Rio Simatupang is an Indonesian painter and mixed media artist who operates under the name Lampurio. Having grown up in Palu, East Indonesia with close family members who are survivors of the communal violence in Poso, concepts of justice and kinship are central topics of exploration within his pieces.

Lampurio has also created an inclusive art space in his hometown called The Rumah Hutan Drupadi (The Drupadi Jungle Home), an art space. As its name suggests, the space is a cabin in the jungles of Palu where anyone is invited to participate in or host workshops and art studies. To reflect on his efforts towards achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals of Reduced Inequalities and Quality Education, Pia Diamandis sat down with Lampurio to dive into his practice and experiences.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself? You grew up in Palu, Central Sulawesi. How has this background influenced your work?

I was born in Poso, Central Sulawesi, but I grew up in Palu, the capital of the Central Sulawesi province. Since I was a child I’ve always loved to draw, quite intensely. In elementary school, I took it more seriously than the other kids my age. 

However, I actually only started to seriously paint, as a visual artist not too long ago, only in 2015. Before that, I had worked as a photographer. This was because I had studied communication sciences and there was a focus on journalism that required me to master both photography and videography. That was where I began to explore visual art. I started to take documentary photos. Making short films and video art. 

I did my undergraduate studies at the National "Veteran" Development University in Yogyakarta, which began in 2004 and finished in 2011. My interest in visual art was cultivated and supported by the city. Jogja (sic) was and is still considered to be a significant player in the Indonesian art ecosystem. 

Lampurio with his painting, Tentara (Soldier). Image courtesy of Dunia Art Gallery and Tutura.

Everywhere you went you’d find yourself exposed to the arts, an environment which is also supported by the National Indonesian Institute of Arts’ presence in the city. Art exhibitions happened at every corner, both exclusive and inclusive. Art discussions and alternative spaces to present your works also sprouted across the city. I learned a lot from Yogyakarta and it did influence me to be fully involved in the art system. 

In 2013 I moved to Bali, where again, I met different artists and was involved in several art collectives, further involving me in the arts. Then in 2014, I returned to Palu, where I created an open art space called Rumah Hutan Drupadi (The Drupadi Jungle Home). Together with fellow artists in Palu, we managed the space, and that was when I started painting. Something I have been doing to this day. 

Help Each Other (left) and Think Before Sharing (right) by Lampurio. Image courtesy of @lampurio/Instagram.

A few weeks ago I saw your pieces at the Unconditional Love exhibition at Neha.hub, Jakarta and heard that these pieces are a reflection of the Poso Riots. Can you tell us more about these works?

The Poso riots in 2000 was a religious and racially motivated conflict. Many victims lost their lives to the bloody incident. Including my cousins, family and relatives who lived in my village. They had to leave their homes as they were burned by enemies. They had to flee, walk for miles, hide in the rainforests, try to survive with what little food they had. They had to sneak around to find alternative roads that would lead them safely out of the conflict zone, safely to another village, or anywhere safe. 

I heard these stories directly from my mother's older sibling, also a refugee of the Poso conflict. They emotionally recalled those events to my mother when I was an elementary school boy, wide-eyed and getting goosebumps at every minute of the story. 

Help Each Other by Lampurio. Image courtesy of @lampurio/Instagram.

The two works shown in Unconditional Love are my interpretations of this collective memory. In a way it’s not just about the Poso incident, but also of other humanitarian conflicts in Indonesia. Through my pieces, I tried to share two points of views, one on trying to maintain kinship with people and one on choosing not to spread hatred. Hence the pieces were titled, Help Each Other and Think Before Sharing

I wanted to emphasize that maintaining coexistence takes a conscious effort, maintaining warmth in a kinship can become our strength, so that we cannot be divided. This is something that needs to be supported and strengthened by our individual intellectual understanding. So that we are not easily instigated or pushed to spread hatred from whatever source of information. When we do not know the truth behind a certain piece of information, and we don’t know what sharing that certain information would do, we need to be able to consciously filter this sort of malicious information and consider it carefully. We need to be mature and think critically.

