Upon viewing the present painting, one is struck by the lively strength of the main protagonist – a woman of seductive appeal and daring charisma. She wears a mask that covers her forehead only to reveal eyes animated by a fury passion, as well as the luscious red lips so deliciously typical of Hendra’s iconic female figures. Caught in mid-air, the dancer’s limbs stretched to the full, contorting in rugged yet graceful movements. Indeed the female embodies the ideals of Hendra Gunawan’s endearing reverence for the rural lifestyle of Indonesia. The artist took pleasure in observing and capturing women’s daily customs and dignified practices which he saw as unfettered by complications of cosmopolitan life. In fact the artist was inspired by his mother, frequently fashioning women as an emblem of the warmth and tenacity of human relationships.
Below the main figure is her dancing partner, who could be either a male or female counterpart. They mirror each other’s hand choreography, arching their elongated fingers backward and demonstrating the dance’s coordinated flow. The kinetics of the composition is reiterated in Hendra’s distinct convolutions of strokes, coiling with energy seen even in the minutia of her costume—a product of the painter’s masterful yet fluid control of his brush.
Strikingly electric with an unrestrained flirtatiousness, Topeng Dancer displays Hendra’s acute confidence in figuration as the dancer appears to leap out of the picture’s frame. Furthermore the current work exemplifies Hendra’s affinity for intense hues, which are daringly mixed on the canvas to produce a palette on the verge of a garish yet enticing appearance. Here, the artist generously employs a brilliant purple, cyans and scorching oranges, imbuing the painting with an arresting affinity for the tropical colours that populate Hendra’s most memorable works.
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