Eko Nugroho is known for his reinterpretations of traditional Indonesian media and techniques, fluidly combined with a stylised aesthetic evocative of comic books. Employing humour and vivid colours, Nugroho's embroidered paintings, sculptures, community collaborations, and performances examine the socio-political climate of Indonesia and the contemporary urban environment of Yogyakarta, where he is based.Read More
Eko Nugroho enrolled in the Painting Department of the Indonesian Art Institute, Yogyakarta, in 1997—a year before the authoritarian regime of Suharto came to an end. In the following years, known as the Reformasi era, Nugroho experienced first-hand the major waves of transformation across Indonesia, including greater freedom of expression and the import of Western comics and Pop art aesthetics that allowed for an explosion of experimentation in the arts.
Emerging from such a background, Eko Nugroho's practice draws from both traditional and contemporary sources, as well as Indonesian and Western ones. He has reinterpreted wayang—a traditional form of shadow puppetry—in a number of his works to discuss historical and present-day events in Indonesia. In God Bliss (In the Name of Semelah)—a one-and-a-half-hour puppet play commissioned by New York's Asia Society in 2017—for example, Nugroho traces the history of Islam's spread in Java.
Eko Nugroho also incorporates traditional techniques like embroidery and the dyeing process known as batik into his work. Since 2007, he has worked with a small village to create embroidered paintings characterised by enigmatic and humorous scenes executed in bold colours. In his 2015 interview with Ocula Magazine, Nugroho said of the artist's unique position in society that 'the work of the artist will always be interesting if the artist situates themselves in their immediate context and records and interprets what happens around them.'
The masked figure is among the most recognisable motifs in Eko Nugroho's work, which symbolises a human being's duality and the process of concealment. In We are What We Mask—his solo exhibition at STPI in Singapore (2013)—Nugroho presented, among other items, cast paper masks (Love, Ego, Money, 2013) and wearable pieces (Do We Know Ourselves?, 2013) that echo the masked figures in paintings and drawings like Norm Normal (2018).
Lost in Parody, Arario Gallery, Seoul (2020); Nowhere is My Destination, Art Front Gallery, Tokyo (2019); Plastic Democracy, ARNDT, Berlin (2018); Lot Lost, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney (2016); Landscape Anomaly, Galeri Salihara, Jakarta (2015); Témoin Hybride, Musée d'Art Moderne de Paris (2012).
Nothing Lasts Nothing's Finished, Sullivan+Strumpf Singapore (2020); ARTJOG: Resilience, Jogja National Museum, Yogyakarta (2020); Setouchi Triennale, Japan (2019); Àbadakone/Continuous Fire, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa (2019); Contemporary Worlds: Indonesia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra (2019); Writing Without Borders, Lehmann Maupin, Hong Kong (2013).
Sherry Paik | Ocula | 2020