Uninterrupted and imaginative, Hendra provides a vignette into the commonalities of Indonesian daily life and honors the hardworking women that humbly act as the backbone of society. In Cooking Snails Hendra lends us his visceral lens and paints a woman cooking snails over a fire while she breastfeeds her baby. Leaning onto her shoulder for support, or perhaps patting his mother’s shoulder for attention, a young frail boy stands ready to for a taste of this humble delicacy. This seemingly simple affair is anything but understated, as Hendra colors the scene with liberal streaks of color and adorns his subjects with captivating aesthetics. Much like the Wayung Kulit theatre shadow puppets that Hendra used to practice with, the figures in his paintings all move with elongated limbs and inhabit angular forms. The eloquence of Hendra’s visual artistry and language unveils itself beautifully in this painting, as the sinuous movement of every brush stroke tells the story of Indonesian perseverance and nationalism. The kebaya top that the woman wears possesses a kaleidoscopic quality as Hendra dots it with intricate and lively patterns. Gazing at this painting, one’s imagination is pulled into motion, as Hendra’s colors blend, melt and clash into each other, fabricating a dazzling canvas of allure. Lighting up the palette are vibrant shades of aquamarine and teal, which encompass the flowing river and the sky.
The small charming details of the work further add to the story of struggle and courage the artist poignantly conveys. The woman cooks her snails in what appears to be a makeshift pot – the letters “BLUE B” suggesting that she has recycled the container. She stirs her dish on a blazing fire with a broken branch as the snails seem to squirm as swirls of smoke arise to bring forth the alluring aroma. It is with this portrayal of the nurturing and sacrificing qualities of motherhood that Hendra elucidates the socio-economic hardships of Indonesian people during the 1970s, where people had to beg for money and scavenge for food to alleviate their perpetual hunger.
Stoic in her stance and calming in her gaze, the mother that Hendra paints lovingly is a heroine in every way, as she tends to the needs of her children with toughness and courage. Thus, Hendra composes a symphony to the minutiae of life, particularly to the unheralded survival instincts of Indonesian women. Through Cooking Snails, Hendra monumentalizes all the altruistic women that acted as uncompromising columns of strength and pertinence amidst Indonesia’s colonial oppression.
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