421
421
Hendra Gunawan
BATHERS
Estimate
800,0001,500,000
LOT SOLD. 1,000,000 HKD
JUMP TO LOT
421
Hendra Gunawan
BATHERS
Estimate
800,0001,500,000
LOT SOLD. 1,000,000 HKD
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Modern and Contemporary Southeast Asian Art – Day Sale

|
Hong Kong

Hendra Gunawan
1918-1983
BATHERS
Signed and dated 73
Oil on canvas
146 by 73.5 cm; 57 1/2  by 29 in.
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Provenance

Private Collection, Australia

Catalogue Note

One of the greatest Indonesian painters of the 20th century, Hendra Gunawan stands out as a pioneer through his unique visual style, which showcases his mastery of European formalist technique skilfully combined with traditional Indonesian visual elements and themes to create a new type of artistic vocabulary for modern Indonesian art. An intensely socially engaged artist, his paintings celebrate the vitality and spirit of the Indonesian people by depicting the joys and sorrows they encounter in the daily dramas of life, in work and in play, in their triumphs and struggles, and in life and death. Hendra Gunawan’s artistic oeuvre also reflects his lifelong preoccupations with nation, democracy, and community—in essence, the spirit of gotong royong, or mutual co-operation, which animates Indonesian society.  A fiercely patriotic artist, his love for his country shines through his art as he charted its journey through independence into a future brimming with potential.

One cannot separate Hendra’s art from the fabric of Indonesian society and history from which he drew his artistic inspiration. From his early beginnings as a young painter during the nationalist period of the Indonesian Revolution, to his maturation as an artist with a particular genius for the jazzy, outrageous use of colour, to the intensified psychological probing and allegories of his late-era work, Hendra has always maintained his focus on humans and their humanity throughout his artistic career. The progression of his works parallels both his growth as an artist and the development of modern Indonesian society; while Hendra’s visual style evolved and matured over the years, his continued pleasure at observing daily happenings and recording them has resulted in a body of work that collectively meditates on the nature of human struggle while celebrating the tenacity of the human spirit. His human figures, painted in bold strokes, inhabit vibrant landscapes realised in vivid hues as Hendra sought to represent the oneness between the Indonesian people and their land.

In particular, Hendra’s pantings often feature women as subjects, and his portrayal of women in his work reveals his admiration for the active, strong, and beautiful women who form the backbone of his land and nation. With his artist’s eye for beauty, Hendra possessed the enviable ability to convey to the viewer the dynamism and energy of his subjects through a painting style that is at once visceral and evocative. His use of stylized exaggeration to highlight the curves and dips of their figures adds richness to the language of the women’s bodies, which invokes as well the lushness of the landscape that they exist in harmony with. Under his brush, the women portrayed in Hendra’s paintings are not simply passive objects for the viewer to scrutinize-- they are complex, independent, and self-assured individuals as well as icons of beauty.

Bathers (1973) is a prime example of Hendra’s humanist portrayal of the lively strength of the Indonesian people. Here, a group of ebullient women are depicted in media res, dominating the foreground of the painting as they perform the tasks of bathing and washing their hair. In addition, Hendra employs a vibrant colour palette and confident, spontaneous brushstrokes to bring across their strong facial features and imbue their movements with casual grace.

Despite the seemingly mundane subject matter of the painting, Bathers teems with sensual, kinetic energy. The composition of the three women who form the centre of the group also has the effect of drawing attention to the easy camaraderie that characterises their interaction as they chat and go about their tasks of washing up and in one woman’s case, wringing water from her hair. The sense of rapport and mutual support emanating from the entire group adds to the impression of pleasure the artist derived from observing and capturing the daily customs and mundane rituals of the common people.  Although all the women are distinct in profile, their arrangement and merging forms reflect their connectedness and once again exemplifies Hendra’s love for celebrating community and female solidarity. In addition, although the kineticism of the portrayed tableau implies to the viewer a stolen moment in time captured in paint, it also retains a timeless quality that speaks to Hendra’s artistic imagination for its visions of Indonesian life both past and present.

Casting an eye over the painting as a whole, the sinuous forms of the women integrate seamlessly into the winding curves of the river and the gentle slopes of the river bank towards the horizon, highlighting their unity with the natural landscape around them. Their respective states of dress and undress—one woman wearing a blue sarong that merges into the river around her, another in an earthy brown sarong, and yet another in unabashed nakedness—further bind the women to the bountiful land they live in. Hendra’s eye for detail is also evident in the attention paid to the background, where women and children frolic and do their chores alongside the river bank. The sense of spatial depth and perception created by the receding river into the distant horizon also adds to the feeling of potential and possibility that Hendra saw in his native land. Both the women and the landscape represent the rich indigenous beauty of Indonesia and testify to Hendra’s adoration of his country and the people in it.

Bathers is a singular example of Hendra’s work with its striking composition and subject matter, while also bearing the hallmarks of his distinctive style in terms of its use of colour and its stylisation of the human form. As an image depicting a moment of relaxation and joy in carrying out a seemingly mundane daily ritual, the warmth of human relationships shines through the interactions of the women and reaffirms Hendra’s affinity towards the common people whose lives he sought to document and celebrate through his art.

Modern and Contemporary Southeast Asian Art – Day Sale

|
Hong Kong