Painting : The Beggar (Affandi - 1974)

Title : "The Beggar"

Artist : Affandi

Year : 1974

Oil on canvas.

Dimension : 99 x 129 cms.

Affandi’s painting presenting the figure of a “Beggar” (1974) tipifies his powerful personal style. By way of expressionism, he melts with the objects with the empathy that grows through a process of observation and a deep study. As the empathy ripens into a powerful force, he spills it out onto his canvass like a volcanic eruption completing a caldera after boiling the lava in the magma chamber. Within every expression, aside from unleashing energy with every stroke of paint, is a record of the compassionate appreciation of his mental realm. In this painting, we see a frail figure of a beggar who sits waiting for charity of the passers by. The depiction of the frail body through the tendrils of his flowing strokes, emphasises the expression of the beggar’s suffering. The brown black colours that built the beggar’s figure, and the yellow-greenish accentuation in the background, heightens the sorrowful mood of the overall expression.

However, behind this sorrow, the powerful vitality of life can still be perceived through the strokes describing the moves of other figures. In the configuration of these objects, a dynamic composition happens. This dynamic is also enriched with spontaneous strokes and the rough textural effects of the ‘plototan’, Affandi’s way of directly applying paint from the tube, that make his expression so powerful.

The choice of the beggar as the object in his painting can be directly attributed to his empathy for the ordinary people. Affandi is a penghayat, an internaliser, who is easily moved. At the same time he is a drifter in a life full of vitality. The wretched and ordinary objects always incite his empathy. But furthermore, the dynamic life phenomena continue to move his aesthetic sensitivity. It is for that reason that he is often considered a humanist in his work. In many statements and his paintings, he often expressed that the sun, arms, and legs are symbols of life. The sun is a manifestation of the living spirit. The arms indicate a hard stance in creating and in realising all his ideas. The legs symbolise his motivation to continue treading forward in life. These symbols are indeed the crystallisation of Affandi’s experience and outlook, as well as the arduous journey of his long artistic endeavor. Through the beggar figure in this painting one may see the crystalisation of his tough life experience and empathy for suffering.