B. Indonesia, 1938
Signed and dated “Jeihan ‘97” on upper left
Signed, titled and dated on the reverse
Oil on canvas
70 x 70 cm
Private Collection, Kuala Lumpur
Women are enigmatic, incomparable and made to be revered, although unfathomable, according to the artist. Perhaps that is why the artist chooses to paint his subject’s eyes black, to signify the depth of mystery that surrounds a woman despite being unsettling at first. Dramatic and striking, there are many theories that surround the technique of painting black on the eyes of his subjects, and one of the few that were procured was that Sukmantoro was notorious for his non-conformist views when it came to painting the eyes, and the other being that he preferred his subjects to look out-of-this-world.
“We are all walking in the darkness of mystery, we still don’t know where we’ll go,” added the artist. Flat (like the wayang kulit he was inspired by when he was younger), minimalistic and set against a huge amount of space, they signify the physical and non-reality of things.
Formerly a student in ITB, Indonesia, he never completed his studies due to his rebellious nature. When he was about 5 years old, he had an accident that left him with a brain injury. He was believed to be dead, but he awakened before he was buried. This experience was believed to play a significant role in his paintings.