Abnormally Normal/Normally Abnormal – Bob Sick Yuditha

August 7, 2021

Bob Sick Yuditha has gone through changes.

Bob looked fresh when meeting me in Bandung, last month, merry like the Month of May itself. He was looking forward to June, where he will exhibit around 30 of his latest works that have been progressing since November 2008. It’s a duo show with his long-time best friend, S. Teddy D. And they initiated the show on their own, as usual with help from their old friends of the artists communities living around Kersan, Taring Padi and Museum dan Tanah Liat, Nitiprayan, Yogyakarta.

As usual too, Bob does not work on a particular theme on his works for this one. It’s about life in general, fragments of things, events, and visions that he sees, hears and experiences in his everyday routines. Now, Bob’s everyday routines are not similar to laymen, it involves a series of cat-and-mouse chasing game with the local authority (for some reasons not to be mentioned here, and also why he ‘exiled’ himself to Bandung), and balancing between making works, communal lives, being a tattoo icon, and the latest development of his phase of life currently: being a father of a newborn baby girl, and raising a family.

Sprinkles of those parts are being shown scattered here and there in his series of works for this exhibitions. From images of a baby with ‘Baby Oil’ scribbles, remarks on the sudden raise of market attention to artists like himself, to bits of social commentaries. His trademark style, a mix of street drunkard scribbles and kampong graffiti with appropriations of Cobra and Basquiat, are still there. They are all quintessential Bob. Or ‘Bob Banget’, as Indonesians particularly the ones who have been following his journey closely, would say.

As Bob described, his creative process so far has been divided into three stages. The first is the stage of his times at the Gampingan campus, which were overlapped with life on the street and communities. It is what has shaped his choices and also his style greatly, and seemed to never let go for a huge part of his life. It took him a while to accept when finally there was an acknowledgement of his works from commercial and mainstream galleries when the year 2000s came, and that built the second stage – which were full of tensions.

For Bob, art making is like a pathological psychotherapy, a release ritual and habit that he has found himself addicted to it, just like his addictions to some other things, like anti-depressant pills. His fondness of art and pills have come beyond rebellious anxieties or self-centered desire to push every boundaries, but it has become a part of him, a routine. A way to process things within and then let it out, like to digest and to excrete. For Bob, art making and pills are bare necessities, like eating. Or, in other words, communicating.

Bob said that if the desire comes up, he feels like he wants to explode and cannot stop. He experiences different kinds of stumulations when making art works. Everything can be an inspiration, and he never wants to lose a moment.
Bob narrated how the process can come to edges of suffering as he has to deal with the after-effects after he finishes one painting. It is like schizophrenia, paranoia and delusions that stay within in long sleepless nights afterwards. It’s a torture.

But he loves the torture. He needs it. It is a tool for balance for him. I suspect that during the second stage of his life as an artist, he has immersed himself to the methods that he formulated on his own and through a natural process. It is also one of the tensions of growing up – or growing older to be precise, as the change within also went along with the changes outside. The social facades and structures have changed within the art scene, where communal lives slowly transforms to individualities or more close-knitted domesticities. In other words, the choice of going completely on make your own family. To lead that ‘normal’ life. To reach that horrid state: Establishment.

Through the years, that’s what Bob’s works all about, his addiction to abnormalities. His need to at least manifest those parts in him, while along the way life gives him both, the normal and the abnormal. As Bob told me how he loves his state of life right now, which he defines as his third stage: that he wants to live a healthier life, raise his family and child, and share it with his loved ones. Yet, on the other hand, he still needs the ‘other side’ to continue doing things that have been his life and livelihood as well, making art works. He needs it to continue existing. The tension has transformed into finding balances, the equations of all that and they are all manifested in this latest series.

In the end, above all things, I guess each one of us want that ‘normal’ life, or at least to reach that stage, and make up our own versions of it. Can Bob do it? Old habits die hard. Or should it die, since it has become a part of him that leads him here where he’s still standing proudly now? We can ask the same question to ourselves. Meanwhile, for this time being, we can shout together with him, “Hey June! Life is Great, isn’t it?”

Farah Wardani

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