John Fawcett Foundation Launches Catarart

The John Fawcett Foundation (JFF) is a non-profitorganisation that aims to eradicate curable blindness in economically-disadvantaged areas of Indonesia. is a non-profitorganisation that aims to eradicate curable blindness in economically-disadvantaged areas of Indonesia. This year, JFF partnered with Affordable Art Fair Singapore to launch a new initiative called ‘Catarart’ at an event that took place November 17-19.

The project asked artists to give up their most valuable asset – their eyesight – to create artworks under the conditions of cataracts. The Catarart pieces will be exhibited and sold at Affordable Art Fair with proceeds going to JFF.

Using one of the world’s first fully-immersive augmented reality applications, artists experience ‘virtual cataracts’ through a smartphone and VR headset. The AR app makes use of the phone’s back-facing camera and can be adjusted to reduce focus, colour saturation, light and depth perception ­– simulating cataractvisual impairment.

The development of the app was refined in consultation with Dr Wayan Gde Dharyata SpM, an ophthalmologist who has restored sight to over 10,000 cataract patients throughout his career.

“The app provides a good simulation of an immature cataract,”said Dr Dharyata. “Vision becomes cloudy and blurred, making it difficult to count fingers held up 1–3 metres away from the subject. But many of the people we treat in rural villages suffer from more severe impairment, as cataracts mature and vision disappears altogether.”

So far, contributing artists include Chinese brush painter Ong Lee Heng, Balinese fine artist Kadek Jango Pramatha, portrait and figurative artist Simon Ng, renowned documentary photographer Nicky Loh, and local design artist Rachel Poonsiriwong. Allartwork will be displayed and sold at Affordable Art Fair Singapore.

Visitors will have the opportunity to personally experience the AR app and create their very own Catarart pieces in return for a small donation to JFF. There will also be artists producing purchasable artwork LIVE during the 3-day event, including contemporary artist Chloë Manasseh, Chinese brush painter Ong Lee Heng, and portrait artist Laurent Pastorelli.

The project will raise vital funds to help a country that suffers from one of the worst rates of cataract blindness in the world. Over four million Indonesians are needlessly blind, simply because they have no access to specialist medical facilities.

“As John always said – these people are blind because they’re poor, and poor because they’re blind,”said Gede Bingin, Manager of JFF. “That’s why it makes sense for us to engage with a community whose eyesight has been fundamental in turning their passions into successful professions. We hope to open the eyes of the public to the stark problem and reverse this cycle of poverty.”

JFF brings medical facilities to the people via several mobile surgery units, which visit villages throughout Indonesia to conduct screenings and provide free surgery for those affected. A simple 20-minute operation can restore their eyesight.

JFF’s founder, John Fawcett, sadly passed away this year at the age of 85. He left behind a wonderful organisation whose Board, staff and supporters all wish for his meaningful work to continue.


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