Art: Eko Nugroho

THE LIGHT ON EKO. Eko Nugroho is no stranger to both art and fashion spheres.

Having exhibited his works in Singapore, Venice, California, Hong Kong and Berlin, among others, Nugroho’s artwork is identical with socio-political issues and becomes one of the most sought-after Indonesian contemporary pieces. His prominent collaboration with fashion’s most celebrated luxury brand, Louis Vuitton, only cements his stature as both a prolific and very successful artist to date.

Foulard D’Artistes par Louis Vuitton (2013)

How did you become an artist, especially a painter?
Since early in life I have always been fond of drawing. The wall was, and still is, my medium. This was obviously a problem for my parents [laughs]. After I finished junior high school, a friend of mine suggested me to enter a school equivalent of high school in Yogyakarta that specifically focuses on drawing. I pursued my passion for painting there and, post-graduation in 1997, I continued my study at ISI, which stands for Institut Seni Indonesia (Art Institute of Indonesia). It took me nine arduous years to finally graduate, due to my involvement in a number of projects during college. All this education, I can say, made me well-rounded as an artist.

The Traveler 1 and 2 (2010)

Where is this fascinating collaboration with Louis Vuitton coming from?
The brand contacted me first via email. Then I was invited to a meeting in Hong Kong. From the discussion I was informed that I am actually entitled to doing what I want. I really have a lot of respect for Louis Vuitton, because they treat me as an artist who creates artwork, instead of someone who designs a product. That was, so to speak, not my first contact with Louis Vuitton. In 2012 I did take part in Espace Louis Vuitton Singapore, an innovative space for cultural and artistic expression, which held an exhibition titled “Transfiguration – Indonesian Mythologies” that year. The curator in that exhibition, Hervé Mikaeloff, asked me later to participate in another project in Paris – apart from Louis Vuitton though. I eventually lived in Paris for five months to finish the project and did a solo exhibition in Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. From there my relationship with Paris and also Louis Vuitton intrinsically grows.

Hidden Violence: Contemporary Wayang Performance (2009)

Tell us the creative process for the Louis Vuitton project.
Louis Vuitton, for one, really supports me by giving much freedom to use whatever method for the painting. So instead of working digitally, I decided to paint on a 1.5 x 2m canvas, took a photo of it, and sent the image to the company. Subsequently, they reconstructed the painting and reduced it to a decent design file so that it will fit the shape of the fabric. For this specific work, I attempt to illustrate Indonesia’s biodiversity on canvas. I combine the elements of soil, water and air, with richness of colors. This is what democracy really is – how all various pieces can be assembled into one puzzle. The black color is my personal symbol, which ties all differences together.