Pencil on Paper
29.5 x 42 cm

Established Bali-based artist MANGU PUTRA is renowned for his provocative hyperrealist depictions of history and the natural world. With a keen attention to detail, Putra portrays critical visions of man’s effect on the environment, exposing a wide range of nature scenes, from untouched, picturesque landscapes to those broken, polluted and exploited by humankind. During the 1990s and 2000s, he explored themes and tensions between the natural and spiritual worlds in Indonesia, exposing how the two are profoundly connected, and imbuing his own personal search for spiritual meaning into his landscapes. Over the past decade, he has expanded his oeuvre to explore Indonesian politics and history. Digging deep into historical archives, he exposes the country’s fraught colonial history and complex stories and realities of the Balinese people—bringing them to the centre of these narratives, rather than neglected on the margins.

In Untitled, Putra reveals a rare, early exploration that significantly diverts from his typical hyperrealist depictions of nature and archival images. Rendered in monochrome green and a modern, geometric style showing traces of cubist influences, the work depicts figures of women caught in refined movement, as if in a festive dance, wearing wrapped sarongs and headdresses that resemble traditional Balinese clothing. Though details are sparse and the figures are largely unidentifiable, Putra employs fluid shapes; strong, sensuous lines; smoothly rendered shades and shadows to capture the grace and elegance of the women’s gestures, along with the rhythm and melody of the music guiding their moves. While the piece is markedly different from his more signature depictions of Bali’s landscapes and histories, the scene similarly reveals the Putra’s deep connection to the culture and people of his hometown, where he chose to reside despite his international success as an artist. Contemplating this piece, one detects an artist not merely capturing a fleeting picture of a festivity he stumbled upon or observed from a distance, but instead expressing the perspective of someone fully immersed and actively participating in its pulsating spirit and community.