I Nyoman Masriadi
- I Nyoman Masriadi
- Bebas Hambatan (Freeway)
- Signed and dated 2014; signed, titled and dated 2014 on the reverse
- Acrylic on canvas
Although Masriadi is well-known for his comic-style structures, there are incidences when he departs from that format and opts for a more traditional composition. Some of his most important and personal works, such as The Man From Bantul (The Final Round), Cross-Eyed and No More Game, were devoid of conversation but their visual expression is so powerful that a small detail, gesture or gaze would speak louder than words.
The figure, the human figure is its own drama, its own theatre; it is both actor and story. That’s how I sometimes see it,” the artist said. “The figure is acting, is seeing and is telling the story too. It’s the figure that carries everything”1.
In Freeway, a bold silhouette and a blaze of vivid colours command the viewer’s attention, drawing one’s gaze to the lone male figure on a motorbike. A wizened middle-aged man with a blonde handle-bar moustache – reminiscent of celebrity wrestler Hulk Hogan – is seen riding a thunderous motorcycle. He’s wearing an electric blue helmet, an aubergine jacket, paired with hot chilli-red jeans, emerald gloves and matching goggles and a green scarf fluttering in the wind. It could not be clearer that this biker shuns the all-black norm usually associated with his biker compatriots. Instead, he is a non-conformist, riding into the sunset a lone-ranger.
The clean lines and curves dominating the canvas vaguely recall vintage Ads, posters or movie stills from the 1950s and 1960s. It evokes the atmosphere of the Wild West and the imageries of Great American rebel icons: Marlon Brando as an outlaw biker in “The Wild One” riding a Triumph T6 Thunderbird, Bob Dylan and his Triumph Tiger 100, James Dean in “Rebel Without a Cause” and his Triumph TR5 Trophy, as well as Steve McQueen in “The Great Escape”, filmed riding his own Triumph TR 6. Naturally, Masriadi’s 21st Century take pushes the boundaries to a different level by taking the essence of their daredevil attitude yet creating a new character that is completely his own.
It is perhaps not a coincidence that Masriadi had always wanted a Triumph motorbike since his college years, as his wife fondly remembers. For the people who are familiar with Masriadi’s history, he has also interspersed Freeway with more details that have a personal significance, such as the number “23” on the helmet, which is the artist’s favourite number, and a green scarf that Masriadi has always wanted but could not yet find.
The Indonesian title of this work is “Bebas Hambatan”, which can be interpreted in a few ways. Its literal translation, unobstructed, is as significant as its metaphor, freeway. As the lone figure rides into the sunset on the freeway with his eyes focused sharply on the road ahead and his gaze unwavering, the gold-lined clouds in the background creates the perfect setting for a cliff-hanger epilogue, leaving the audience craving for what is to come.
Liberating himself from the predictable, dark-skinned muscle men, Masriadi deliberately chose to be unexpected by bringing vivid blocks of colour into the canvas. Along with the inclusion of the artist’s favourite things, the significance of the work is much more than it seems at first. As the lone figure moves forward into the unknown, he represents change. Thus the work speaks of the pursuit of long-lost dreams, of new beginnings, and naturally, of newfound freedom. It brings with it a palpable sense of euphoria and more significantly, the sense of power that freedom invokes.
While this work is highly personal and represents an important period of Masriadi’s life, its strength lies in its ability to strike a chord in its viewers who are living in a culture continuously attracted to the spectacle of experiencing other people’s lives and of fitting into a herd. Using the nameless, unsung hero as an avatar, he wields the power to challenge and to inspire people to think beyond boundaries and thus be truly free. The mind, is, after all, stronger than brawn.
1. T.K. Sabapathy, Nyoman Masriadi: Reconfiguring the Body, Gajah Gallery, Singapore, 2010