In interviews, Murni spoke about how she rarely planned the concepts for her work—instead, she drew straight from her vivid dreams, painting slivers and fragments that remained in her memory. Those closest to her can attest to her strange, unconventional process. When she would stay the night at Murni’s home, her friend Ni Wayan Suarniti recalls how Murni would often wake up in the middle of the night and immediately sketch her dreams. Murni told her that this was when her energy was good for painting, so she usually kept pieces of paper—even old newspapers—beside her bed. Murni’s partner Edmondo Zanolini (Mondo) recalls how he would sometimes wake up early in the morning and find Murni not in bed, but asleep in front of her work.
In discussing Murni’s fascination with her dreams, art historian Astri Wright brings to light the ancient knowledge that indigenous peoples, shamans, and healers across history believe and practice—in which communication and exchanges move seamlessly between different dimensions or worlds, from the scientific and familiar to the otherworldly and unknown. The paintings under this theme strongly suggest the spiritual connection, lush in both personal and traditional -Balinese symbolisms.
In Mata Ketemu Mata (Eye Meets Eye), Murni features some of the most sacred symbols in Balinese Hinduism which is the mountain and penjor (bamboo and coconut leaf pole-banner). Gunung Agung (Agung Mountain) is the residence of Hyang Bathara Putra Jaya, all gods and ancestors. Penjor serves as an agglomeration of symbols for many deities, a symbol of veneration and gratitude for the land’s bounty poured by the gods from the mountain, and the symbol of a dragon, which is a sacred animal whose body stretches from the mountain to the sea, distributing water where it goes. In the painting, all elements eventually meet into a point, the peak of the mountains, vegetations, sunrays, and the sampaian (tassel) of the penjor. In Mata Ketemu Mata (Eye Meets Eye) specifically, the two sampaian meet in the center to form a pair of eyes, facing the eyes of the sun.
Wright emphasises how lived experiences and sufferings during the day could translate to vastly different image syntaxes in dreams at night. While she speculates that Murni may or may not have painted from the nightmares resulting from her life’s traumas, Wright credits many of Murni’s works to the artist’s visionary dreams. In holding on to their stark imagery, it is as if Murni, in line with ancient practices, held a deep-seated belief that they needed to be remembered—that they were messages she needed to bring out to the world.