.
The vibrant greens, reds and yellows of the dancers’ costumes juxtapose against the rich, wine background. The solidness of the color may be interpreted as negative space, yet it gives the impression of fullness, a reflection of the saying, ‘kosong sejatine isj’ (empty but full). Srihadi is a master colorist, using a myriad of tone and nuance in his palette. This is due to his natural sensitivity to color, his formal education both in the University of Indonesia in Bandung (now the Bandung Institute of Technology) and the Ohio State University, and the cultural awareness of color symbolism. In its totality, the picture evokes much peace and stillness, and yet its undercurrent of energy emanates through.
Srihadi’s career has spanned approximately seven decades, and in that time, he has displayed his works at countless exhibitions, and has received a slew of awards, such as the Republic of Indonesia Art Awards. The art maestro believes that the goal of painting is to create works that have an emotional connection to life values, in order to stimulate cultural dialogue. The present lot is an exemplification of that.
 Suwarno Wisetrotomo and Farida Srihadi, Srihadi: poetry without words, pg. 18
 ibid, pg. 25
 Ibid, pg.45
 Ibid, pg.44
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