Following a medical accident, former ceramist, educator, and college administrator, John Fawcett was relocated to recover in Bali, Indonesia. The time spent there made him realize that the island’s people do not have adequate health care. This motivated him to found the eponymous organization which assists people in need from going blind, helping them restore their life and dignity.

Sadly, the award-winning activist passed away in 2017 but his vision to give the gift of sight to poor people, who have no access to healthcare services, continues to live through his professional team. With an impact of over 45,000 sight-restoring operations, more than 1,000,000 patients screened, and over 400,000 eyeglasses provided, the team’s goal to eliminate curable blindness continues by putting a series of artists in the shoes of those who suffer from cataract.

Teaming up with TBWA\Group Singapore, the NGO launched art project titled “Catarart,” an exhibition that combines creativity with the visual disability in a way that strongly reflects how it feels to live without the ability of seeing the world’s shapes and colors.

To reach a wider audience, the foundation partnered with Affordable Art Fair Singapore, an event that hosted the collection throughout November 2017. By following this collaboration, the visitors and art enthusiasts got a chance to immerse themselves in a blurry world that faithfully mirrors a day of a cataracts patient.

To form the artwork, the Singapore-based agency contacted a number a well-known artists such as Chinese brush painter Ong Lee Heng, Balinese fine artist Kadek Jango Pramatha, documentary photographer Nicky Loh, and painter Rachel Poonsiriwong among others, and asked them to step in a misty place where they were able to virtually experience the unpleasant symptoms of cataracts. How did they get there?

In partnership with ophthalmologist Dr. Wayan Gde Dharyata SpM, who is also a volunteer at the organization, the agency developed a virtual cataract experience for the artists. Using a VR headset and an augmented reality app that was specially adjusted to simulate the cataracts effects, they ventured into a hazy world, in which uncertainty seemed to take hold of everything that surrounded them.

While wearing the VR headset, the participants were challenged to express their creativity on paper. Working under cataracts conditions was not an easy task: they had to paint the lines by memory and trust themselves that they are using the right colors or, in case of photography, the right angle.

The results seem to draw inspiration from the avant-garde art movement known as cubism except that, unlike the artworks so typical for this style that features geometrical and cubic lines, the ones that became part of the ‘Catarart movement’ follow rather twisted patterns in which an imaginary world slowly becomes deformed under the brush of the painters. Although the illustrations are unique and beautiful in their own way, they seem to be missing a hint of a joyous sparkle.

Catarart by Rachel Poonsiriwong | Click to enlarge
Catarart by Kadek Jango Pramatha | Click to enlarge

The stunning artwork collection was visible at this year’s Affordable Art Fair. During the exhibition, JFF invited the visitors to take part in the VR experience and express their own creative ideas in return for a donation to the NGO. Also, the artworks crafted by the artists were for sale, with prices between $800 and $1,500. The funds raised at the event will be used by the organization to help eradicate curable blindness in Indonesia. As you can see, even blindness can be enlightening.


Client: John Fawcett Foundation

Agency: TBWA\Group Singapore