Eko Nugroho was born and bred in Yogyakarta, in the heart of Indonesia’s most densely populated island, Java. Trained at the Indonesian Art Institute (Institut Seni Indonesia), he entered the local art scene in the late 1990s, during the Reformasi (Reformation) era, when Indonesia was breaking free from the reigns of its New Order regime.
It was an intense and exciting period in Indonesia’s contemporary art history; freedom of expression had suddenly become a reality, and for the artistic community, this tabula rasa meant that anything and everything was possible. Cities like Yogyakarta became the center for dynamic expressions and new approaches as artists seized the opportunity to play, experiment, and exercise their newfound freedom. He daringly took on the city as his inspiration and his canvas, working across disciplines, agilely jumping from highly visible murals project to paintings and drawings, book projects, comics and animation to embroideries, sculptures, and recently contemporary interpretations of wayang kulit (shadow puppets), a traditional art form performed regularly in his village.
Early Eko Nugroho works include murals and ‘mixed-media installations’ where homemade stickers, embroidered badges and drawings were pasted on the inner city walls for public consumption. . Imbued with macabre humour and satire, Nugroho’s comic inspired work may come across as seemingly straightforward – often a central figure standing against a simple background, presented as a series of simple scenes from a larger narrative – while the artist’s inimitable ‘pating tlecek’ style of fusing and juxtaposing a wide range of visual elements (and languages), lends his work a certain layer of absurdity.