Kuala Lumpur: Renowned Malaysian painter Bayu Utomo Radjikin`s muse has come alive through the body form and facial expressions of Odissi dancers.
Odissi, the classical dance form originating in India, is very popular in Malaysia that has Ramli Ibrahim among its most prominent exponents.
The artist has been fascinated by the intricate body form, poise and facial expressions of the esoteric traditional dance since working on the stage decor of traditional dance maestro Ramli Ibrahim`s stirring Odissi performance in 2008.
Bayu chose dancers from Ramli`s Sutra to paint 23 canvasses that are currently on exhibition here.
Inspired by another figurative artist Amron Omar, Bayu said he only seriously experimented with the female form in the last three months. Most of the works in his latest exhibition were created during this period.
This exhibition, his eighth, also featured two paintings of the Odissi dancer by Kow Leong Kiang and Marvin Chan.
Bayu, whose credentials include winning the Major Award of the Young Contemporary 1991 from the National Art Gallery, brought to life those expressions to stunning effect, from the dancer`s immaculate crown of jasmine, intricate earrings and well-highlighted eyes and brows to the vibuthi (holy ash).
His delicate finishes of the female face, especially the fine contours of the head, could easily stir up the nine rasa (sentiments) of love, joy, wonder, peace, anger, courage, sadness, fear and disgust of the Odissi dance.
He focused on the physiognomy and mood of the dancer instead of the dance itself, which explained the keen attention to facial expressions. To paint the elevated mood of the the dancer, he played on contrasts, for example, by giving her accessories such as flowers and silver ornaments a blurred look through the wash painting technique.
The artist`s brush did what the dancers could to elicit a standing ovation.
Each painting took some 10 hours to complete, says the 42-year-old artist.
The more difficult parts to paint were the eyes and lips, he revealed. "They could look muscular if one is not skilful painting those features," he said.
In a few of the paintings, one could take all the gaiety of the dancer through her grin, pearly-white teeth and brightly lit eyes.
In Menanti Kekasih, Bayu let his talent speak through the dancer`s sensual posture in acrylic, her floral embellished head, half-bare back and behind tilted to the right. Another painting showed the dancer in a merry mood, her pelvic and navel artistically exposed. Bayu`s acrylic paintings are in intense blue, hues of purple and earthy tones to bring out the natural quality of the dancer.
In one painting, a mix of charcoal and acrylic, he had the female head silhouetted against a background of white, sprinkled with vermillion red lines and splashes. He also drew our gaze to the lustrous quality of the flowers covering her coiffure in light vermillion without giving attention to detail. In another painting, he made the jasmine look so fresh with his light charcoal against white.
Bayu sees exploring the female form as a process for him towards becoming a full-fledged figurative artist, he told New Straits times.