JOURNAL | ESSAYS
Reflector Image | 2021
acrylic on canvas | 200 x 300 cm
Eyes Shut Fantasia
The characters in Addy Debil's works always seem to play with the eye or “mata” in Indonesian, where there are many meanings in this word. The eye or “mata”, which is usually considered a window to a person's soul, can often be seen as the tip of an object such as a knife blade (mata pisau), arrowhead (mata panah), and sword blade (mata pedang). It shows its sharp nature that seems intimidating. But the eyes seen in Addy's work are different. Why is this a street artist and illustrator from Bandung showing so many characters with their eyes closed? Closing their eyes while showing a certain facial expression, a man, a rabbit, a fish, a dinosaur to a cat who shows a similar grinning face in his works.
These characters in my observation show a flat expression. Absurd emotion, nothingness, but smiling happily. It can be said that Addy wanted to convey a message of happiness. But do they truly show a look of happiness? As an artist, Addy feels that he has an obligation to make the audience who sees his work happy, maybe it can be conveyed, and part of his task is represented by the hustle and bustle of his distinctive characters that is closing their eyes. Since the eye is the window of the soul, when we close it, will it be like a closed window, what is in it, or what is felt is no longer visible?
Humans spend half of their life closing their eyes, not just when they are asleep. Let us look at someone who is laughing out loud, kissing, yawning, trying to remember something, or afraid of something. It is probably common that most people will just close their eyes for a moment. To imagine "pictures" (visually) or to avoid seeing. So that everything becomes not concrete, illusions and mere images in the empty space between thoughts.
When the eyes are closed, there is an area of the brain that is involved in imagining something related to images or memories of things we have seen and happened in the past. It makes sense that the brain needs to reuse the area devoted to seeing to help digest memory from a piece of visual information. When your eyes are open, the area of the brain involved with vision receives visual input from the eye, and this keeps that area of the brain busy. As a result, when you have to answer a difficult question or then think about a visual memory from the past, you often would close your eyes or look up to help you disconnect from the world (looking up helps because the ceiling is less visually appealing to what is happening at eye level and below). This subject of closing the eyes has always had to do with someone’s search for something.
Addy Debil tries to evoke the fantasies of his audience, such as seeing a lively show in his own soul. Dreaming, imagining seeing a pleasant future by searching for it in those eyes. Of course, we can see those who close their eyes in Addy's work, but can those who close their eyes see the opposite way? They may only be able to imagine it. The shadows are filled with stripes of various colors.
Fantasia is another keyword in Addy's works this time. Of course, the original terminology was fantasy. 'Fantasia' is taken from the term classical music, which means an irregular composition (unreal, nonuniform, weird, and grotesque), but tries to bring out a familiar effect from what is felt at the time or in the future. It can also be like a potpourri of popular things that are loosely woven into loosely tied compositions, something spectacular.
Tirtodipuran Link (May 1 - Jun 6, 2021)
Upside Down | 2021
acrylic on canvas | 170 x 250 cm
Sometimes, doodles are able to convince their creators. The more the work is made with feeling, the more exciting the work that is produced. This makes this kind of work, not just a mere drawing activity, but also something that has a depth of meaning and style.
I see anomalies here, Addy once said that some of his paintings depict human journeys to space. I think it is like a big parade that is flocking to the settlement of weird creatures. Then humans breed there to produce hybrid creatures that do not even make sense. These creatures seemed to be celebrating their victory after successfully cooperating with the earth. These aliens who studied all the biological technology of human history since the dinosaur era and kept the humans alive in their utopian dreamland are always looking for ways to be happy.
The happiness from the expressions on the faces of the humans who were there turned out to be unreal! Like the film The Matrix or the “Mugen Tsukuyomi” stance, which is Uchiha Madara's last weapon, which lulls everyone to sleep by wrapping them up, to live a beautiful dream (from famous Japanese comic series Naruto). Let us come back again, the eyes Addy has described are all closed. They are all invading other planets with messages of happiness found by humans.
These characters, consciously or not, have become Addy's alter-egos that often appear when he starts his doodling. This was the beginning of Addy's method of creating his work. Since a very young age, Addy has often practiced his drawing skills by using doodling techniques. Perhaps in Indonesia, this doodling is synonymous with scribbling, drawing spontaneously quickly. This doodling has existed since ancient human times. They scribbled the cave, usually drawing animals to communicate. The history of this cave painting has always been debated; it is said that it has something to do with rituals to give thanks for the results of hunting. However, here I will try to explain why doodling is synonymous with the depiction of comical creatures in Addy's work.
Doodle, absent-minded scrawl, or scribble is usually done in unexpected places, such as the edge of a book, manuscript, or ink pad when the practitioner is busy with other activities, such as attending meetings or lectures. The term should have earned some credit for its use in the film Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936). Although the practice is much older, these scribbles are found to have their origins in medieval manuscripts, as well as in Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks and manuscripts written by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.
With the increasing excitement of art in the 20th century, followed by a manifestation of the subconscious and a desire to interpret it as an art form, the surrealists made this practice an indicator of traits to personality. The most famous surrealist method of automatic drawing was used by Max Ernst, Salvador Dalí, and André Masson, until Jackson Pollock, an Abstract Expressionist, who performed a series of drawings that were used as elements in his psychoanalysis.
