A poor, young girl freezes to death during an ice-cold winter night, a pair of siblings are sent to the forest by their parents to starve and two sisters have their eyes pecked out by pigeons.
Some of the world’s most beloved fairy tales include violent and gruesome occurrences. But at the same time, they nurture a child’s imagination and let them enter a fantastical world full of wonder and enchantment.
These two elements, the good and the bad, the bright and the dark, can both be traced in the artworks of Roby Dwi Antono, a 22-year-old graphic designer based in Yogyakarta and still a newcomer to the art scene.
During Bazaar Art Jakarta last weekend, his works were introduced by Srisasanti Syndicate, a gallery in Yogyakarta that primarily aims to support young talents in the Indonesian art scene. It marked Roby’s first solo show in the capital.
Fery Oktanio of Srisasanti Syndicate said Roby, who works a day job as a graphic designer, used art as another outlet for his creativity. “For him, paintings are a space of freedom,” Fery said. “Here, he can play, and pour out his imagination freely.”
According to the exhibition’s catalog, Roby’s works have been influenced by American painter Mark Ryden, sometimes referred to as “the godfather of Pop Surrealism.”
Following in Ryden’s footsteps, Roby has invented his own creatures that stroll through a fantastical, fairy-tale-like world. Two recurring characters in Roby’s artworks are a rabbit called Kinci and a young girl who remains nameless. As Roby’s overall concept intends to depict the cycle of life, we see both characters going through different stages of their being, from birth to death.
“Roby wants to pose questions [with his artwork],” Fery explained. “What is the purpose of creation? How do humans function as guardians of the universe? What should we do as humans to seek the path toward the eventual goal, heaven?”
Another striking element in Roby’s paintings is a strong connection to nature. His characters are seen sitting at a lake, in front of icy mountains or wandering through a pine forest.
“Roby and his paintings take us into an unreal world where anything can happen,” Fery said. “There are no ratings, no codes, no rules.”
Roby’s plunge into the art scene is, in part, thanks to the younger generation’s extensive use of the Internet. Through his blog, Roby was able to meet people of diverse backgrounds. “With the advances in technology and media, art now belongs to everyone and can be enjoyed anywhere,” Fery said. But being an artist “still requires strict discipline, and of course, the quality of the artwork itself must remain to a high standard.”