Artist spotlight: I Nyoman Masriadi


Our most significant acquisition during the first quarter was Masriadi’s epic painting ‘Great Daddy’, at this year’s Art Stage Singapore. Reason enough to do an artist spotlight.
I Nyoman Masriadi. 'Great Daddy', 2014 (detail) 

I Nyoman Masriadi was born in Gianyar, Bali in 1973. His rags to riches story begun in 1993 when he moved to Joga from Bali to study at the Institut Seni Indonesia (ISI), the country’s top art school. Free from Hindu rituals and festivities that regulated his childhood,  the artist was free to express his creativity as he pleased. The school placed emphasis on formalism and abstract painting, something Masriadi began to internally challenge. This struggle to conform led the artist to try something new and in 1997 he created his first superhero. 

In 1997 Masriadi returned home to Bali with his wife Ana and son Ganesha, where he created souvenir paintings, of Balinese mythological figures, to tempt the tourists that flock to the island. The works caught the eye of local dealers who soon started to show his work in Ubud galleries. 

The period that followed was turbulent for Indonesia. President Suharto had been replaced following his 31-year dictatorship by the Reform Movement. It was at this time, among the political and economical turmoil that swathed the country, Masriadi and his family moved back to Jogja where he flourished artistically, creating more than thirty paintings that dealt with corruption, social injustice and military abuse with a satirical eye and powerful figurative style.

Jogja has now become the artistic hub of Indonesia and Masriadi its poster boy. He has gone from selling souvenirs for $20 to become the first living Southeast Asian artist whose work has surpassed $1 million at auction. In 2000, Masriadi pulled a ‘Damien Hirst’, becoming one of the first contemporary Indonesian artists to sell his work directly at an auction house rather than as traditionally done through a gallery. 

He famously works without assistants at his own pace, refusing to conform to market demand, whatever the financial incentives might be. He is known for his addiction to online video gaming, something that seeps into his aesthetic as an artist.

The superhero Masriadi first created at art school has become his trademark with his work frequently depicting superhuman figures, with an almost three dimensional presence, whose narratives are steeped in Indonesian cultural, economical and social history. 

I Nyoman Masriadi, 'Great Daddy', 2014I Nyoman Masriadi, 'Great Daddy', 2014

Masriadi painted ‘Great Daddy’ following a new birth in the family. It is symbolicof the responsibility the artist felt as a father to carry and catapult his child to the future. Interestingly, the formal construction of this work resonates closely with an early work of Masriadi’s, already part of the Tiroche DeLeon Collection, painted back in 1998. Comparing the two works demostrates clealry the evolution of Masriadi's imagery. Despite the basic compositional elements, picture planes and color palettes so closely echoing each other in these two works, his imagery and technique have greatly evolved over the past 15 years, from essentially folkloristic to radically contemporary/comic/pop.

I Nyoman Masriadi, 'Untitled', 1998I Nyoman Masriadi, 'Untitled', 1998

For further information visit I Nyoman Masriadi's artist page