As one of Indonesia’s most prominent artists, Affandi is widely recognized for developing an original visual language. Lauded by his peers as well as international critics for his distinct signature style, Affandi worked tirelessly to perfect his craft and inimitable approach to painting. Executed in 1969, at the height of the artist’s practice, Scarecrow
translates a heightened and passionate experience of rural Indonesian life onto the canvas. This piece is a depiction of two scarecrows in the fields, under the scorching sun.Scarecrow
is a vignette of pastoral life, a favoured subject matter of Affandi who pursued authentic depictions of the local in post-colonial Indonesia. Affandi wanted to distance himself from romanticised perspectives of Indonesia and championed the cultivation of individualistic styles unique to local art culture. This desire to re-imagine the native is seen in this lot as the silhouette of the scarecrow is reminiscent of the Bebegig
, the traditional Sudanese scarecrow. By capturing visual markers of the Indonesian identity, Affandi dives deep into celebrating everyday scenarios and activities.
With its vibrant colors and striking impasto lines, Scarecrow
is a strong example of Affandi’s expressive technique. The artist’s works are guided by his sensibilities in the moment, as he paints with incredible fervour and intuitiveness. At once inspired by the subject before him, the artist seems to spill out his emotions onto the canvas, working in a single session, until he reaches a complete representation of his perspective - “I usually feel my emotions declining [by that time]. It is better to stop then. The painting is finished.”
Affandi rejects conventional brushes or palettes, squeezing paint directly onto the canvas before spreading the pigment with his fingers and the back of his hands. His preference for tactility enables him to communicate his emotions directly onto the canvas without an intermediary. Evident in Scarecrow
, this results in a powerful impressionistic composition that is at once energised yet never ostentatious. The generous yet artful use of rich hues of red, yellow, orange and deep viridian lends the work moments of intensity and moments of respite. The scarecrow on the right is painted in deep green, the same shade as the verdant grass and vegetation that arise in rhythmic strokes. Affandi suggests that the figure is in union with the land it serves to defend against natural threats. The two figures lean toward each other, their arms outstretched, as if caught in the midst of combat. The details of the scarecrow’s face are highlighted in bright yellow whirls, echoing the golden colour of the crops ripe for harvest.
Overhead, the sun, the artist’s “Life Force” painted in brilliant orange bathes the entire composition. Affandi deems this signature motif as the provider and source of energy for all earthly beings and aptly depicts the sun in this quintessential account of agrarian existence.
As such the whole canvas is imbued with a great whirling of natural forces, bringing to life the narrative of pastoral life for its viewer.
Scarecrow is a painting truly representative of Affandi’s spirit – one that celebrates the beauty of the mundane. Demonstrating the artist’s ability to capture varied nuances of human life, the present work brings together the forces of life, death, good over evil in its powerful portrayal of rural Indonesian life.
 Sardjana Sumichan, Affandi Volume III, Bina Lestari Budaya Foundation Jakarta and Singapore Art Museum, 2007, p. 139.