Private Man, Public Art: How Darbotz Became a ‘Monster’

By webadmin on 09:14 am Dec 19, 2011
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Marcel Thee

Darbotz, one of the city’s most respected graffiti artists, is showcasing his newest collection of graffiti-style paintings at the Vivi Yip Artroom gallery.

The event opened on Dec. 4 and will run until Monday. 

While Darbotz’s modus operandi has usually been spray painting guerilla-style after dark when the streets are free from prying eyes, this exhibition lets him display his work in a more conventional manner.

Only known by his artist moniker, the mystery surrounding Darbotz’s identity and private life has added to his legend. His works seem to be everywhere, but he rarely makes public appearances and has sternly refused to give out his real name.

“If I explained the origins of the moniker, that’s just basically giving you my real name. Privacy is extremely crucial to me,” he said. “I believe people will respect your work more without the baggage of knowing who you really are.”

Over the years, Darbotz has taken part in gallery exhibitions worldwide with Tokyo, Berlin, Paris and Hong Kong just a few of the high-profile places that have seen his work. That’s not even mentioning the many commissioned pieces he has done for major companies such as Nike and Google, as well as the many publications and multimedia art shows that have featured him.

Darbotz is one of the founders of the graffiti-based community Web site tembokbomber.com, named after the slang term “bomber,” a reference to the guerilla nature of street graffiti.

Through the Web site, Darbotz’s name and art have gained attention and popularity as he kick-started and helped develop Jakarta’s urban arts community.

The Hiss of the Can

When asked what drew him to street art, Darbotz did not skip a beat. “The sound of the spray paint, the dirty walls, the adrenaline, and the culture,” he said.

His style incorporates the best elements of urban art. From loose and free doodles to the eye-catching absurdity of his illustrations, Darbotz is best known for his monochromatic, scribble-like style. Meticulous lines intertwine in a complex manner without ever looking muddled. His attention to detail is one of his great artistic strengths. Another is his conscious aversion to typography, a style usually associated with graffiti art.

Fellow artist Rain Rosidi, in writing Darbotz’s official biography, said that Darbotz relied on strong visual characteristics in defining himself and that he had carved out his identity without the use of typography.

The artist’s exhibition at the Vivi Yip Artroom is titled “The Boy Who Became a Monster,” a name that represents Darbotz’s rise from amateur outsider to legitimate artist.

“This exhibition is a personal statement,” he said. “It represents my 10 or so years in the world of graffiti. I was a boy but now I’m a big monster.”

For “Monster,” Darbotz said he tried to step outside his safety zone. Though the displayed pieces are clearly his, they offer a wider palate of approaches.

“For this exhibition, I tried to incorporate new forms and more colors. The subjects I paint have also evolved,” Darbotz said.

Urban Core

“If you analyze my work throughout the years, you’ll see the growth it has undergone. But you’ll also see the constant rawness of my style.”

Darbotz grew up obsessed with American hip-hop groups such as the Wu-Tang Clan, A Tribe Called Quest and N.W.A; his art reflects their influences.

His work also reflects his environment. Living in Jakarta, he witnessed the daily grind of urban struggle and incorporated it into his work. Darbotz’s art, whether it’s on public walls or a canvas, carries the feel and texture of the city.

Exhibition curator Mitha Budhyarto wrote in her opening remarks that Darbotz’s graffiti was “his personal testament to the city.”

Mitha stated, “In the spaces of Jakarta, Darbotz’s works provide a way for us to reconnect with our everyday spaces by bursting open their dull banality with his trademark monochromatic imageries. When we are stuck in traffic, for instance, the momentary pleasure of looking at Darbotz’s images — heads with oversized, sharp teeth [and] octopus with tentacles that spread out the length of flyovers — revitalize our experience.”

Although Jakarta’s famously chaotic nature can turn off some, Darbotz said he has an undying attachment to it.

“I’ve always tried to illustrate what the [Jakarta] streets are like; their coarseness, intricacy, and decay,” he said.