in conversation with: Evi Pangestu

Indonesian-born painter Evi Pangestu is known for her sole use of neon yellow – her favourite highlighter colour. Currently residing in Oakland, the United States, Evi was trained at Indonesia’s leading art school, Institut Seni Indonesia, and later transferred to the Birmingham School of Art. After her BA, she pursued an MA in Painting at the Royal College of Art. Just like us in quarantine, she spent too much time on Animal Crossing.

You went to one of Indonesia’s most prestigious art schools – Institut Seni Indonesia Yogyakarta, then you transferred to schools in Birmingham and London. What made you move to the UK?

My practice was moving towards a direction that I believe would develop better if I experience what’s on the other side of the world. I was heavily interested and inspired by the YBA as well, so that was one of the major deciding factors. 

Do you have a routine/ ritual before you start working? Coffee? Cigarettes? Classical music? 

Definitely coffee or tea depends on the mood, water, and a good breakfast! :)

where's_the_frame?_young_artist_Evi_Pangestu
"Stretched Square", 2020, Acrylic on canvas, 30 x 30 cm

Can you please describe your artwork as if you were talking to someone who can’t see?

If I describe some artwork from the Squaring Square series: Painting of a square in neon yellow, on an altered surface structure that forces itself towards the viewer. Imagine a square wooden stretcher frame that has a piece of wood added to it, wrapped tightly by canvas that pulls against the uneven composition; while being pushed to fit the resisting structure. In the middle, almost occupying the entire surface but leaving little gap to the edges, is a painting of one neon yellow square, like the color of highlighter marker. The painting shows a perfect square only if you see from a distance with a straight front perspective.

 

In your recent works, you mainly use a neon yellow as your dominant color. What does it mean to you? 

Neon yellow in my opinion is the perfect color for a highlighter so I use it as a contrast tool to highlight the modification I create. I also really love yellow.

where's_the_frame?_young_artist_Evi_Pangestu
"Outstretched Square", 2020, Acrylic on canvas, 30 x 30 cm

You also use a lot of dented/out-of-bounds/uneven canvas, can you please tell us about your process in creating it?

I always start by making the wooden stretcher frame, then I carve / break some part of the wood using a blade or chisel. For the added structure, I normally find pieces of wood from mine or someone else’s off-cuts, sometimes I have to make my own too if I want them in some particular thickness. Once I’m sure with where I want to place them, I stick the wood to the frame and secure it. I check if there’s part I need to sand before stretching the canvas onto the modified frame, apply layers of gesso and finally paint on it.  

However, I’m currently on a pause from the wood structural composition work due to space limitation. My most recent work these days have been experimenting more with the canvas on conventional structures.

Since we are not able to visit you in your studio, can you please describe your workspace?

My workspace is still a bit abstract right now. I am currently on my way to Oakland, where my main studio is going to be, at least for the coming months. It’s in the basement of my house. I’ve been constantly moving since I graduated. And since the lockdown started I have moved to four different houses, transforming the living room into my studio. 

where's_the_frame?_young_artist_Evi_Pangestu
"Almost Squaring Square", 2020, Acrylic on canvas, 30 x 30.5 cm

What is your opinion on Ruangrupa in becoming the next curator for Documenta 15?

It’s a huge exciting opportunity! The concept they propose is brilliant, with a strong root to culture and collectivity, it touches critical contemporary concerns that need to be reflected. I believe it will be a fresh perspective for the event.

 

What’s the weirdest thing that you ever encounter in the streets of London?

£10 note!!

where's_the_frame?_young_artist_Evi_Pangestu
"Squaring Square", 2020, Acrylic on canvas, 29.9 x 32 cm

Do you have any life soundtrack? Like when a sad song comes in and you pretend that you’re in a music video, kind of song. 

For now it’s Bubblegum K. K. I’ve spent too much time on Animal Crossing..

 

What’s next for you in 2020/2021?

The nearest from now in 2020 is an online group show TOUCH ME. I was informed that it will be up in the end of August, and I will share on Instagram when I have the exact details. 

2021: Group and solo show in Ruang Dini in Bandung, Indonesia. Residency with Paradise Air in Matsudo, Japan. and hopefully coming back to Barreiro, Portugal for PADA Studios too!

All photos courtesy of the artist.