Profiles of accomplished embroiderers abound in the blogosphere, the same names going round and round as each blogger picks up on a trend…the flavor of the month…the craft community’s current feature and interview darling. To a small-time blog author, following the trends and featuring the same über embroiderers can be a dilemma. I’d like the same inspiring content as the bigger blogs, but to toddle along behind and squeakily repeat news that has just been broadcasted by megaphone doesn’t actually contribute much more to the community. If anything, it makes the blog look and smell like yesterday’s cheese sandwich.
So I’ve tried to cast my line a bit further outside of the crowded craft pond. I know I’ll never truly discover a fresh new über embroiderer on the internet…the fact that they were found on the internet means someone has come across them before. But I can at least try to highlight lesser known (at least to the craft communities) artists whose practices flourish beyond the mainstream enclosures of the heavily feminine, white, and English-speaking embroidery universe.
And I stumbled upon young Indonesian artist Eko Nugroho. Born in Yogyakarta, 34-year-old Eko’s bold, graphic works of paint, fabric appliqué, quilting, machine and hand stitching employ the very same visual language of Asian pop-culture comic books, third-world urban environments, and political themes—of struggling economy, post-colonial legacy, established violence and poverty, awareness of oneself as Outsider—that I grew up with in Manila.
It was with relief that I curled up and made myself at home within the worlds of Eko’s textiles, which struck me as being very plain-spoken, guileless, and earnest…in sharp contrast to the recent empty-calories diet of stitched owls, childish motifs, and what now seems a really frivolous fixation with the trappings of a facile, spectacle lifestyle.
The following write up about Nugroho’s recent exhibitions and his current projects comes from the Art Gallery of South Australia‘s Eko Chamber page:
For the first time the Art Gallery of South Australia will exhibit the work of Contemporary Indonesian artist Eko Nugroho (b.1977). The Eko Chamber, on display from November 18th 2011 to January 29th 2012, will include two suites of large embroidered wall hangings from 2009 and 2011.
The works included in The Eko Chamber epitomize the eclectic nature of Nugroho’s practice which is influenced as much by wayang kulit (shadow puppet theatre) as comic books and graffiti on the streets of his hometown of Yogyakarta. Eko Nugroho’s work evokes a sense of play while simultaneously confronting the challenges of contemporary life in his country. This is best illustrated by his polychromatic embroidered works from 2011 which combine hybrid cartoon creatures depicted in day-glo colours and slogans in Indonesian.
Included in the The Eko Chamber is Invasions, first exhibited in 2009 in Beyond the Dutch at the Centraal Museum, Utrecth, Netherlands. While Invasions includes a wide range of iconographic staples of Nugroho’s visual vocabulary, such as masked heads and truncated robotic limbs, the absence of colour and the title of the work reference the Dutch colonization of Indonesia and the unaddressed trauma of this history which Nugroho believes continue to haunt his society.
Currently Eko Nugroho is an artist in residence in Paris creating a solo exhibition for the Musee d’Art Moderne de le Ville de Paris (2012) and is included in Beyond the Self: Contemporary Portraiture in Asia a travelling exhibition in Australia. His work was also included in Closing the Gap at Melbourne International Fine Art (2011) and has participated in a number of major international shows, including the Busan Biennale in Korea (2008); Wind from the East at the Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art in Helsinki, Finland (2007); The 5th Asia-Pacific Triennial in Brisbane, Australia (2006).
- über embroiderers: Takashi Iwasaki (smallestforest.net)
- 2 dead, dozens more missing after boat sinks off Indonesian coast (cnn.com)
- Eko Oni Baje; Outside the Adverts. (ogadante.wordpress.com)