A State of Koma — The rapid fire knocking of a marble in a spray paint can echoes down a flickering alley. This is your alarm clock. Wake up. Snap out of it. Abandon your devices for a second, they aren’t going anywhere, life is. You’ve settled for something less, a turning cog in a giant machine. Consumer culture is your sedative, tear out the IVs. Stop dosing yourself out of reality. The city is a prison canvas. The walls holding you in become the messenger’s medium. He’s hoping the patients can still hear him. With luck, some of you may even wake up.
Let’s throw it back. How’d you start as a graf artist?
How does Indonesian graffiti differ from other countries?
It’s 2004. I’m in college. It’s boring as hell so I get into graffiti and it becomes a major obsession. It stimulates my mind and makes me feel refreshed. And happy.
Local guys like Darbotz, Hard13, TUTU, Tuyuloveme, and others have great skills and have created unique recognisable styles. We’re up there with the rest. We explore our rich cultural heritage and that sets us apart; it gives us some flavour.
A decade on and the paint on your finger tips still hasn’t dried.
Is the local graf community pretty tight? Yeah! I just kept at it because it bought me a lot of happiness. I never thought I’d make a career out of it. My parents loved it and supported my passion 100%. How’d you arrive at the name “Koma” ? Jakarta has got some complex issues – chronic traffic jams, people in power breaking moral rules, crime in the streets. There are countless problems in plain sight but people just carry on and go about their lives as if in a state of coma. What can be done to make Jakarta wake up? More graffiti! Most citizens aren’t fully aware of issues because they are too busy thinking about themselves. My characters protest about social inequity, arrogance, traffic, smoking, and whatever else is on my mind at the time. That’s why you paint characters, not letters. Yes. I used to write letters but I crossed over a while back. I got stuck developing my letters and found that characters could speak more with the public. I can make them shout, protest, and poke fun at things… Oh, one more thing. My characters hate buffing! If I was elected Governor my first order would be to stop the buffing. They’re erasing history.
Yeah, we’re all brothers. It’s a growing community and we’ve got each other’s backs. We recently set up a space called Garduhouse to further advance the spirit of street art in Indonesia. It’s intended to be used for exhibits, collaborations, and gatherings. We also sell spray paint, caps, and other necessities of life. What’s your favourite hour of the day? Early mornings... on the weekend. I cycle around the city scouting good spots for painting. That’s when I love to do graffiti too. It’s a really peaceful time of day and there’s no sign of any damn traffic. Did I mention Jakarta has traffic issues? What keeps you busy during the week? I work office hours at a creative consulting company. Painting on the weekend is like escaping from my daily routine; it allows me to start the next week with fresh ideas. When I’m not working or painting I’m be playing with my daughter. Has your art lead to commercial projects?
Ok, I’ll make sure I mention that to Jokowi next time we hang out.
Yes, quite a few. The most recent was a project for Converse called #clashwall. They had artists from different countries go head-to-head on walls. I represented indonesia. I’ve also done stuff for Nike, GAP, Greensands, Mix Max vodka, Lenovo, and others.
Anything for cigarette companies?
Do your characters have names?
Nope, but that would be ironic because I sometimes use my characters to raise awareness about the dangers of smoking. I want smokers to respect the health of non-smokers. I love healthy living… one world without tobacco!
Sure. There’s Buto – he’s an evil giant from Javanese puppet history. He represents the evil side in humans. Then theres’ Banaspati, he has flames in his eyes and likes fresh blood. And Lembuswana, he’s a river guardian that appears on full moon. He’s part elephant, part bird, and part lion. They’re all based off mythical Indonesian characters but styled in my own way.
Lastly... what would be your dream project? I’d like to travel the world and paint every town corner. Does anyone out there want to pay for it?!