A review on painting by Addy Debil, by Maria V.J. Setiawan

It was a quiet afternoon, and there I was, staring at a few paintings. How unique is this one, I thought to myself, the bright and eye-catching colours are alternated with its calm and subdued counterparts. Even the objects depicted in the paintings are considerably unique. These creatures’ presence in the painting initially confused me. And yet, closer scrutiny brought smile to my face as I can eventually see their ‘dance’ on the canvas. Widely opened mouths with perfectly aligned teeth creatures who seem to be both subdued and cherry concurrently; what is the painter trying to depict? Accompanying them are emotive words; Lonely, walk alone, awesome, cool, dream, weird, fun, human, positive, joy, normal is boring, freak, different world, space. Slowly but surely, my curiosity peaked. Here’s my attempt to dig a little deeper.

Addy Debil, the young artist behind these paintings selected happiness as a theme for his artworks. What started with the question behind the purpose of his work, he soon realises that the essence of his motivation to paint is his pursuit of joy and happiness, something that he channel through his paintings. Through his artworks, Debil wishes to portray the reality of people’s happiness, specifically those expressed as joy. He hopes that his paintings can bring joy and happiness to the viewers even amidst of their everyday lives that are saturated with problems and predicaments. Debil puts the emphasis on the importance of experiencing joy and happiness to give us a break from stress-inducing difficulties and harsh reality. Despite its universal need, joy and happiness do appear differently in each person’s life. Idiosyncrasies aside, not one person would deny their wish to be happy and joyful in life.

The ‘happiness’ concept that Debil’s paintings channel is tightly linked to the subjective understanding of a bipolar state. ‘Bipolar? What does he mean by that? Isn’t that a form of mental illness?” Frowning and thinking hard didn’t help me tease the paintings’ meanings. The word ‘bipolar’ in my head, is associated with 2 (two) polarising states; manic and depressive. How could the two be on the same painting? What message is Addy Debil truly meaning to deliver?

When we talk about a manic state, we often think of a fearful feeling filled with excessive anger and fury. And yet, behind its negative nuance, mania can also be understood as a form of deep self-expression. Through this lens, any individual can feel the happiness due to their ability to express themselves optimally.

Debil portray these distinctive themes through his works. The theme ‘Bipolar Dreams’, on top of its deep meaning, attempts to showcase people’s daily lives and connection. Imagine a human in its loneliness and solitude, reaching beyond its despair for the dreams that will help it accomplish happiness. The painting depicts this feeling of accomplishment through the cute vibrant and colourful ‘creatures’ on it, its appeal would not only make any viewer smile, but also think. Debil wants us to think about the polarising moments in humans’ lives; sometime full of sadness, disappointment, anger, isolation or even intense loneliness in the middle of an electric crowd. One can argue this is especially prevalent in today’s modern living. Think about technology, and how it binds people to it, away from each other. It is not surprising that these recurring moments will dampen our social interactions, taking excitement away from our daily lives.

Nevertheless, Debil’s paintings do not leave their viewers there; lonely and sad. After all, the negative emotions’ quintessential prevalence in humans’ lives do not take away individuals’ ability to be happy and joyful. Much like these polarising states, individuals suffering from bipolar disorder are known to experience the extreme emotions; tremendous grief and depression intermingled with overflowing euphoria. Similarly, the paintings’ sombre vibe is interspersed with the joyful and happy creatures in bright colours. These creatures’ ecstatic laughter is well contrasted by its stiff unruly hair, somersaulting; the first portraying the painting’s thematic joy whilst the latter represents its polarising counterparts.

Such is human’s life. Amidst of our mundane and confusing everyday get-go, we are often overwhelmed with disappointment, lamentation and even depression. And yet, these negative states should not remove our rights of feeling happy and content in life. We can always move on, do the things that make us happy, therefore carrying us to our rightful positive states. We can dream, and in attempt to realise our dreams, make other humans’ lives a little bit better. When we see the positive contribution our works can have in communities, that I believe, is true happiness.

Addy Debil’s paintings envisage his attempts to portray dynamic nature of human lives with their wider range of emotions; be it funny, sad, weird, confusing, inexplicable, or imperfect states. Conversely, there is also happiness and joy in each of our lives. Debil’s artworks are here to remind us, to live through the lows in our lives with positivity; to do the things we love, the things that make us happy. To also not forget to carry our peers along our journey. After all, what more can one hope than to live a meaningful dream surrounded by a happy community. That I believe, is true happiness.


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PROGRAM: Happy: Addy Debil Solo Exhibition

DATE: 27.04.19 – 19.05.19

VENUE: Ruang Dua Sembilan

ADDRESS: Jl. Mandala Utara No. 29A, Tomang, Jakarta 11440

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