REFLECTIONS ON INTERVENTION: based on Patricia Thebez’ ‘Wildflower’


Text by Tulika Ahuja

Thanks, Faith for the edits!


Society constructs all kinds of structures to put us in boxes. If an artist’s privilege is resistance towards that order, perhaps as curators and creative arts managers, our role is to facilitate this rare freedom. When we offer direction, it should be without restriction to an artist’s output.

Patricia approached me with an idea to make a solo presentation of paintings as a way of marking her ten-year journey living with bipolar disorder. She walked me through pages of her sketchbook that revealed memories of this time. The watercolour, ink and crayon-marked papers traversed varying states of mind and seasonally prescribed chemical concoctions.

For her new body of paintings (which we later named ‘Wildflower’) and in her life, Patricia wanted to explore what it meant to be free. For the past ten years, she had struggled with her diagnosis – not understanding what was going on with her body and mind.

In the months that followed, her planted seed for the exhibition grew. I observed changes in her daily routine. She took up rollerblading lessons and became acquainted with a group of beach tennis regulars. Paintings were followed by more paintings, with pastels turning into neon and bolder hues.

Contemplating boundaries, Patricia pondered her inner and outer realities. She painted the experience of being in her own skin using signature abstract expressionist strokes. Her relational encounters with society, family and friends turned into brain fodder, which translated into repetitive lines and dots.

Around this peak-pandemic period, going on walks with artists had become an outlet for me to discuss ideas. ‘A Trip to Bukit Timah Quarry’ was Patricia’s response to our walk and in hindsight, an acute rendering of how strange and dangerous the forest had first appeared to her. This painting was perhaps my intervention in her ‘Wildflower’ garden.

Soon after that walk, Patricia made the eighth and final painting of the ‘Wildflower’ series, naming it ‘My Own Kind of Flower’. The piece evokes an intertwined dance with her environment, body laid bare, unafraid of the viewer’s gaze. Patricia had eaten a big plate of courage, and a healthy, blossoming flower had danced through her body. “People often have the impression that I am strange and dangerous at first but that happens because there is little understanding between us”.

In my observation, she saw pieces of herself in ‘(Our) Trip to Bukit Timah Quarry’. Her efforts to remember and record the natural rock formations, marshy leaves and porous underbellies of flower petals perhaps encouraged an acceptance of her own strangeness.

Intervening with the influences of another's creative process can send them either farther away, or bring them slightly closer. Patricia’s ‘Wildflower’ series, created over a four month period, stands for overcoming someone else’s footing in your narrative, and growing at a pace that frees you.


Patricia Thebez (b. 1989) is an artist based in Jakarta, Indonesia. Earlier in her life, she pursued fashion design as she was always intrigued by the relationship humans have with their bodies and identities. She began exploring watercolor and abstract painting as a means to cope with her bipolar disorder. She finds the process of mark making calming, spontaneous, and liberating. She gravitates towards free form and colors, which allow her to engage in an honest dialogue.