La Principessa della Luna

Raja Lope Rasydi Raja Rozlan
La Principessa della Luna
Acrylic, Airbrush & Mixed Media on Canvas
184cm x 153cm

Written by Zoey Moo

There is a distinct theatrical flavour about Raja Lope Rasydi’s new painting La Principessa della Luna, with the artist’s version of Chang’Er, a goddess who is the subject of several Chinese legends, in the foreground of the stage set. She is depicted against the background of the starry night sky, with the moon on the top left corner and a laurel tree in the distance.

To create a semblance of depth, the artist has painted tiny monkeys in the tree that pushes the tree into the background and propels the moon and heroine of the story forward. Strong brushstrokes in the background are references to Chang’Er’s hair and long scarf, as well as Chinese calligraphic strokes.

There are many variations of the myth of Chang’Er, but a prevailing plot line is that she lives estranged from her husband on earth, stranded on the moon until she can produce an elixir of immortality. When artist Raja Lope first read about Chang ‘Er during the Mid-Autumn Festival celebrated by many Malaysians, the emotional nature of the tale instantly appealed to him, upon recognising certain perceived similarities with his personal life.

While the mostly monochromatic La Principessa della Luna is a departure from Raja Lope’s previous multicoloured artworks, the artist manages to slip in some colour into his interpretation of a black and white world; moonlight casts a bluish tint on the whites in the painting. The Jade Rabbit, a character in the story that was allegedly tasked to make a new elixir of immortality for Chang’Er, is also portrayed with a glowing green heart to represent the gem. Its steady, aloof presence provides a comic relief in the artist’s take on the tale, in contrast to the despair expressed in the scene.

This time in Raja Lope’s painting, viewers will also be able to observe that he has imbued his female robot (or fembot) with human emotions, giving her an air of vulnerability that wasn’t as apparent in fembots of his other works. He first constructed her frame, and then applied layer after layer of clothing onto her. New developments in the artist’s airbrush technique give her dress a myriad of patterns and a gauzy texture that enhances the impression that she is floating in mid-air.

Elements in the narrative of Chang’Er such as love and sacrifice are by no means new. In fact, they are recurring themes in epics and legends, no matter the culture. For example, Puteri Lindungan Bulan, a myth originating from the Malaysian state of Kedah, and Princess Kaguya, a 10th century Japanese folktale, revolve around motifs like the moon, princesses, separation and longing.

Nevertheless, it is this very commonality of Chang’Er’s story that makes it universal. Raja Lope chooses to embody these qualities in a well-known figure, allowing her story to serve as a visual reminder of values that are easily overlooked in our daily life, such as patience and sacrificial love.

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