Megan Nugroho (b. 1998, Tangerang, Indonesia) is a Chinese-Indonesian artist based in New York. Her recent works explore themes of wildness, the natural and the alien body in interaction with the environment. She creates colored pencil drawings to evoke childlike and magical perspectives. Nugroho was an AXA Art Prize Finalist and she has shown at the New York Academy of Art, Fortnight Institute, 80WSE Gallery, and more. Her work has recently been featured in Artmaze Magazine, Friend of the Artist, and Visionary Art Collective. Nugroho holds an MFA from NYU Steinhardt and a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Thank you for joining us, Megan. Can you tell us a little about yourself?
Hello! My name is Megan Nugroho. I’m a Chinese-Indonesian artist currently based in Brooklyn. I grew up in Indonesia. It’s a place I hold very special in my heart; a truly magical land. A place where the supernatural exists like no other. To tell you about myself, is to describe Indonesia, trying not to sound nationalistic. It’s a place so full of unraveled history that I embrace and, of course, some ugly parts too.
I find my work is very much informed by my experience living there and adjacent to my experience living here in the US. I’ve always felt like I’m trying to grasp where to call home. Now I’ve quit trying to settle and call one place home. I accept that life is constantly in flux and that being uprooted is just as important as being rooted.
What ideas are you exploring in your practice? Is there a specific topic or theme that you are interested in?
My work traverses a lot around how our belief systems work, the supernatural, nature and the body. They all just weave together harmoniously in my head. Currently, I’ve been making work that reimagines how our human body is in relationship to nature. I’m interested in the language of plants visually, the way roots and branches form and how us humans either imitate or resist. I’m making drawings of the body and plants connecting. I am also very inspired with the form of Javanese Sanskrit, a slowly disappearing language. My mom recently taught me how to read and write in this form. Visually it really mimics the movement of nature, so I’m finding ways to integrate them in my work like a code.
The Javanese Sanskrit, in a way, feels like an enchantment to me. A piece in my work that activates magic. As someone who grew up in Indonesia, the supernatural is part of our everyday conversation; a culmination of animist origins and a combination of religions brought it through migration and colonization. Now that I live in the US, I’m so fascinated with the supernatural. I’m constantly trying to keep the magic I took for granted in Indonesia alive. All of this comes through in the drawings I make.
Do you have a mentor or piece of advice that inspired you as a creative?
I’m so grateful for the support that I’ve gotten from my family, friends and mentors. Many things have been said and I think that the most importantly is to believe in the work that you make and letting yourself flow where the work takes you. Also that every ideas and inspiration really matters, even the smallest one; to take care of each idea is like tending a fire as someone said to me once. I only recently understood what this meant after I left grad school feeling like I’m out of inspiration, that I’ve broken the momentum. And that’s ok! Things come and go and it’s nothing is forever.
What does “community” mean to you? How do you see yourself in a community?
Community is your support system. Like plants, fungi, soil, the weather; everything is connected, generated from each other. Without community, there’s no room for myself to grow. Love matters, it’s what keeps the community going.
What are you working on right now?
Currently, I’m having a two-person show with a dear Indonesian friend of mine, Samuel Alexander Forest. Our show is called Bahasa Bumi/Land Language at Tutu Gallery. April and Tutu have generously shared their space for us to share our work. The gallery is located in Bed-stuy, Brooklyn. Tutu Gallery is really special, because we were really able to explore where our works could go through thinking about site specificity of the space. April and Tutu have created such a tight community from every show that’s been put up in the space.
Samuel and I really wanted to bring our Southeast Asian perspective into this show. It’s inspired by nature and magic in Indonesia. Samuel has made paper sculptures of Indonesian mountains that are cloaked in mysticism, whereas I made works inspired by the natural environment with magic activated through reimagined plants, symbols, and creatures. It’s an exhibition of myths, reimagining where we came from in a new space.
Is there any advice that you would offer to others?
Always make time for your practice; even if it’s very minimal, it matters, but also remember to rest. Be okay with taking a break. I know that my art practice can’t flourish in exhaustion.
text & photo courtesy of Megan Nugroho
recommended by Tutu Gallery