Interweaving local traditions and global popular culture with his own political sentiments, Eko Nugroho’s distinct figures and imageries have established his practice as one of the most iconic in Indonesian contemporary art today. The influence of street art, graffiti, and comics in Nugroho’s practice is unmissable; his striking, graphic aesthetics often presented in large-scale community murals. Much of his works are also grounded in local culture: Traditional batik and manual embroidery are quintessential elements of his practice; and Nugroho’s masked figures allude to his fascination with traditional Javanese shadow theatre, to which masks are integral. These masks figures became Nugroho’s signature to represent different roles and identities of people in the society. We had the opportunity to chat with him on his practice and and how his studio in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, operates during this uncertain period.

 

S+S : How does the studio operate with the current situation

EN : The activities at my studio have been reduced now, slower, but more relaxed. For my artwork production – mainly sculptures – we work with other studios and factories as well, and some staffs there are not working these days. The embroidery studio is still active because I can control the production, although working at a slower pace because some textile shops are closed so it’s harder to source materials. My other independent projects like DGTMB and Eko Nugroho Art Class have been put on hold and they will resume activities at a later date. 

At my main studio where I produce most of my works and where I have my main team, we are still actively working on the projects which now have been postponed for next year, like the solo exhibition at Sullivan+Strumpf, among others. The preparation for these projects is rather important. We can say we are relaxed, but not entirely. There is still production running, thinking about the concepts and themes for the upcoming solo exhibitions.  

S+S : What are the changes that have to be implemented in your creative process

EN : There are some significant changing aspects experienced by everyone now, even by artists, which require to take more care of our health, practicing social distancing, and stay at home as much as possible. This has motivated me and my studio team to create new sharing sessions on Instagram, mainly based on my experience as an artist. In these sessions I share information, experiences, tips and tricks for art making, particularly related to visual art, more specifically about the process of embroidery production, sculptures that I made using recycle and upcycle methods, the studio activities and methods of working, experience and knowledge on life painting, etc. We are doing this as a form of support to fellow artists who still need to be active, but also as a form of excitement so that we don’t fall into depression in this pressing situation. 

We are also implementing different working shifts. Those who work on documentation, communication, and production are still working daily with precautions such as face masks, vitamins, and general health measures.