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.
Murni’s spiritual and shamanic affinity is apparent even in one of her earliest works Rahasia (Secrets) painted in 1992, the same year she met I Gusti Dewa Mokoh and Edmondo. It depicts a serpent-like entity with bat wings riding on a humanoid calf, atop of a pair of mismatched shoes. The creature was adorned with multiple sky objects: the star, sun, and moon. Saput Poleng (plaid cloth used to wrap sacred items) becomes the backdrop of the painting. The fluid lines in Murni’s paintings give a sense of forms not being static but rather always in motion, and when the undulating lines lead from one kind of being’s form into another’s, this invokes the idea of morphing, leading us to what could be called ‘the Visionary Dimension.’
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.