“SOLAR WIND EFFECT” is yet another one of Masriadi’s unflinching masterpieces, where he depicts the single most famed superhero in popular culture: Superman. Masriadi converses in a visual tongue that is witty, cutting and unambiguous: levitating mid-air, Superman’s nearly symmetrical torso serves to lampoon humans’ obsession with vanity. However, dominating the canvas, almost screaming in its vibrancy, is the scarlet red cape of superman, which unfurls and ripples proudly like a flag – it is so flamboyant in size that even the borders of the canvas are unable to contain it. The poised body of Superman is exaggerated to the point where every muscle gleams and bulges; this delineation of the hyper masculine may serve as the artist’s critique of society’s obsession with physical perfection. Our superhero’s gaze is so hardened that it almost seems more appropriate to shy away from his determined fixation, while his fists are clenched in preparation for his next battle. Behind him is a darkened backdrop of the sky, dotted with stars that pale in comparison to superman’s artificial sheen. Lowering our gaze, we see that the world in which our superhero inhabits is strange and familiar all at once. This is the moon, not our earth, and Masriadi’s meticulous brushstrokes of the moon’s surface point towards this jarring misplacement. This superhero is literally suspended in space, totally unaware of the fact that he looks comically out of place. And at once, a more sombre tone unveils itself: For what universe is his valor for? Whose world is his to save?
It is with “SOLAR WIND EFFECT” that we witness Masriadi’s sobering dissection of inflated masculinity, as well as the undermining of popular culture. Notions that are practically tethered to Superman, like justice and valiance, undergo a total subversion as they become nonexistent in the milieu of Masriadi’s critical canvas. Superman’s amplified features of virility, in sharp projections of red and blue, are immediately juxtaposed with the lacklustre darkness of the sky. Masriadi conveys, with a tinge of melancholia, that the superheroes which people know and love are ultimately outcasted figures without the world in which their legends exist. Perhaps this is best understood in the words of the artist himself. As Masriadi quips in a conversation with art historian T.K. Sabapathy: “The human figure is its own drama, its own theatre; it is both actor and story.” Despite his impenetrable glare, Superman is simply an emblem of heroism no more, and is reduced to lonely haplessness.
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