Raphaela Vannya, a Balinese artist and dancer, transcends conventional artistic boundaries through her compelling series, Dancer. In this collection of pen-on-paper works, she intricately crafts feminine monstrosities engaged in dynamic dances. As an artist and a dancer herself, Vannya uses her creations to delve into the philosophy of movements and hand gestures, fostering empowerment for women.

This unique approach aligns with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal of Gender Equality, as she challenges societal norms and celebrates the strength and diversity of the feminine spirit.

Raphaela Vannya is at work. Image courtesy of @raphaelavannya/Instagram.

Vannya's artistic journey, exemplified in her Dancer series, is a visual exploration of the "dark resplendent feminine." Her artistry unveils the unspeakable edges of ordinary perception, introducing viewers to a primal and chaotic dance that symbolizes the multifaceted nature of women's experiences. The Mother, with her blood-red gaze—a name for the figures in her drawings—becomes a metaphor for the uncharted depths of divine femininity, which is often hidden from society.

Vannya's choice of portraying monstrous depictions engages with the complexity and contradictions inherent in women's lives, challenging conventional norms of how women are supposed to be frail, delicate, and well-behaved.

Raphaela Vannya’s work in progress, part of her Dancer series. Image courtesy of @raphaelavannya/Instagram.

One of the striking features of Vannya's work is the meticulous and deliberate process behind each drawing. In an Instagram post, she describes a particular piece as a "slow and meticulous drawing" that she savours, emphasizing the importance of allowing the form to organically emerge through her pointillism—meaning she slowly builds shapes from dots instead of lines. Her preference for minimal sketching creates a balance between order and chaos in her artistic philosophy, mirroring the fluidity and unpredictability of the dance movements she captures.

AKASH by Raphaela Vannya. Image courtesy of @raphaelavannya/Instagram.

In her piece, AKASH, which translates to sky or space in Sanskrit, she showcases a dancing figure whose eyes have been blindfolded. In its place, a single eye has emerged, one that draws viewers in. Wearing blindfolds would make the figure more in tune with their other senses and dance movements. This polarization allows them to explore restricted emotions and traumas through their dance movements, and how the figure is portrayed to fill up the paper showcases that they are in a supportive and empowering environment.

ASTHORETH by Raphaela Vannya. Image courtesy of @raphaelavannya/Instagram.

The titles of Vannya's artworks, such as AKASH, ASTHORETH, and ANGEL, add a layer of mystique to her creations. The artist's descriptions provide insight into her interpretation of these beings—entities that defy conventional notions of beauty and make no promises. The eldritch silence of these beings becomes a gift, offering a profound stillness that transcends the limitations of human comprehension. Vannya's art, steeped in symbolism and poetic expression, invites viewers to contemplate the inhuman grace found in the silence of their movements and the profound reality it represents.

In ASTHORETH, whose title refers to a pagan goddess, consort to Baal, the political aspect of the work is evident. The depicted figure is seen in an almost fully nude head-to-toe, showing a commitment to challenging societal norms that dictate how women should dress and behave. 

ANGEL by Raphaela Vannya. Image courtesy of @raphaelavannya/Instagram.

Through dance, these beings aim to inspire others, challenge perspectives, and open minds. They are expressing themselves authentically on an imaginary stage, where they break free from stereotypes and encourage women to embrace their truest forms, no matter how monstrous they might be deemed by societal standards.

Raphaela Vannya's artistic endeavours create a narrative of empowerment, challenging norms, and celebrating the diverse facets of femininity. Through her Dancer series, she provides a visual language that speaks to the strength, complexity, and resilience of women. As she continues to experiment with styles and approaches, Vannya's art remains a testament to the transformative power of dance and artistic expression in fostering gender equality and empowering women in Indonesia and beyond.

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