Nyoman Masriadi, Natural Culture (1995)

Masriadi today is popular in a lasak or restless dimension of time, without a strict convection, or in other words being on (occasionally) colliding ideologies and principles. Not just one or two, but hundreds of colliding ideas if one may count. Time seems to be buoying, surrounded and captured by a situation where people may say anything is art or everyone is an artist. This is the world of contemporary fine art.

Anything is allowed, what matters is the boldness to speak and is being in a position to readily accept critiques. This situation could also be described as a time where people are popular not because they speak of the truth or be factual, but because they are daring enough to act out of the ordinary although non-factual. Say, looking for a breakthrough. Identical to a water that flows far to unexpected places. Artists are very prone to such acts. It is real, because an artists’ profession and his artworks cover vast and diverse interpretations, like a water.

The fine art, or the Indonesian contemporary art, nowadays is formed through the accumulation of different ideologies. Quoting the statement by Putu Wijaya, our fine art today is the liberation from contracts of appreciation that are not only out of dated, but may turn into dehumanisation, acculturation, and decadency. Many have said that our era is the era where post-modernism grows.

This era is the era where diversity acts, the return of traditional values (with critical approach) and also its reaction that radically suppresses new forms, that challenges the whole artistic expression that has been idealised in Western modern fine art (in particular the concept of high art). These occurring changes are undeniably affecting the world of fine art, Indonesia is no exception. This created the “image” of contemporary fine art as a “rebellious” cultural action, as a counterattack against values that degrade non-Western arts.

Masriadi does creative actions that are within that area of thought. The impressions and the subjective images captured in Masriadi’s works—since the early years of his works—mark the will to reinterpret the “homogeny” concept of Western fine art. He reinterprets the Balinese in him in a critical way, as can be seen in his work titled Natural Culture (1995).

This work does not picture the idea of abstract art, like the optical art of Victor Vasareli or Bridget Riley. Even if he was indeed inspired by it, Masriadi might had used it merely as a voicing instrument. The symbolisation of Bali with the colours of poleng cloth (black and white), formed in such composition suggests an enduring nature capable of handling any difficulty. Bali appears to be lentur or flexibly adapting despite the bombardment of rules (local traditions and the Indonesian government’s social-political regulations).



Masriadi with the restlessness of time and the clashes of ideologies nowadays has become a figure that needs to act liberally. Liberation or the statement of artistic freedom and personal rights indeed is not a reflection of our people, however liberal actions in artistic context cannot be restrained. In the midst of life that surrounds him during the time he is in a specific area of world’s fine art, like when his works were displayed in HongKong Art Fair or the Sothebi’s auction, he becomes a man that could not be just Indonesian. Masriadi offers a personal identity, as a Balinese as well as not. So, lentur.

Looking at the theme of his works, Masriadi in general escalates the stature of objects beyond the mind of common people, even overly escalates them. Maybe because he is lentur (flexible), anything could happen. The subject matter taken from global culture or the daily life is processed through liberal mind, sarcasm, irony, obsession, and vivid imagination.

So frankly what give him the rise to enjoy creating hyper-masculine or post-erotic figures, pumped-up bodies, strained nerves and provoking gestures is a flexible resolve and fantasy about the increasingly harsh and realistic global culture. This is the action that Masriadi assumes as a reality of life undergoing dehumanisation, acculturation and decadency. So, a contemporary artist’s profession, could not be not, requires fantasy that goes beyond reality. At least an artist needs to acknowledge the presence of reality of life that is slowly “overthrowing” the reality of art itself.

by Mikke Susanto