The Topeng dance is a much-esteemed tradition throughout Indonesia with various adaptations performed around the Indonesian islands. Centered around fabled heroes, kings and myths, the Topeng dance is filled with rich dynamism and animated movement. These qualities are what Hendra associates with the true spirit of Indonesia, overflowing with exuberance and a multi-dimensional beauty.
In the present lot, the female Topeng dancer dominates the canvas. True to the protagonist’s role, she exudes an alluring charm and charismatic appeal that attracts the viewer’s gaze. Donning the mask that conceals her forehead, the heroine’s expressive eyes take centre stage as well as her sultry red lips that are quintessential of Hendra’s female figures. Depicted in mid-performance, she is portrayed with elongated movement, her fingers splayed and hair flowing behind her. The fabric from her costume dances along with her as she commands the stage. Inspired by the memory of his own mother, the recurring motif of the woman in Hendra is often placed at the core of the narrative. Indeed, the artist immortalises the dancer as both strong and graceful, paying homage to her and the multifaceted role women play in the Indonesian society.
Influenced by his second wife’s own use of a bright palette, Hendra began to re-imagine his works through saturated canvases and unconventional coloring. True to the period hallmarked by bursts of colour and a mature, vibrant artistic vernacular, Hendra’s expressive use of color communicates a sense of fantasy and playfulness. The feminine beauty of the dancer is emphasized through the intricate, colourful curves and dots that pattern her costume, enhancing her voluptuous figure. The artist amplifies the mystic around the dancer’s character by seamlessly blending soft colours in the negative space, effusing a hazy effect. As if telling the story of a heroine who emerges from the mist, he paints swirls and flourishes around her, giving the character a romantic aura.
Throughout his life, Hendra desired to initiate a dialogue with all levels of society through his art – he wished to share and boast about the beauty in the mundane and the magic in the everyday. Topeng Dancer is an iconic work that stands testament to his powerful re-imagination of his homeland and society.
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