Ramesh Nithiyendran: Mud men

Installation on display until 26 February 2017
Contemporary galleries | Lower Ground 1
Free entry

Mud men is a new installation by Sydney-based artist Ramesh Nithiyendran featuring five large-scale ceramic sculptures, commissioned specifically for the National Gallery of Australia.

Built on an attitude of agitation, and ostentatious in style, the sculptures of Ramesh Nithiyendran appear to strut and shout, Look at me! I'm raw and garish. I'm atheist, Hindu, Christian, feminist, queer and gender fluid. I'm exotic and everyday. Reactions to his installations run the gamut of emotive spectatorship, from fits of giggles, wonderment and critical celebration to rankle and disgust.

Ramesh Nithiyendran Pewter deity 2016 (detail), earthenware, glaze, gold lustre, platinum lustre, enamel, polystyrene, shells, resin dental teeth, twine, Indian human hair, wooden beads, Gyprock, rendered concrete, rubber hose

In provoking these responses, Nithiyendran has repositioned ceramics in the spotlight of the 'now'; off-sided the purists; and forced an expanded discussion of Australian contemporary art. Says Nithiyendran:

'This installation is my most ambitious project to date, representing the culmination of years of research and experimentation. While I have continued to develop works that engage primarily with ceramic media, these works for the NGA are of unprecedented scale and materiality. I have incorporated cement, concrete, sea shells, human hair, teeth, beads, cardboard, polystyrene, rubber snakes and a range of other materials.

Ramesh Nithiyendran Snake tower (detail) 2016, earthenware, glaze, gold lustre, platinum lustre, MDF, cardboard, acrylic paint, enamel

Ramesh Nithiyendran Pewter deity 2016 and Snake tower 2016 (background)

I have worked with P & S Design & Construction to engineer new forms and display devices, which has allowed me to go bigger, wilder and crazier than before! I strongly believe in the necessity of art for the creation of progressive societies and hope to excite visitors with a series of new age idols.

I have attempted to engage meaningfully with the architecture of the NGA, addressing key design features of this iconic, brutalist building in the design of the work. I have also thought deeply about the significance of exhibiting in the context of Australia's national collection. The politics of globalisation, identity, colonialism, the monument and idolatry are all weaved into this installation.

I've conceived my installation as an "Asian collection of the future". International art discourse is shifting away from Eurocentricity, and the Asia-Pacific region continues to position itself as the key contemporary art region. However, there is often a conception that an Asian collection would be primarily faith-based. My works represent a mash-up of these kinds of representations.'

Works courtesy of the artist and Sullivan + Strumpf, Sydney. This installation was made possible with the support of the De Lambert Largesse Foundation. The work was produced during an artist-in-residence program at the National Art School, Sydney.