Masks to unmask society

Masks to unmask society
Indonesian artist Eko Nugroho's exhibition features photos of Singapore Tyler Print Institute staff wearing big masks that he made, including Miss Nor Jumaiyah (both left), who stood in a taxi queue with a mask on.

SINGAPORE - Indonesian artist Eko Nugroho's art is heavily influenced by Japanese cartoons and traditional wayang puppet theatre. In the past, he has used embroidery to create characters who often sport superhero masks.

This year, during his six-week residency at the Singapore Tyler Print Institute, he had the chance to experiment even more with mask forms. Working with paper for the first time, he created large masks, which the institute's staff were made to wear in everyday settings.

The result is a rather ununusual solo show titled We Are What We Mask, which is on at the institute till Oct 9. On display are 40 of the 70 artworks that the artist created during his residency. They are priced from $6,000 to $30,000.

This solo exhibition has the feel of community involvement, thanks to the photo-documentation of the masks. The works show the institute's staff wearing the masks in settings including a coffee shop, hawker centre, park and taxi queue.

Eko, 36, tells Life!: "I was thinking of ways to challenge my artistic ideas centred on masks. I am intrigued by masks because I often find that in modern society, we are always putting on masks."

The idea, he says, could have ended with just creating paper masks and displaying them, but he was curious to see what sort of reaction they would generate when put into real settings.

"I wanted a conversation, a collaboration, an interaction with my masks. If I were to put these same masks on on the streets of Yogjakarta, where I live, no one would be surprised. Singapore is different.

It is a very modern city. I wanted to see how people would react."

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