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Rom Yaari: A body painter with a big soul and many talents

Eric Buvelot

The Jakarta Post

Ubud, Bali  /  Wed, April 29, 2020  /  01:12 pm
Rom Yaari: A body painter with a big soul and many talents

Multitalented: American-Israeli artist Rom Yaari poses in his studio in Ubud, Bali, where he has resided since 2003. (JP/Zul Trio Anggono)

Born in 1956 in Los Angeles, the United States, American-Israeli artist Rom Yaari has resided in Ubud, Bali, since 2003.

Better known for his body painting, which he has practiced in Bali but also in more unlikely conservative places like Surabaya in East Java and Singapore, this unique personality lives his life to the fullest.

Between a French-styled cursed poet and an American-styled decadent hippie, Yaari is above all a simple human being with a big heart.

“I stay away from drama,” he says.

Splash of color: 'Sofia', a painting by Rom Yaari, who is better known for his body painting.
Splash of color: 'Sofia', a painting by Rom Yaari, who is better known for his body painting. (JP/Zul Trio Anggono)

But life has not been always easy for him, starting from childhood. Although from a well-off family, dyslexia and hyper-activity kept him out of school at an early age and he learned a lot by himself, if not at his own expense.

In the 1960s, being able to skip school meant he was actually a kid free to roam around the streets at will with little supervision from his elders. From birth to the 1980s, Yaari lived mostly in the US and Israel but also in England, Spain, France and Mexico, where he permeated himself with a broad array of influences.

“I’m a citizen of the world,” he asserts now.

By the age of 10, he had already started to train himself at drawing and painting, reproducing scenes from the Bible, inspired by mosaics or ancient statues.

Serving as an apprentice in many artist studios around the world from a young age, his first ever real painting on canvas was an ape — after being seriously impressed by the just released movie Planet of the Apes, he recalls today in his studio located in Mas, near Ubud.

Artistic touch: Artist Rom Yaari works on many mediums, from acrylic on canvas, fabrics for fashion and interior design.Artistic touch: Artist Rom Yaari works on many mediums, from acrylic on canvas, fabrics for fashion and interior design. (Courtesy of Rom Yaari/-)

Listening to his life story is like indulging into a serialized novel with many twists and turns, spanning all aspects of creativity. He works on many mediums: acrylic on canvas, pen and ink on paper, fabric for fashion and interior, watercolor, multimedia combined with hand-finished paintings and of course the human skin.

He became an art therapist a long time ago, pioneering this field through body painting at a time when it was still relatively unknown and mostly considered a smutty thing.

Yaari says he has also worked in the music industry where he befriended rock stars like David Bowie, Rod Stewart and Paul McCartney.

More tuned in to today’s music scene, he says he also participated in the famous Burning Man Festival in the US in 2001 with a team of 40 painters, with whom he painted over 3,000 people.

Prolific is indeed a very defining adjective to qualify the work of Yaari, who never stops having positive ideas. But he says he would never deny his dark side and always refuses to work when in a bad mood.

On a mission: A painting by Rom Yaari created to help save the elephants.On a mission: A painting by Rom Yaari created to help save the elephants. (JP/Zul Trio Anggono)

More recently, he became more and more involved in charity, participating in the Paralympics some years ago in Sydney and is now preparing to save the elephants with the Ganesh Project.

“I raise money for causes; it’s the most transformational experience for me now because giving is better than receiving,” he says.

Very concerned with climate change and the increasing threat of global warming, Yaari is always questioning the validity of our hyper-capitalistic world, tainted by money and greed.

With his Balinese agent Made Toya, he created the Yaari Toya Studio Bali and the Yaari Toya Center for the Arts in order to promote a higher public awareness toward the arts in Bali.

The father of seven who has married five times, he has regularly exhibited his art since the 1980s in places like Melbourne in Australia, Vancouver in Canada and Washington DC.

Since living in Bali, he has impressed and seduced with his talent and definitive showmanship all the big names of the local art scene.

Having realized he finally matured when he was in his late 40s, it is only then that he started to call himself an artist and moved to Bali, a place where his mother stayed and loved very much.

“Every day I create. And I work on multiple pieces at the same time,” he says about his life on the Island of the Gods, a place he names as the most inspiring on Earth.

“Bali is my home, it is the only place I’ve grown roots in my life. Indonesian people have always embraced me as an artist and I feel much honored.” (ste)

 

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