Sotheby’s is proud to offer a striking painting by Bali-born contemporary artist I Nyoman Masriadi, who stands as a prominent voice in the contemporary Southeast Asian Art scene. Inspired by observations of social life and behavioral traits, his bold paintings and their witty messages have also earned him a wide audience. Ubiquitously known as a non-conformist and one who follows his own rules, Masriadi decisively strays from the canonical route of the conventional Balinese artist. Even when he was a student at ISI, he was recognized by his peers for his drive to carve out his own niche. The artist’s own mix of arresting visual language, sharp humor and his keen sensibility for weaving in references to global pop culture has since allowed him to find relevance with an international audience, ultimately producing a refreshing satirical spin on modernity.
Yet, Masriadi notes that his motives are not necessarily political. As a man of few words, he employs his satirical nuances on society to initiate a dialogue with his viewers. The body serves as a central theme in his opus; it is reconfigured into a visual canvas for his narratives on modernity. He once said, “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 figure is acting, is seeing and is telling the story too. It’s the figure that carries everything.”[i]
I have Ball! features a muscled black man in branded basketball shorts, dominating the span of the picture plane. With a toothy smile, the man exclaims “I have ball!” while signaling towards the spinning ball on his right pointer finger, showing that he has accomplished this basketball trick. While the man’s facial expression could be interpreted as gleeful, his furrowed brows are more suggestive of a mischievous smirk. His need to brandish his well-endowed talents highlights his attachment to his ego. Aware of his spectators, he stares directly out towards the realm outside the canvas, almost confronting the viewer with his piercing gaze. This sheds light into the protagonist’s character as a braggadocio; perhaps a metaphor for the tendencies of modern society as a whole.
His quintessential hyper-masculine depiction of the male body injects a clear distortion of normalcy and order. Masriadi creates hyperbolic, affronting images, generating a sense tension when one first looks at his work. There is a push-and-pull effect within his work, a sense of ambiguity that is encapsulated by a balance between brutish imagery and the dark humor of social satire. Will the audience look away from the grotesque body or will they be enticed to look deeper and contemplate what Masriadi communicates through his work? Quintessential to Masriadi’s style, this impressive work exudes immense wall power, iterating the artist as one of South-East Asia’s leading contemporary voices.
[i] T.K. Sabapathy, Nyoman Masriadi: Reconfiguring the Body, Gajah Gallery, Singapore, 2010, pg.108