Eko NUGROHO: Lost in Parody
Arario Gallery Seoul is pleased to announce the opening of Lost in Parody, a solo exhibition by Eko Nugroho, one of the most internationally renowned artists from Indonesia. Nugroho has received international acclaim for his experimental attitude towards expanding the horizon of art through sculpture, performance, and comics by reinterpreting traditional media such as murals and wall hangings and representing the voice of the public.
Nugroho’s time at Institut Seni Indonesia coincided with the tumultuous period of socio-political upheaval in Indonesia. Having lived through the Reformasi era, which drove out the Suharto regime that ruled Indonesia for over 30 years, the artist experienced not only the revolution for democracy but also individual will and collective violence in the process. This nationwide transformation, which emerged from street protests, naturally had an impact on publicly accessible forms of visual art such as pop art, and comics. Much of Nugroho’s artistic practice stems from the aesthetic of "Wayang", a traditional shadow puppet theatre based on Indonesian fables and myths. Through the reinterpretation of local and traditional techniques such as batik—a traditional method of dyeing textiles—and embroidery, the artist has developed his own stylistic form of expression.
Lost in Parody, Nugroho’s second solo exhibition in Seoul, Korea since 2013, is comprised of over 20 new and recent works. In the basement level of the exhibition hall are largescale embroidery works measuring over 3.5 meters in length, made using traditional embroidery techniques from a small village in Indonesia. In order to revive the traditional embroidery business, which did not seem sustainable in today’s society, the artist proposed a collaboration with the village and has been producing these "embroidered paintings" since 2007. Nugroho was able to revitalise the disappearing industry by collaborating with and providing new opportunities for traditional embroiderers. These works, initiated by questioning the societal role of art, now represent the value of local community and the artist's belief in a renewed communal society.
The square canvas works on the second floor acknowledges the animated imagination of the artist. A knight battling a dragon, a clown and monkey hiding in the dense Indonesian jungle, figures wearing t-shirts amidst a backdrop of blooming flowers are depicted through their eyes. The eyes of these characters expose very little about their hidden personalities. The artist repurposes the image of masked identities to reflect the chaos, discrimination, and violence witnessed throughout history, veiled by a façade of democracy, equality, and peace. The emotional commotion that Nugroho has experienced in his longing for harmony and peace is revealed through his vivid brushstrokes that fill the scenes of his paintings, as though taken out of a panel from a comic strip.
Eko Nugroho (b.1977, Indonesia) has held solo exhibitions at Asia Society, New York (2017); Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney (2016); and Musee d'Art Moderne, Paris (2012) and has actively participated in notable exhibitions at international institutions including Singapore Art Museum (2017); Frankfurter Kuntstverein, Frankfurt (2015); Gwangju Biennale (2014); Venice Biennale, Indonesia Pavilion (2013); Leon Biennale (2009); and Busan Biennale (2008) as the representative of not only Indonesia but also Asia. By leading the Wayang Bokor Theater, which reinterprets traditional Indonesian puppet theater, and DGTMB(Dagingtumbuh) Comics as well as collaborating on projects with corporations such as Samsung Galaxy (2017) and Louis Vuitton Collection (2013), the artist continues to expand the horizon of his artistic career through performance, crafts, and design.
“The solo exhibition Lost in Parody wishes to call into question universal values, about what is peace, democracy, borders, ideologies, togetherness, or our future. In these works, I want to bring out the theme of reading the phenomena that are taking place around us and in the world today as a parody. These types of humorous imitations are also present in our lives and even minds. Peace is always talked about but there is actually no place on earth that truly lives in peace; we are still using methods like the war as a strategy to 'harmonize’. It is also about how democracy is still glorified in a context where we are still putting borders between each other because of our different skin color and ideologies. We are united to divide. We always talk about beautiful and pretty things but we actually use a gross and horrid language to carry them out. Lost in Parody is also a part of my search on what happens on this earth with all its hustle and bustle. We come to laugh at it together, at what is democracy, togetherness, love, and peace. I think this parody is interesting and beautiful, and I am part of it while also making it, but I am lost in all these.” – Eko Nugroho’s Artist Statement, 2020