The article also appeared in the Jakarta Post, 23 January 2015, The Street Painters in Kota Tua.
Sat facing each other as thoughts were focused on the chess board down the pavement, two street painters killed time in an unlikely corner of Jakarta. Portrait pieces hung on the wall of a rundown building around busy intersection in the old district of Kota Tua, making an impression that the trapped eyes inside the frames were watching the chess game. Sat on a stool close to a frame stand, these marginalized painters had settled around for a long time. Their tools occupied half side of the sidewalk.
Work does not bring steady income in this “open office”, even when the street painters can impress so many onlookers at any minute. At working hours, the impassive painters got busy with their talents in front of the passers by, holding still to live by. Even when they hit rock bottom, they did not cease to stroke the color pencils, finishing their portfolios to let the world see all the best of them, even if it is just the reconstruction of their dreams. People who are accustomed to their works came back. They requested hand-paintings reproduction, bringing the desired printed photo as a copy model.
But there are fewer such demands of late. Electonic gadgets get cheaper and produce better image quality. By using free image editing software, consumers have all the fun restyling their photos instantly. Modern era bodes ill for these talented, cash-strapped painters.
The meticulous work seen in the reproduction is impressive. But what is most interesting is the objects they painted in their own initiatives. The idea preceded layer after layer of sketches which slowly took form. The paintings were the interpretation of their minds, articulation of dreams and hopes. Some had a semblance to the maker’s mental and physical features, like the painting of Iwan Fals that unveiled a unique resemblance to the painter.
After a period of observation, these paintings were sort of juxtaposed in repetitive cycles. They were framed, hung on the obsolete wall, barely sold, and got washed out by the surge of time.