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Untitled book

Feb 2019


I Nyoman Masriadi

1973 -


Inspired by the heroes and graphic conventions of comic books, Masriadi paints pictures of the body as a site of comical and satirical reflection. His muscular and bare- chested figures often pictured in tense combat, dominant his tightly framed compositions. Their powerful and glistening bodies, squeezed into the picture frame are often exposed to ridicule, sometimes clothed in ill-fitting colourful undergarments and other times undermined by political subtexts. Textual commentaries added in the form of captions and speech bubbles complete the homage to comic books and give voice to the figures, who embarrass themselves through stupidity or seek to embarrass others through abuse. A black-skinned Batman or Superman appear to grapple with their own sense of masculinity as they seek to replace or break into a world dominated by white, American heroes. In this painting a supposedly learned man, sits like a meditating figure on a pile of books. His posture resembles that of a nomadic ascetic figure, like those that once mediated in the forests and caves of Indonesia. He appears to be wearing gym or boxing shorts and his huge frame cast an even bigger shadow over the coded drawings and inscriptions behind. He is reading an untitled book held high in his right hand. His blood shot eyes are strained and remained fixed as though eyeing off an opponent. Are we to believe that this image is just about reading and learning? The joy of reading seems to be overshadowed by a sense of frustration, aggression and even violence. The background appears to be full of inconsequential marks, which in the Balinese painting tradition are known as aun aun or decorative motifs included to fill in space and complete the overall composition. They are in fact sketches of machinery, animals and plants which make up the world we live in and are a very gentle nod to process, progress and the history of human civilisation. Black drafting lines are left to provide proof of structure and additional text offer some clues but also appear to be notes to an unsure self. The painting’s title, Untitled book, may allude to a book for which Masriadi doesn’t want to give a name but it seems more likely that it is a reference to art itself. In the history of modern art, in cases where the subject of a painting is unclear or abstract or where the artist chooses not to be clear, paintings have frequently been given the title, Untitled. It seems that this painting of an untitled book, may in fact be a playful reference to art making, to art history and to Masriadi’s own place in the contemporary art world. The words DADA and MASTER are scrawled on the chest of the seated figure. If we are to read this painting in an autobiographical way, are we to understand Masriadi as a frustrated student struggling to read yet another art history book, to paint yet another picture or instead as a mindful unflinching master having already read many manuals and painted several high selling paintings which he now uses to bolster his seat and his career? Perhaps it is somewhere between the two, either way, it is clear that in Masriadi’s cynical take on reality, no-one is safe, including the artist and the art world. In this painting, the subject matter and the form, which both borrow from popular and consumer culture are intimately connected in the superficial plane of the paintings surface in a way that both critiques and mirrors the spectacle of art.


Alternative title

Buku tampa judul

Place where the work was made



Feb 2019

Media category


Materials used

acrylic and marker pen on canvas


250.0 x 175.0 cm


Purchased with funds from the Mollie and Jim Gowing Bequest Fund (General) 2019


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

I Nyoman Masriadi

Works in the collection



Where the work was made