Indonesian artist Shavira Mada paints feminine cosmic horror deities that evoke a sense of wonder and dread at the same time. This recalls Barbara Creed’s writings on The Monstrous-Feminine, wherein she discusses the portrayal of women as monsters in horror films as a challenge to prevalent patriarchal views that often cast women as helpless victims.

Artist Shavira Mada in her studio. Image courtesy of @shaviramada/Instagram.

For Creed, the "monstrous feminine" suggests that when fear is associated with women in horror, it is creating an empowering fiction in which they are perceived as a threat, capable of creating perceived dangers. Creed cites films like Carrie, The Exorcist, Psycho, and Alien as possible faces of female monstrosity.

 Whereas Mada cites the influence of horror-fantasy filmmaker Guillermo del Toro in her piece that portrays feminine monstrosities, especially in how they blend mythology, folklore, and fairytales, as she shared in an interview with Arts Help. 

Mada’s portrayal of women as wondrous monstrous deities challenges the representation of women as victims. It gives the women she portrays agency, restoring the power imbalance that a patriarchal society has cultivated, and reflects the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal of Gender Equality.Pain:

Beautiful Pain: Kuyang by Shavira Mada. Image courtesy of @shaviramada/Instagram.

Beautiful Pain - Kuyang showcases a Southeast Asian mythological creature which is known as Kuyang in Indonesia, Krause in Thailand, and Palasik in Malaysia. The Kuyang is a disembodied woman who flies around with nothing but their internal organs attached. People believe Kuyangs exist thanks to witchcraft rituals that backfired and harmed the witch herself, or thanks to a woman who died after having lived a particularly sinful life. 

According to Mada, she deliberately portrays women in such a light to capture them as “captivating entities navigating the delicate balance of survival and confronting pain with bravery.” 

This originated in her awareness of the prevalent objectification of women in art, where they are often confined to conventional beauty standards.

Purba - Sang Keberadaan by Shavira Mada. Image courtesy of @shaviramada/Instagram.

Meanwhile her piece, Purba - Sang Keberadaan, which translates to “Age Old - Existence Herself” is the artist envisioning women as ideal figures that transcend magical beings, Goddesses of cosmic levels. According to the artist, pieces like this strive to capture the essence of a distinct beauty that diverges from common aesthetic norms while accentuating inherent beauty. It creates a striking contrast with market preferences, which often lean towards more conventional aesthetic representations of women’s beauty. Instead, Mada shows that women can be beautiful and grand on a profound cosmic level.

In creating these pieces, Mada’s research involves an immersive exploration of literature and deep dives into fairy tale books, particularly drawing inspiration from Cicely Mary Barker's enchanting Flower Fairies. They are coupled with nostalgic childhood memories tied to C.S. Lewis’ Narnia films that serve as the cornerstone of her creative imagination that leans towards wondrous creatures. Sometimes, the artist also stated that her ideas would spontaneously emerge in her dreams. All these references are immediately present in her piece Effie Dewi Pengurai, which translates to “Effie, Goddess of Decay.”

Effie Dewi Pengurai by Shavira Mada. Image courtesy of @shaviramada/Instagram.

Mada states that her ambition extends beyond the canvas; she aspires to introduce her beautiful creatures to children through enchanting children's books. She admits that this desire emanates from a deep-seated desire to instill early lessons of self-acceptance, self-awareness, and self-love in children. Again, she draws inspiration from Guillermo del Toro's pursuit of introducing seemingly frightening yet ultimately harmless wonders. 

Mada wishes to make children and adults alike understand that the beauty of seemingly unconventional standards is not only worthy of appreciation but often harbours greatness and influence that does not fit into societal standards and can spread goodness and beauty in their surroundings.

In sharing her artistic journey, Mada aims to forge connections, inspire, and contribute a unique perspective on beauty standards to the world of art. She is eager to collaborate and contribute to the artistic community, as she believes in the transformative power of creativity to evoke emotions, challenge perspectives, and foster a deeper understanding of humankind and the world around them.

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