Then, in frenzy collage, he glued pieces of cut photos of his parents, words from the books he read, leaves from plants on his lush yard, pasted it on the wall and had it photographed.
More than a visual object, it became a shrine where he left flowers as if he was in the cemetary, visiting his memories with them.
His intricate works are also composed of advertising posters he ripped on the streets and underpasses of Jakarta he had noticed during one of his his photography projects.
It took months to execute all the pieces together, and who knows how long to muster the idea. Judging from the finished objects, craft knife and paint are presumably tools he often uses.
Douglas Ramage, an avid collector of Hanafi’s works which he first came to know some 20 years back, said that in those time he would not have seriously thought about buying a photograph that he deemed of no artistic value. But Rob Pearce, whom he first met when he was a photographer, changed that notion.
“Rob loves to tell stories of his photos. I believe he can’t create something without telling the story,” Doug said in fluent Indonesian during the public discussion. His favorite is the medium format 2×1 photowork containing fragments of Jakarta, and interestingly, after a much closer look, the artist’s late mother.
He added that Rob tried to put his mother inside the frames, hidden in a rich selection of colors
Hanafi is also notable for his preference to colors, the collector said.
“There is depth in Hanafi’s colors,” he said.
Hanafi said that within Rob is a soul that will never stop delving into the torned pieces, looking for each of the memory kept inside.
“Jakarta made me a better person, more tolerant, more patient,” Rob said, while adding that he hates the portrayal of Jakarta as another exotic Asian cosmopolitan city. Among his notable portfolio about Jakarta were Marunda Water (1999-2000), and Ripped Faces, 8008km (2001-2003).
The youth Rob came for the first time to Jakarta in 1970, before settling since the 1990 as an English teacher. His return in the 2000s after taking bachelor degree in Documentary Photography, University of Wales, Newport, began the journey that turned him from a photographer to a widely-recognized artist, a move he described as self-learning and mind-liberating.
Asked about the motivation behind the move, the artist who also obtained bachelor degree in Southeast Asian Studies, University of Kent, Canterbury, in 1983, said being a photographer is driven by his view of both romanticism and machoism, that of having oneself in a new place, investigating one case to another.
The downside is that the job is an instructed routine that can be mind-numbing. He wanted to tell more stories in creative ways and possibilities of his own making.
Looking into his works, the trace of photography are commonplace, but they have become less of an art photography and more of a mixed media art, uniquely shaped by the artist’s fragments of past memory, the current “Asian” state of being, and the way he visualizes the country he lives in.
Nevertheless, he said that the intuition shaped in the years of “tukang foto” still persist. He just feels lucky and seems grateful enough to be able to make narratives the way he wants to now.
He credited Jakarta as his aesthetic teacher, saying, “My artworks came to be owing to Jakarta. They are inspired by the raucous noise, dust, and smoke around the city streets and flyovers.”
Lontar Foundation founder John H. McGlynn, on the opening day filled with lively ceremony and the line-up of musicians such as Oppie Andaresta, explained that Rob exhibit what used to be simple photoworks he had taken decades before they transformed into complex, impassioned artworks. Hence he suggested that each piece has an enriching story to be understood, learned by the audience.
It‘s All About the Story, Past, Present, Future by Rob Pearce is Galeri Kertas first exhibition of this year. On this occasion they simultaneously introduce their 2019 tagline: Let’s fill this town with artists.
As what has been the usual agenda of Galeri Kertas, Rob Pearce art exhibition precedes a workshop by the artist for selected young, aspiring artists, a public discussion, and the eventual workshop exhibition.
Curator Heru Joni Putra said the main source of material of Rob’s artwork is the books he read. Moreover, the torned pages he attached to joss “ghost” papers in Chinese ritual, for instance, showed Rob’s perseverance on exploring the paper-based artwork material, and how it conforms to Galeri Kertas mission to light up the exploration and promote the particular medium.
Asked why the displayed works are not signed with date of completion, it is revealed that Rob has phobia with his own signature, which explained why he decided to put it at the back of the frame.
For a supposedly dyslexic person, Rob left a somewhat articulate note on the wall to tell the visitors about the journey from his suburb home-garden in Cipayung to Hanafi’s art studio in Parung Bingung.
There was no eureka moment just the drip drip drip of learning. Observing that which can lead you in the direction of partial understanding. Of looking for opportunities and celebrating mistakes, as it is here that can lead to something new. The joy of randomness and the pleasure in work can come together, meshing and weaving intertwined threads with the aim of producing a piece that pleases the eye and tweaks the intellect.