Deeply entrenched in modern Indonesian history, Hendra Gunawan’s lively depictions of the cultural mores of his beloved homeland have cemented him as “the people’s artist”. Distinguished as a humanist painter, Gunawan’s extensive oeuvre is characterized by the whimsical ways in which he immortalizes the allure found within the mundane – nothing is absent of beauty through the lens of Gunaway’s artistic vernacular, as his spontaneous imagination works to create visual commemorations of the landscapes and native people of Indonesia. In all his works, Gunawan took care to realize women as fully multidimensional, independent and individual characters, ones that are in charge of their own interactions, bodies, and roles. He carved out a refreshing mode of representation of the daily lives of Indonesian women.
Aptly titled Bermain Dengan Ibu
, which translates to Playing with Mother, this present lot is an expressive and spirited depiction of the human form and relationships. Gunawan permeates the canvas with a myriad of stunning colors, as he re-imagines a simple interaction between mother and son through a deftly saturated canvas and unconventional coloring. Fantastical and playful, Gunawan proudly boasts about the magic in the everyday of the Indonesian locale, as his expressive brushstrokes delineate the exquisite features of his subjects. Reminiscent of the Indonesian puppets of wayung kulit
, Gunawan illustrates the details of the mother with elegant, sloping features and elongated, exaggerated limbs, subsequently re-defining the alluring femininity of Indonesian women.
Surging with buoyancy and a child-like innocence, Gunawan’s visual flourishes serve to unveil the joy he experienced as witness to the daily nuances of rural life; while the exaggerated nature of his subjects, in tandem with his vibrant coloring, draw out the expressiveness of his visual language. Gunawan’s meticulous attention to composition and coloring is brought to light here, as his unique palette details the multi-colored batik prints on the mother’s sarong, imbuing it with a kaleidoscopic and ephemeral quality. As the woman stretches out to keep her impish child in her grasp, Gunawan outlines her soft, yet firm gaze of attentiveness and care, as he reveals the subtle elegance of her poise and figure.
At a time when Indonesia’s post-colonial art scene was burgeoning with multifarious visual identities, Gunawan stood out with his timeless and spirited aesthetics. Bermain Dengan Ibu is a poignant representation of his lifelong pursuit of encapsulating the beauty of Indonesia and its native locale.