The Ninth Muse: Art Inspired By Superheroes And Video Games
Making art feels like being a God. I can do what I like doing every day. Maybe this is different from other people. Can you call this a struggle?” – Nyoman Masriadi
Spoken like a true superhero. Indonesian painter, Nyoman Masriadi may be just that: a modern day superhero of the art world. Masriadi’s work, known for depicting the perfect blend of pop culture and political satire, has made him the first living South Asian Artist whose work has topped $1 million at auction. Masriadi’s exuberantly loud and bold paintings contrast his shy and introverted personality. It is fitting that, Masriadi, with this seemingly dual persona found a great deal of his inspiration through the world of gaming and DC Comics.
Born in Bali in 1973, Masriadi was an art student from the age of 15; at 18 he entered the prestigious art academy, the Institute Seni Indonesia located in Yogyakarta. Constricted by ISI’s focus on abstract expressionism, Masriadi abandoned his studies and returned to Bali for a year, which is when he was introduced and inspired by the gaming world.
Masriadi quickly became addicted to online gaming. “Painting is therapy,” he says. “Gaming is also a kind of therapy. I would take my 4-year-old son with me to the Internet café. When I was craziest, I’d play from late afternoon to the small hours of the morning.” Once Masriadi had at-home internet access, he extended the internet cable so that he could monitor the game and paint at the same time.
Masriadi said that he was inspired by comic books from a young age, “Earlier on, my inspiration came more from comic strips, which I have read avidly since I was a child. Those deformed figures are very much inspired by that, but on an indirect, subconscious level. Meanwhile, the recurrent incorporation of speech bubbles in my work is a more direct homage to comics. My interest in video games is merely a progression of that childhood fascination for graphics.”
From 2000 on, Masriadi’s work took on an entirely new form, always charged with dazzling colors, sculpted bodies and sharp wit. In Oct, 2008, Masriadi’s painting featuring Superman and Batman, entitled, Sorry Hero, Saya Lupa (Sorry Hero, I Forgot) set a record at Sotheby’s selling for $619,000. Aside from his career accomplishments, Masriadi is a husband and a father of two. While his successes certainly have slowed his gaming addiction some, he still admits to being hooked.
Just like a good superhero tale, beneath all the razzle dazzle, Masriadi’s paintings expose the power play that occur in most social interactions. There is a reason tales of superheroes are so successful, and that’s because everyone can relate to them. Masriadi’s paintings fully incorporate this trait, and his success is a testament that video games and comic books can prove to be an inspiration rather than the bad rap they can sometimes get as a damaging waste of time.