One way to experience the culture of a nation is by exploring it’s contemporary art scene. Based in Yogyakarta Central Java, highly-acclaimed Indonesian artist Eko Nugroho explores the spirit and modern history of Indonesia in his imaginative, and often dark, works.
Having experienced Indonesia’s period of Reformasi (reformation) and the country’s shift toward democracy, Nugroho belongs to a generation of artists known as ‘2000 Generation.’ Nugroho’s roots in Yogyakarta’s vibrant street art scene is evident in his ecclectic and energetic style that is peppered with socio-political commentary, pop culture, and traditional Indonesian art and craft.
Although he is not directly political, Nugroho explains, “Daily life in Indonesia is consistently coloured by the issues of poverty, social injustice, corruption, violence and religion. Actually, I do not intentionally imbue my works with socio-political messages. However; it is all but impossible to free myself completely from the events happening around me.” This almost unconscious social and political commentary is evident throughout his work and paints a fascinating and dimensional picture of contemporary Indonesia.
Independent curator Supriyananto who Curated Nugroho’s 2009 New York exhibition ‘Tales from Wounded Land,’ commented that Nugroho’s works “make a pointed commentary about the current state of politics and society in contemporary Indonesia, a period in which the newly democratic country is going through great transformation” (Supriyanto 2009).
Nugroho’s medium varies dramatically with each work, his chosen mediums include Print Making, Embroidery, Animation, Sculpture, Painting, Design, Graffiti, Drawing, Batik, Film/Video and Installation. This dynamic mix of traditional and contemporary mediums gives his work originality and flexibility with the soul and craftsmanship of traditional Javanese arts.
Nugroho stated that, “In Indonesia the political situation is getting better, but there’s still a lot of narrow-mindedness and social pressure, and that’s exactly what I’m critical of in my work.”(Nugroho 2015). Nugroho is just one example from a wealth of fascinating contemporary artists working in Yogyakarta, through his work we gain deep insights into the character and landscape of modern Indonesia. In her thesis on contemporary art, Feehan illuminates how, “When contemporary art establishes a meaningful relationship between the viewer and the art, the results can create an insightful awareness of societal issues.” (Feehan 2010)
Artsy, 2017. ‘Biography,’ artsy.net, viewed 14 February 2017 < https://www.artsy.net/artist/eko-nugroho>
Asia Society, 2016. ‘Video Spotlight: Eko Nugroho,’ artsy.net, viewed 14 February 2017 < https://www.artsy.net/show/asia-society-video-spotlight-eko-nugroho>
Supriyanto, E. 2002, ‘eko nugroho + wedhar riyadi: tales from wounded-land,’ TylerRollinsfineart.com, viewed 14 February 2017, < http://www.trfineart.com/exhibitions/eko-nugroho-wedhar-riyadi-tales-from-wounded-land>
James, B. 2012, ‘Shadows of meaning: in the Elko Chamber,’ Artlink, Vol. 32, No. 01, Pp. 82-86
Feehan, C. 2010, ‘A study on contemporary art museums as activist agents for social change,’ ProQuest Dissertations and Theses.
Nugroho, E. 2011, Global Identity #2, Artsy, viewed 15 February 2017, <https://www.artsy.net/artwork/eko-nugroho-global-identity-number-02>
Nugroho, E. 2013, Negari Kaya Fatwa, Art Gallery of New South Wales, viewed 15 February 2017, <https://www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/exhibitions/eko-nugroho/>