Conversation with: Idris Johor – Owner of StudioNEON
By Shariffah Nur Alawiyah
Nestled along the alleys of Kampong Gelam are vibrant, large-scale artworks that are plastered on the walls of hip eateries in the area. It’s one of the first scenes where street art emanated and became celebrated in Singapore. Idris Johor, or better known as PrettyFreakyfantasty(Pff), is the artist behind the artworks you’ll see along Haji and Bali Lanes. As his moniker suggests, his creations are surrealistic and fantastical in nature. Let’s take a quick dive into his psyche to see what inspires his creations.
Q: How did the name PrettyFreakyFantasy (PFF) come to be?
Idris: “I’ve always loved colours. Growing up, I would always see my mom wearing so many beautiful dresses or the baju kurung that have beautiful prints on them. I thought it was freaking pretty. The ‘fantasy’ was added to represent the fantastical elements in my work. Thus, the alias, PrettyFreakyFantasy.”
Q: How do you describe your art style and what influenced it?
Idris: “In a few words, my art style is fun, happy, funky, eclectic and quirky. For me, more is more. Influences and inspirations come from all around but I do get inspired a lot by Tim Burton, Wes Anderson, Pedro Almodóvar, Jaime Hayon, Vivienne Westwood and the Bauhaus movement to name a few. My current muse, though, comes from anyone who passes by Haji Lane or Kampong Gelam. It could be from the clothes they wear, their movements or smiles.”
Q: What is your favourite medium to work with?
Idris: “I enjoy working with acrylic, metal, mirrors and mannequins. However, there are other mediums that I’m looking forward to trying for my upcoming projects.”
Q: Your eye-catching artwork is plastered around Kampong Gelam. What would you say is your favourite piece and why?
Idris: “It’s quite simple actually. Any piece that brings a smile to the audience is my favourite piece.”
Q: What inspired you to be based in Kampong Gelam and what gave you the urge to set up Studio Neon?
Idris: “Truthfully, the wind of change took me to Kampong Gelam. You can say a beautiful little angel presented me with the space and encouraged me to create and share my art.”
Q: How has art impacted areas of your life and Kampong Gelam?
Idris: “Seeing my works around where I Iive and create, inspires and drives me everyday. I feel like the art in Kampong Gelam has injected soul into the precinct, alongside the buskers, the aromas from the surrounding eateries and the crowd that comes here.”
Q: You’ve repurposed many recyclables into functional art. What is the story behind the mannequins seen in your art?
Idris: “Mannequins are just like another canvas to me, and better still if they are given or picked up from the streets to breathe some new life into items that would otherwise be thrown away. I don’t really like planning things so the recyclables you see in my art are mostly unplanned.”
Q: If there’s one thing you could not live without in your art, what would it be?
Idris: “There isn’t really anything that is more important than the other to me. I just think that we should not dictate what artists should and shouldn’t do. It will kill their creative mind. When I feel like I’m stuck in a funk, I actually hibernate to get inspiration after a good rest.”
When asked about his future projects in Kampong Gelam, PFF candidly ended the interview saying, “I have a million ideas but there are two million restrictions. So we’ll see! Not at the moment though.”
PFF started off designing props and sets for clubs like Zouk and Attica. What jump started his commissioned widespread art seen in Kampong Gelam was an interior decorating gig done for Blu Jaz cafe. The owner, Aileen Tan, gave him free reign to embellish the place with his vision. Since then, the likes of his works are seen in other F&B businesses like Black Sheep & Co and Piedra Negra.
You can check out his colourful and imaginative murals located at these shop fronts. Get teleported into a Pretty Freaky Fantasy!
32 Haji Lane