having noticed that there are not very many public monuments that celebrate non-White or non-Colonial figures, ramesh mario Nithiyendran tried to envision a different kind of way of memorialising people who slip through the cracks of what is considered acceptable.
ramesh mario nithiyendran
2-10 February 2018 | Dhaka Art Summit
Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran fled Sri Lanka at the age of one with his Tamil Hindu father and Christian Burgher mother, escaping religious and ethnic persecution during the civil war. While he himself is not religious, the artist felt naturally drawn to the temple where he learned about a polytheistic view of the world, with multi-gendered gods who could change forms. Nithiyendran noticed that there were not very many public monuments in existence that celebrated non-White or non-Colonial figures, and by considering temple iconography and Brutalist architecture, which captivated his imagination in terms of scale and authority, the artist tried to envision a different kind of way of memorialising people who slip through the cracks of what is considered acceptable. While homosexuality remains illegal in most of South Asia due to draconian British laws, the recognition of multiple genders has gained legal standing due to complex indigenous understandings of gender.
Nithiyendran’s work references totems and indigenous clay toys, found in villages around South Asia, attempting to create a mythology of a post-gender world, over which his towering figures preside. In this newly commissioned body of work, Nithiyendran creates 21st century deities in drag, whose dripping multi-coloured glazes pay homage to the famously colourful festivals of South Asia such as Holi and Pohela Boishakh.
Commissioned and Produced by Samdani Art Foundation and Artspace, Sydney for DAS 2018 with support from the Australia Council for the Arts. Courtesy of the artist, Samdani Art Foundation, Artspace Sydney, and Sullivan + Strumpf. Co-curated by Diana Campbell Betancourt, Alexie Glass-Kantor, and Michelle Newton.