I believe she [Murni] both naturally, arising from her naturally-birthed self (her mind-, spirit-self) and reinforced and shaped by the Balinese and other cultures she was exposed to, had more elements of expanded consciousness and access to other-than-daylight realities than most contemporary Indonesian artists of her generation.

Astri Wright in ‘Intersecting Worlds, Invisible Dimensions Visible: Further Explorations in Murni’s Art’.

Mimpi di Siang Hari
(Dreaming in Full Daylight)
Acrylic on Canvas, 20 x 20 cm

Private Collection

Transgressing beyond the material body and into the imaginary, Murni illustrates creatures from visions in her dreams and nightmares. Art historian Astri Wright observes how the artist exhibits qualities of a healer or shaman, as she creates alchemical transformations on her canvases, harnessing and transposing the fundamental elements of the natural world in her practice. As she ‘journeys’ into different realms and dimensions, her art practice thus opens up discourse that considers transcendental experiences as contemporary art. 

Aku dan Alamku
(Me and My Habitat)
Acrylic on Canvas, 15 x 25 cm

Private Collection

(My Favourite)
Acrylic on Canvas, 20 x 25.5 cm

Cetus Collection, Singapore

Murni may have been a lucid dreamer. Her partner Edmundo Zanolini describes her interactivity during REM sleep [or in a state of trance]: “She would eventually have a dream and start talking. I would be next to her, and I could talk and ask her about it, and so on. She would continue to sleep, yet be interactive—meaning she would reply to me in her sleep. She was absolutely coherent.” As she allows her unconscious to take the lead in her amalgamated illogical scenes with strange creatures, she brings alive the conditions of her dreams to reality.

Kucingku Di Belanda
(My Cat in the Netherlands)
Acrylic on Canvas, 20 x 30.5 cm

Private Collection

At times these imageries would reveal her complex self-reflections. Creatures bearing features that resemble the artist such as Kucingku Di Belanda (2004) compels viewers to consider how she sees herself embodying traits of the creature, and how she imagines her self-transformations through this surreal body. Murni, through anthropomorphising animalistic creatures, subscribes that the omnipotent life-forces at work are essentially gendered and sexualised. 

Acrylic on Canvas, 74.5 x 74.5 cm

Kejarlah daku (Chase me)
Acrylic on Canvas, 90 x 135 cm

Mr Pablito
Acrylic on Canvas, 152 x 101 cm

Two anthropomorphic Cheshire cats are cutting a stem in half with the use of an elongated phallus. Suggestive of Murni acting as both a shaman and an artist at the same time, this surreal work was perhaps conceived out of visions in her lucid dreams featuring humanised but imaginary creatures. Conveying alternate histories of the phallus, she repositions the phallus beyond the yonic and linga binaries into a weapon of destruction, capable of tearing things apart. The image also provides an alternative narrative to position men as susceptible to ruining the cosmological balance, like that of the yin/yang relationship. 

As women have historically been segregated due to her tendencies to cause chaos and catastrophe, the artist, through this concept and imagery, exacted role reversal to challenge the ubiquitous masculine privilege.

Challenging the Feminine
Reclaiming the Body
Sex and Power
Pain and Pleasure
Dreams and Desires
In Character

I GAK Murniasih: A Biography