The Boundary Pushing Artist Challenging Structural Norms

It was at the opening night for The Rigg Design Prize where I first came across Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran’s sculptural ceramic work. Nestled there, in the back of Flack Studio’s incredible room ‘We’ve Boundless Plains To Share’ was Ramesh’s piece, a bright yellow creature with enormous eyes, staring back at the audience, its crudely painted mouth grinning out at some of the country’s most influential design crowd. It took someone else to alert me to the fact that there was a ceramic penis poking out from the between its big, googly eyes.

‘How have you never heard of Ramesh?’ artist Sean Meilak asked Annie Portelli and I, when we pointed the piece out to him. (He actually asked, ‘how have you never heard of @rams_deep69?’ referring to the artist’s infamous Instagram handle). Consider my interest piqued.

Sally Tabart

Inside the Sydney studio of artist Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran. Photo – Nikki To for The Design Files.

Ramesh’s brazen, playful work challenges structural norms. Photo – Nikki To for The Design Files.

Ramesh with one of his larger-than-life sculptural works in a studio in his parent’s garage. Photo – Nikki To for The Design Files.

Hand-building in the studio. Photo – Nikki To for The Design Files.

Photo – Nikki To for The Design Files.

Photo – Nikki To for The Design Files.

Photo – Nikki To for The Design Files.

Ramesh initially majored in painting and drawing while studying Fine Art, before discovering ceramics and sculpture late in his masters.  Photo – Nikki To for The Design Files.

Photo – Nikki To for The Design Files.

Photo – Nikki To for The Design Files.

Sally Tabart
18th of December 2018

Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran has been showing his work in galleries from a young age. Although when he was a kid, the gallery was the walls in his family home, and his artworks were texta and crayon scribbles on pieces of A4 paper.

These days, the Sri Lankan-born, Sydney-based artist is represented by Sullivan + Strumpf, and his ceramic sculptures have been exhibited in some of the country’s most prestigious art institutions, including the National Gallery of Australia, where at age 28 he was the youngest artist in the gallery’s history to show a solo exhibition, Mud Men, in 2016.

‘Reflecting on my life growing up, I always loved art but was also quite academic. I loved learning about the histories and ideas that informed a work’, Ramesh tells me, ‘I remember being taught a very Eurocentric art history, so I didn’t really know anything else besides European modernism and a few contemporary Australian artists.’ He went on to study Fine Arts at the University of New South Wales, where he majored in painting and drawing. It wasn’t until late in his masters that he started to work with ceramics and sculpture, and ‘never looked back, really’.

Often featuring elements of self-portrait, Ramesh’s wobbly, playful creatures challenge mainstream constructions of history, gender, sex and religion. His creations often display both male and female organs simultaneously, exploring notions of gender fluidity. My work is ‘a meditation of patriarchal structures, and the way they manifest’, the artist explains.  Interestingly, Ramesh’s totemic sculptures have an uncanny ability to capture your attention, without demanding it. They’re minding their own business, existing unapologetically, in all their freakish, endearing glory.

This year has been formative for the 30-year-old artist, presenting large-scale installations at the 2018 Art Basel in Hong Kong and at the 2018 Dhaka Art Summit, in addition to solo a show in Singapore, and having his ‘Mud Men’ included in a group show at the Bega Valley Regional Gallery (on now until February 9th). Soon he’ll move from working out of his parent’s garage, into a studio in Rydalmere managed by Parramatta Artist Studios. ‘It will be the best space I’ve ever worked in,’ Ramesh enthuses. ‘Super excited about getting back into painting and drawing’ and with a number of shows in the works (including at a sculpture museum in Jaipur, India), Ramesh shows no signs of slowing down in 2019!

Ramesh’s work is currently part of the group exhibition ‘South / East Interference Vol. 2‘  at Bega Valley Regional Gallery, on from December 15th 2018 – February 9th 2019. 

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