Sometimes, doodles are able to convince their creators. The more the work is made with feeling, the more exciting the work that is produced. This makes this kind of work, not just a mere drawing activity, but also something that has a depth of meaning and style. Usually, the author describes feelings, where they can be seen from the resulting scratches, sometimes sneaking out without our thoughts noticing.
Curious Things | 2021
acrylic on canvas | 200 x 300 cm
Tirtodipuran Link (May 1 - Jun 6, 2021)
But here, what Addy does is beyond the doodling technique. Therefore, this method is just the beginning for Addy when he draws in piles of sketchbooks. The pile, if we look at one and open some of the pages, contains the doodling Addy has been making over the years. Characters, creatures, and many drawn texts appeared there. Addy made the pile his focus, looking back at the old drawing book pages and then painting on the canvas, until they were enlarged and scattered on the streets.
The story about the beginning of Addy's appearance is the streets, urban divides where Addy is active and practicing as an artist, making Addy a figure who always learns from direct, real encounters. Pay attention to the atmosphere of the intersection, chat with hawkers, even intervene in building walls. Of course, the tendency of these street artists is very different from the artists who take shelter under the roofs of their campus studios. This is a background that highly reflects Addy's tendency in his urban style works. In fact, Addy often practices with commission works such as making murals, of course with his distinctive visuals.
Drawing on the wall in the 1980s as a graffiti movement has emerged as a logical continuation of the artistic tendencies of Pop art. However, this urban pattern has developed very rapidly since then. Presented to you by Basquiat and Keith Haring, graffiti takes the stage with a lot of pomp. The stages of development made graffiti move from the street into the gallery, from illegal activities to the corridors of ordaining modern art. Spray cans to mixed media, all the while combining and assimilating styles related to the backgrounds or input of various artists. Many of these artistic tendencies are still Pop art, but most of them are blended and embellished with other ideas or approaches, studying diverse conceptual fields. The age of pluralism, that is the world of art today, while street art seeks to increase its popularity. This is what makes it urban.
Is this urban movement a new Pop art?
The universal influence of pop art can now be seen everywhere, from the extravagant auction halls to the shopping bags made by young illustrators. Some of the most well-known artists such as KAWS constructed images extracting mass culture by early pop artists, but their visions are no longer the same. The general enthusiasm for affluent modernity has turned into critical melancholy, or even depression, while the cult of everyday objects has waned. What remains is the conceptual basis of a massive capitalist movement, channeled by the adoption of their visual features, transformed by the eclecticism of our time.
If we compare the number of artists today, who create works based on pop, with reference to the character of masters, such as Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, or Tom Wesselmann, the difference is clear. Warhol was the first to describe a banal daily life and elevate a character as if they were a hero. Roy Lichtenstein was one of those who started the trend of flat in figures, Tom Wesselmann put forward the natural iconography of sexuality, they all spiced up their works with bright and neon nuances.
Let us take a look at some other examples in the era of contemporary art, say, Banksy. If anyone appropriates an image that is familiar with pop art, that is him. But his work hardly fits the general situation in society, it is very specific. There are various contexts of fun optimism to images taken from the golden age of advertising. Banksy is very loud, unrepentant, and very rebellious. Banksy does not glorify 'modernity' life. He hated it.
Another notable figure in contemporary urban art is Ron English, who built his entire oeuvre on a befitting image, from Mickey Mouse to Ronald McDonald, deconstructed tragically. Nor does he tolerate excessive consumerism and its propaganda, but he freely constructs his visual world based on the traits that the original pop artist had established. Another trend that of Superflat, utilized by Takashi Murakami to continuously produce a wide variety of works, relies on Japan's historical movements that range from comics to anime to ukiyo-e, and their connection to pop art is unquestionable.
Lastly, if we look at what Shepard Fairey is up to, it's easy to think of his OBEY poster as pop. However, they spread certain philosophies, such as trying to revive the trend of Soviet Union propaganda posters. OBEY is involved in spreading the message for a better world, often politically aware, too far from the everyday reality that the average person consumes. Shepard Fairey is not a pop artist simply because he is a prophet from another era.
Several examples in Indonesia are included in the phenomenon of contemporary urban art. We can see it in Eko Nugroho, Uji 'Hahan' Handoko, Arkiv, Stereoflow, Rebellionik, Muklay, Kendra Ahimsa, and others. They all have different characteristics and carry different ideas. What is very interesting is the tendency of urban art to represent the redefinition of the boundaries between high and low in the corridor of contemporary art. And it gets fascinating, where although pop art does have a profound influence on the development or even the current trends of urban art, claiming urban art as the new pop may seem somewhat ambiguous.
This urban phenomenon has too many faces and the exploration of the medium is booming, some of which are closer to abstract expressionism, installation, realism to surrealism, than pop. Its involvement with contemporary art has become very conformist, making it a celebrity reference that is increasingly related to mass cultures such as cartoons and animation. Every medium is liberated and fully democratic in terms of iconography, which contains some characteristics inherent in pop art. It can be said that the urban art phenomenon is a perfect reflection of the era of contemporary art, and as such, it is a movement in its own right. Addy Debil exists in this corridor.
I saw that this series of Addy's works for this exhibition invites us to feel the excitement, interpret happiness and contemplate pleasure. They all pose, act in celebration of something utopian. For a moment they close both eyes to achieve the harmony of all beings in the universe.