By the mid-1960s, Affandi had firmly couched himself in the vibrant style we are familiar with today, where the brush had resigned itself to the planar motions of the palette knife, and later to the rough rawness of the nozzle and tube of paint itself. Larger areas of color were often applied directly by hand, with the artist using his palm to spread paint thinly across the canvas in mockery of a brush wash. The process of making art was therefore an intensely physically and psychologically demanding process for Affandi, the mediating instruments between artist and canvas disregarded in favor of a crude, yet undeniably sublime, art form.
Affandi’s mid-career self-portraits are a culmination of years of artistic exploration: we see wild strands of color converging into contours of a face, with eyes expressing the timbre of an infinite sadness. Self-portraits appear throughout Affandi’s career: the artist himself admitted that when he felt he was failing with the rest of his work, he would turn to painting self-portraits.1 Self-portraits were not only a familiar format to which he could return, but also a process of critical self-examination to assess both man and artistic practice.
In the midst of a rapid wave of technological modernization and sociopolitical upheaval in Indonesia, Affandi’s art remained focused on the particular subjectivities of Indonesian life, never straying from its observational roots. Chairil Anwar’s sentiments are a reflection of this tendency – Affandi’s turn away from “the world’s noise and show” allowed him the space to concentrate on delving into his own being. These self-portraits are a visual expression the tumults of an individual, as revealed through the color palette of this piece. The rough green permeating throughout at times takes on the void-like character of black, yet amidst this darkness, Affandi retains the vigor of soul, with swirls of orange, yellow and red defiant of the darkness of the rest of the palette.
This self-portrait is not to be viewed superficially. At times, both man and portrait seem to be cleaved in half: the dark reds on the right side of Affandi’s face correspond to the darkness of the green background on the left side of the canvas, while the whites, oranges and yellows on the left side of his face correspond to the thin wash of paint on the right side of the canvas. It is a confrontation with his own self: a piercing, cool gaze acting as a mirror into his internal world.
In this light, we might read Affandi’s approach to painting as a radically participatory act, not only in technique but also in intention. His art never attempts to couch itself in pretense or association with formal academic discourse: Affandi eschewed any comparisons to painters such as Vincent Van Gogh and Oskar Kokoschka. Rather, his work attempts to reach at an authenticity to be found within, to uncover an earnest sincerity of man’s imperfection.
1 Jim Supangkat. Affandi, ed. Sardjana Sumichan, Bina Lestari Budaya Foundation Jakarta and Singapore Art Museum, 2007, p. 64
Please call 1-800-555-5555 to order a print catalog for this sale.
Online Registration to Bid is Closed for this Sale. Would you like to watch the live sale?Watch Live Sale