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Dabortz brings Indonesian street art to Melbourne

Gayertree Subramaniam

Mon Apr 22 2013


GAYERTREE Subramanium speaks to Indonesian graffiti artist Darbotz about his love-hate relationship with his home city Jakarta, and Monsters Inside Us, his first solo exhibition in Melbourne. 

MONSTER INSIDE US from darbotz on Vimeo.

AS the self-proclaimed street art capital of the world, it’s befitting that Melbourne should play host to Indonesia’s up and coming street artist Darbotz.

His first solo show outside of Indonesia, the ‘Monters Inside Us’ exhibition is now open to the public for viewing at Melbourne Intercultural Fine Art (MiFA) till May 3.

Darbotz began as a grafitti artist who started expressing himself through street art on the streets of Jakarta and has now evolved to expressing his works on different types of canvases such as fibre glass, wood carvings and linen/cotton canvases.

Bringing the chaotic but lively streets of Darbotz’s hometown Jakarta, to Melbourne, the exhibition will showcase the artist’s love-hate relationship with his city.

With each piece characterising all that is unique yet frustrating about the complicated maze that is Jakarta, Darbotz aims to communicate how disturbances in the city and modern conveniences can create a monster within us.

His work, void of colour but heavily intricate, has an almost primitive quality to it with dark lines and a hint of tribal laying the foundation for his characters.

When asked about his thoughts on Melbourne’s street art scene, he readily rattles off names of home-grown street artists including Dabs Myla, Anthony Lister, and Sofles.

The self-taught artist says graffiti street art had a relatively late start in Indonesia, but the scene has developed considerably since things started taking off in in 2005.

“We definitely have a distinct style, an Indonesian style,” he says.

With a lack of legislation surrounding graffiti, he says artists like himself are able to get away with painting almost anywhere.

“I think we are one of the lucky ones, because Indonesia is in a grey area where street art is concerned,” he says.

He is however a strong advocate for drawing the fine line between freedom of expression and vandalism.

He recognises that it is a controversial issue, but believes in educating the masses to show them that street artists are capable of creating “something ecstatically beautiful”.

His signature character, a squid called CUMI, coexists as Darbotz’s alter-ego.

“CUMI is always smiling but he’s also angry. He’s angry at the traffic, the government, the pollution and the corruption,” he says.

“As a regular citizen, I can’t do anything about these things but I can express my feelings through this work.”

Darbotz says these feelings resonate with citizens from all walks of life in Jakarta.

He doesn’t strive to change perspectives or convey any messages explicitly, and his images are filled with secret symbols open to interpretation.

Darbotz explains that a deep interest in semiotic theory when he was younger has heavily influenced this element of his artistry.

“I brainwash people“, he says, likening the purpose of his work to that of advertising.

His artwork has also attracted the attention of big corporates like Nike, Jansport and Google Chrome, who have all variously commissioned the artist. The collaborations he says, are an affirmation of his work and passion as an artist.

Catch a glimpse of the raw grit and grime of the streets of Jakarta through Dabortz’s art installations at MiFA, Level 1, 278 Collins St, Melbourne. The Monsters Inside Us exhibition is on till May 3. Visit the MiFA website for more details.