Think Before Sharing by Lampurio. Image courtesy of @lampurio/Instagram.

I see that you work with various mediums —  from stencils, to wood cut prints, acrylics, photography and videography. Can you tell me a bit about why you’ve worked with these mediums? Also, which medium are you currently working on and why?

I see art, visual art, as having the freedom to explore. Hence the various media I use are used to present different ideas. I do not limit myself to just one medium in my work, for me, every medium has its own artistic path. It's up to the artist to decide which medium to use to convey their ideas. Currently, I am using acrylic on canvas, as it is easier to work with, and comes with tools and materials that are also easy to obtain.

Open wall piece by Lampurio. Image courtesy of @lampurio/Instagram.

I see that you often depict figures with two stacked eyes, one on top and one below. That can easily be recognized as your work, what is the significance of this figure for you?

Yes, that's mostly true, I do draw a side profile of a face portrait with two stacked eyes. I imagine that this character has four eyes when faced from the front. Semiotically, I want to share that two eyes are not enough when looking at something. We need other eyes to look at things, which means we need other points of view to support any sort of face-front information we encounter. 

Selfishness often causes conflict, arrogance often causes conflict and radicalism often causes extreme division. Just like what happened in Poso. That's why we need other points of view for us to consider, we need to carefully study things before making decisions.

What has been your experience so far as an artist from Eastern Indonesia?

It's fun, and basically, work can be done anywhere. What makes a place different are the audiences, appreciation and presentation space.

What we have in Palu may not be available in Jakarta, yet the appreciation we get in Palu may not be available in Jakarta, and so on. These dynamics make the art ecosystem dynamic. If Jakarta artists want to feel the appreciation of Palu's audience, of course, they have to go to Palu. Likewise, we in Palu have to go to Jakarta if we want to encounter Jakarta’s audiences.

Photograph of Lampurio at work. Image courtesy of Siasat Partikelir.

You managed an alternative art learning space called Rumah Hutan Drupadi (The Drupadi Jungle Home) in Palu. What are the challenges that come with it and what are your hopes for its future?

The space existed between 2014 and 2017. Rumah Hutan Drupadi (The Drupadi Jungle Home) was built by my friends and I as an open space for art. An inclusive space that’s open to anyone who would want to work together, process together and share their knowledge and expertise. It was a space to learn from one another and increase each other's capacity and eventually grow together. 

In 2016, Drupadi’s physical space was burned down by an unknown person. The fire destroyed all our works to dust. To this day we still don't know who did such a terrible thing to us, but now we’ve made peace with it. 

Still, we grew and carried on with our journey. The space may no longer exist spatially, but the emotional bond between its members remain till now. I am now based in Jakarta, other friends are in other places with their own activities. Still, we often speak through social media or WhatsApp groups. Hopefully somewhere down the line, my friends and I would be able to get together and recreate Rumah Hutan Drupadi’s space and programs. I’m optimistic that we’ll manage to do it. Amen to that.

Photograph of Lampurio in front of his piece by Rocky Marinus (@rockymarinus). Image courtesy of @lampurio/Instagram.

A Siasat Partikelir article from 2018 also discusses the concept of justice as one of the main concepts in your work. In 2024, how has your view of justice changed? Do you have any ideas to create new works on the concept?

My concept of justice continues to develop. To this day, I still favour and depict justice in my pieces. I’m interested in justice in the relationship between humans and nature, in justice between humankind and other living things, and in justice between one human being and another. Justice between women and men, justice between adults and children, justice between majority and minority, justice between ourselves and various other forms of justice. Justice is still the guiding principle in my pieces.

I just finished a 9-piece series, titled Perjamuan Peradaban (Banquet of Civilizations) about the importance of every single person’s job in society. I believe there is no job, career or profession that is not important. Even the harmful jobs of criminals are "important" and have something to teach us as a society and as a human being. 

When looking at criminals it should get us to think about how to help them improve their quality of life and how to have justice favour everyone. So that somewhere down the line, in the future, people would no longer have to be criminals just to fulfil their basic necessities.

Each profession, I believe, is an integral cog in the great machine of civilization.

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