Familiarity with a large contingent of Murni’s work demonstrates that she sees the body as nature, as vibrantly alive in all ways which humans might label immoral, but in her world, it is beyond morality, occupying an essentially amoral place, like nature itself.


From left:
Kaki dan kepala bintang (Feet and head are stars)
1999, Acrylic on Canvas, 200 x 50 cm

Private Collection

1999, Acrylic on Canvas, 200 x 50 cm

On top of drawing from hybridised and anthropomorphised creatures, Murni also references various traditional iconographies, such as the classic Balinese dancers in Berdandan Tangan (1996); Egyptian goddesses and gods in Ku Beyangkan Betapa (1997), Aku Exsion di Gunung (1999) and Kako Dan Kepala Bintang (1999); and Paleolithic Venus figure like Aku and Pangeran (2001), as a way of role-playing her version of such characters. There are elements of self, performativity and mystery as she communicates how women could play the roles of both destroyer and protector—particularly in the vertical and narrow format pieces, which resemble sacred and amuletic art.

In her works, Murni also considers the relationship between different sets of binaries such as male-female, male-nature, female/god-nature, female/god-unknown, female/god-animal, and provides her commentary through her titles.

Ku bayangkan betapa… (I imagine how…)
1997, Acrylic on Canvas, 150 x 100 cm

Dipping her [Murni] toes into one here, and another there, I imagine her imagination seeing boxes reaching as far as the horizon and beyond. And she knew how to ‘soar’ and yet to remain firmly rooted in her own unique way of filtering into art that undeniably bore the ‘Murni touch’.


Berdandan Tangan (Manicure)
1996, Acrylic on Canvas, 80 x 60 cm

For instance, Berdandan Tangan (1996) reveals a dance-drama like that of Gambuh, a form of Balinese performing art where two lost lovers find each other through their disguises and live happily ever after. But in Murni’s perspective, the fiancée seems slightly wary as she considers whether or not she should be placing her hand in the hands of the nobleman she once knew. We are left speculating the reason for this hesitation. Perhaps a subtle reference to Murni’s fraught relationship with her ex-husband, the work evokes a forewarning of wretched union and deadly companionship. 

Aku dan Pangeran (Me and the Prince)
2001, Acrylic on Canvas, 100 x 100 cm

In Aku and Pangeran (“Me and the Prince”), the artist illustrates herself as a Paleolithic Venus-like figure with arms coiled around her waist and feet, interconnected with an Egyptian cobra bearing human-like features. She portrays herself with a facial tattoo as though distinguishing from her pack, though it may also be a way of assimilation and protection from outside predators and invaders. As the title suggests, the artist places herself as a princess alongside her prince, but interestingly she is delineated more humanly than her prince—perhaps implying the animalistic and venomous nature of her partner. 

Portraying her prince as an Egypian cobra in a uraeus style symbolises a divine authority of the state, but the princess here appears inevitably tied to her prince, incapable of drawing any strength and power despite her royal position. It is perhaps a commentary on royal matrimony, where the male takes precedence and the females are at their disposal, caught in a state of oneness with their ‘greater’ partner. As a princess, she seeks to find her belonging and yearns to break out of merely being someone else’s property.