Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran: In The Beginning

On a whim, after randomly stumbling across a photo of a brightly colourful, small clay human-like sculpture, I went to the Ian Potter Museum of Art to check out Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran’s new exhibition, In The Beginning. And so, as a completely uneducated, but definitely inspired, gallerygoer I’ll attempt to express my experience.

I’ve never been to the Ian Potter Museum of Art, so the fun of going somewhere new – making my way across the city, hopping on the right tram (not hard, they all go in the right direction along Swanson St) and then locating the actual building amongst the other grey scales of Melbourne University – was exciting enough.

Up two flights of stairs and past the group visits roaming through the other exhibitions, Remesh’s begins with words from the Curatorial Manager, Jacqueline Doughty.

Introduction to In The Beginning by Curatorial Manager, Jacqueline Dougherty. Photo: Roxanne Fitzgerald

And then you’re hit with vibrant walls, one hot-pink another yellow, tagged and drawn. Created over just one week before the exhibition began by Nithiyendran and a team of installation designers, big child-like chalk drawings of naked humans and big words that let you know where you are and who you are seeing cover the walls.

The clay sculptures are like distorted tribal people or jesters, with odd length limbs, freakish grins, real human hair and false teeth. Exuberantly colourful and glittered and jeweled, Nithiyendran completes his creations in unorthodox ways by painting the sculptures after they have been fired, “a complete no no for purists,” Jacqueline Doughty writes in the Curator’s essay.

One of the many sculptures by Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran. Photo: Roxanne Fitzgerald

I wander through, really examining each sculpture. Because while there is a common theme, each one is individual. I notice oddly placed vases and preserved snakes, little paintings hung too high up to have any meaning. And I notice that Nithiyendran does not shy away from the penis.

“His wildly mishapen characters act as avatars through which to explore gender and eroticism, religion and popular culture, exoticism and outsider aesthetics”, Doughty writes in her profoundly insightful review.

I wonder what message Nithiyendran really wants to express with all the layers of elements to his exhibition, regardless of what we the gallerygoers perceive. It’s more than impressive sculptures.

After I’d wandered through, mostly in mesmiration, my perplexed curiosity led me to the front desk for more information. I was handed a copy of the Curator’s Essay, which includes an amazing array of photographs of the exhibition, and a multitude of unexpected explanations that pull the whole exhibition together – it’s a must read.

In The Beginning is showing for free until February 26th at the Ian Potter Museum of Art. It makes for a wonderful afternoon of in-your-face art and expression. And to check out Nithiyendrans previous works head to his website here.

Written by Roxanne Fitzgerald

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