Through his larger-than-life figures, Indonesian painter Nyoman Masriadi captures the essence of globalisation

New York

A solo show by Nyoman Masriadi is a particularly seminal moment for the art world. The Indonesian painter, who was born in Bali and is now in his early 40s, has gained global acclaim for his work: paintings of monumental characters with a sculptural, 3D presence, often depicting comic book heroes, soldiers and cowboys, and powerful men or women engaged in acts of strength or caught in intimate moments.

In spite of the recognition and accolades he’s received, Masriadi has had a limited number of exhibitions. His latest show, scheduled to take place from April 28 to June 18 this year at Paul Kasmin Gallery in Manhattan, is particularly significant because it’s only his second solo exhibition in New York and the West, following his first at Paul Kasmin Gallery in 2011.

“There will be eight paintings in the exhibition — five new paintings that have never been exhibited before, and three that are borrowed,” says Nick Olney, senior director at Paul Kasmin Gallery and curator of the exhibition. “Masriadi only paints a few canvasses a year. He’s always been a painter who pours himself into a single painting.”

While Masriadi’s work reflects Indonesian cultural history, his paintings are also a social commentary on contemporary life and global pop culture. “Masriadi is well educated in the traditions of Indonesian modern painting and craftsmanship from Bali,” says Olney. “He fuses that with international pop culture, street life and social realist painting, mixing all of these strains together to create something totally new. His work doesn’t look like anybody else’s. He’s defined his own visual language.”

Masriadi’s mixing of pop art and Balinese street culture is indeed unique, but at the same time — through his characters’ determined poses and expressive stares — it captures universal truths about the existential conflicts raging in contemporary society.

A version of this article appeared in print in Selections, The One – on – One Issue #35, on page 29.