Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran - Idols of Mud and Water
The first solo exhibition in the UK and Europe for the Sydney-based artist
Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran was born in Colombo, Sri-Lanka in 1988 and has lived in Australia since 1989. He crafts exuberant ceramic sculptures inspired by global histories of figuration, as well as contemporary influences.
Evoking ancient deities or totemic idols, his ritualistic sculptures gesture to shared histories, multiplicity and plural cultural identities. Colourful, hybrid, human-animal sculptures echo the coexistent belief systems that reflect the artist’s own ancestry, inspired by iconography and mythological narratives from across South Asia.
Exploring these themes through a contemporary lens, Ramesh’s sculptures explore his own multifarious influences. Though they resemble ancient idols, his figures are often adorned in contemporary fashions or reflect a queer sensibility. Lathered in colourful glazes and adopting playful poses, they are often performative or engaged in some form of heightened display, introducing electricity, neon and other contemporary raw elements into an otherwise ancient visual language.
For Idols of Mud and Water, Ramesh dramatically populates Tramway's main gallery with a melange of multi-limbed, fertility, guardian, protector, joker and warrior figures. This new body of sculptures is housed amongst an improvised, makeshift architectural ‘temple’ structure, made from a range of repurposed materials including bamboo, scaffolding and recycled timber. Connected by a narrative of mud and water, the installation evokes the feeling that visitors are entering a flooded ruin or a space of dreams and divinations. Tramway becomes, in the artist’s words, a ‘buzzing mythological playground’ in which queer politics, anthropomorphism, monumentality and popular culture combine to create new, speculative mythologies.
Funded by Creative Australia, Creative Scotland and the Henry Moore Institute
More about Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran
Nithiyendran received his BA/BFA from the University of New South Wales in 2011 and a MFA from the University of New South Wales in 2013. His work had been exhibited widely in solo and group shows internationally, including: Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, Delhi (2023); Sharjah Art Foundation, Sharjah (2022); Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney (2022); The Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, New South Wales (2021); Melbourne Art Foundation, Melbourne (2020); Sullivan + Strumpf, Sydney (2019); Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre, Casula (2019); Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne (2016); The National Gallery of Australia, Canberra (2016); Dhaka Art Summit, Dhaka (2016); Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art, Adelaide (2016); Kuandu Biennale, Taipei (2016); Shepparton Art Museum, Victoria (2015); Gallery 9, Sydney (2015).
Image: Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran in his studio with some of the sculptures for The Guardians, Sullivan and Strumpf, October 2021
Photo by Jessica Maurer
Below: Watch a short film following Ramesh as he prepares for the Sullivan + Strumpf exhibition Undergod (2023).
6 minutes 36 seconds.