Hendra plays with multiple contrasts within his painting. The bending of colors in a dazzling energy dance on the generous slopes of prints and patterns, alongside elongated, sinuous movements of the women’s fingers and sarongs makes for an exquisite composition that captures the rich vocabulary of their body language and elegant gesturing. Hendra dwelled on the looks and dress of his country’s people, seeking to translate the vivid colors of their dress, their hair, or the warmth of their skin into paint and imaginative form. Deep, turquoise blues accompanied by peachy skies convey a lushness of both the tropics and the land itself, seducing the viewer into Hendra’s creative genius that seamlessly melds together dynamism, balance, familiarity and emotion.
Perhaps it is a profound paradox that Hendra’s paintings are rendered so energetically, despite the colonial oppression and poverty experienced by his countrymen and women. Or perhaps, Hendra’s paintings, the creating of which sustained him when nothing else could, are celebrations of his people’s tenacity and strength despite harsh wartime occupation. Thus, in his work, the women are portrayed as active, strong and nurturing as Hendra innately recognizes that they are the glue that holds the societies and communities of his country together.
Upon viewing the work, one’s spirit is pulled into motion. The artist has a way of monumentalizing his land and its people, securing a personal visual language like no other. It is no wonder then, that Hendra is frequently cited as the master of first-generation Indonesian modernists, and this season, Sotheby’s is proud to announce By the Beach as another gift of history from this prolific artist.
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