Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran, Ashfield
Images by Andrew Butler
There’s always a sense of excitement that we feel when putting together our HOME features, but this one in particular struck a special chord. Not only because it’s the first piece we’ve been able to safely commission since Covid-19 turned the world upside down but also because we had the chance to meet an artist whose work we’ve admired for many years. Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran’s art is strong, visceral and deeply layered, both literally and figuratively. It’s concerned with politics, gender, religion and somehow feels chaotic and optimistic all at the same time. An apt allegory, perhaps, for the current climate we find ourselves in. IN BED visited Ramesh at his leafy apartment in Ashfield which he shares with his housemate Georgia Mokak and a lively 6-month old cat named Po.
Ramesh’s bed is dressed in an IN BED 100% linen fitted sheet, flat sheet and pillowslips in moss with a duvet cover and linen quilted bed cover in lake. On Ramesh’s wall is an artwork by Marikit Santiago.
“I moved into an amazing art-deco block in Ashfield at the start of the year. I love living here. It’s located in a picturesque, tree-lined street where I can see the stars at night. There’s a wonderful tone to the furnishings and amazing light.”
On Ramesh’s drawers, (left to right) is a bowl by James Lemon as well as two bronze sculptures and a painting by Ramesh.
“I work primarily as a contemporary artist out of my studio in Rydalmere. This facility is managed by Parramatta Artist Studios. I also lecture at UNSW Art & Design in Paddington. Ashfield is perfectly positioned between these locations. I grew up in Western Sydney and have always been drawn to areas that are visibly multicultural with diverse communities and architecture.
In Ramesh’s hallway is a large sculptural piece of his own and in the corner of his bedroom is a vase (left) and bowl (on drawer) by James Lemon. The vase on the right is by Angus Gardner.
“Art is central to my life. My studio is chaotic - there’s paint on the floor, massive clay things drying, kilns pumping and wigs being cut. I’m consumed by artworks in various stages of completion. Hence, I prefer my personal and living spaces to be open and minimal. As I spend most of my life in my studio consumed by my things, the art of others is most satisfying in my bedroom and home environment. Many of my close friends are artists. Hence, my collection is a combination of gifts as well as purchases I treasure. Art is about ideas. Having objects that stimulate speculation, imagination and intellectual engagement is vital.”
Art is central to my life. My studio is chaotic - there’s paint on the floor, massive clay things drying, kilns pumping and wigs being cut.
On Ramesh’s wall are two framed artworks, one by Tony Albert (left) and the other by Esme Timbery. The t-shirt that hangs beside his bed is by Archie Moore.
“I love the intimacy of Esme Timbery’s shell-worked slippers, the poignancy of Archie Moore’s This is Australia work from his Shirtfront series and the transcendence of the glass blown ghost by Nell. I’ve recently acquired a hand-coloured lithographic print from Tom Polo I’m keen to place.”
The bowls in Ramesh’s kitchen are by James Lemon and the ceramic mugs are by Luke Ryan O’Connor.
“I’ve rid myself of all mass-produced tableware. I’ve collected handmade bowls, mugs and dishes that make simple acts of eating and drinking special and mindful. Nearly all my plates and bowls are gifts from James Lemon. I love the trace of the hand and semblance to kneaded clay in these objects. There’s a humanity in them that livens their functional narratives. My Luke Ryan O’Connor mugs are my absolute favorite to drink from. There is a depth of blues in his glazes. They are also wonderful to engage haptically with.”
I’ve rid myself of all mass-produced tableware. I’ve collected handmade bowls, mugs and dishes that make simple acts of eating and drinking special and mindful.
“I’ve been making art forever. As a child, I loved to draw and assemble things imaginatively. I’ve always had an affinity with paint and expressive media. Visual culture has been central to my vernacular and engagements with the world. Professionally, I’m known primarily for my ceramic and sculptural work, but I actually trained in painting and drawing during my tertiary education at UNSW Art & Design. Over the years, I’ve been able to exhibit a diverse range of projects.These have included large-scale, immersive sculptural installations as well as more domestic scaled works. I’m currently working on my first public art work, which I am super excited about! This is the Melbourne Art Foundation/HOTA commission. It will be a five metre tall sculpture made from bronze, neon, fibreglass and concrete placed at the entrance of the new HOTA Museum in the Gold Coast.
Ramesh reads ‘The Hate Race’ by Maxine Beneba Clarke, an important account of growing up in suburban Australia during the 1980s and 1990s, and, ‘Foriegn Soil’ a collection of short fiction also by Maxine Beneba Clarke.
“I’m concerned with politics of sex, the monument, gender and religion. And particularly, the ways figurative sculpture intersects with these themes across times and cultures. I’m currently looking into more historical and vernacular sculptural works from the Asia Pacific region - with a specific focus on Buddhism and Hinduism. From a more ‘overarching’ perspective; portraiture, figuration, materiality and power are core themes that continue to have presence in my work.”
I’m concerned with politics of sex, the monument, gender and religion. And particularly, the ways figurative sculpture intersects with these themes across times and cultures.
“My creative processes are varied. Some works are produced intuitively, while others are more planned involving collaborators and fabricators. Generally speaking, I work in a series and am often producing multiple works at a time. As multiple parts of a whole, they often impact and influence each other. Community is also vital to my creative processes and the input of my peers is important. Although, If I were to describe the creation of ‘typical’ ceramic work, they generally start with a quick sketch. They are then handbuilt in clay and fired and glazed four to five times in an electric kiln to develop surfaces. The processes can take up to four weeks.”
On Ramesh’s bed is an artwork by Tjanpi Desert Weavers
“My sculptural work is promiscuous. Soft sculpture, bronze, neon, LED, fiberglass, synthetic hair and other (sometimes surprising) objects become included. I am currently meant to be in India producing a body of work for The Sculpture Park at Madhavendra Palace. Yet, I’ve been unable to travel due to travel restrictions. Hence, I’m using this time to work on a series of large-scale paintings. I would also love to explore LED lighting and neon further.”
“People are surprised when I reveal this, but I prefer to spend my time outside art commitments in subdued ways. I love to cook and think about the provenance and value of recipes. Food culture is a massive part of my life, so I’m excited for restaurants to be functioning again. I also read and experience lots of exhibitions when I can.”
“I can’t wait to travel for work again! I had exhibitions in Singapore, India and Hong Kong postponed or cancelled due to the complexities of our current health climate. Exhibiting overseas has been vital to broaden my visual language. If travel doesn’t become a possibility, I look forward to experimenting further in my studio.”
Ramesh’s bed is dressed in an IN BED 100% linen fitted sheet, flat sheet and pillowslips in moss with a duvet cover and linen quilted bed cover in lake.