Outside The Box
Esquire Singapore|August 2020
Outside The Box
With work that refuses to be defined by a single medium, artist Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran is charting new territory— and attracting attention right around the world.
Mitchell Oakley Smith
It’s tempting when examining an artist’s work to place it in the canon of a singular medium or, even more specifically, a genre or period. Compartmentalising artworks— 20th century American abstract expressionism, for example—means we’re able to compare and contrast, ultimately helping us to form an opinion. And while academic contemporary art discourse would have us believe that medium is secondary to ideas, there’s nothing wrong with this approach as it helps to set a bar for the artistic quality or economic value of works. But then you look at the work of Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran—which comprises no less than bronze sculpture, painting and ceramics, often in a singular piece—and all of those categorical specifics become quickly, and almost wholly, irrelevant.

“I do think it’s productive to describe an artist’s work by medium at times because it helps provide an access point, but I use materials that I like to use, which I realise isn’t very cerebral. But it’s about the materials that make the most sense to what I’m trying to create or convey,” explains the artist. “I call myself an artist, quite simply; if I just call myself a ceramicist or painter I feel uncomfortable with that.”

The Sri Lankan-born, Australian-raised artist was due to have shown an exhibition, entitled Polymorphous Figures, at the Singapore outpost of his commercial gallery, Sullivan+Strumpf, earlier this year. Then came the pandemic that put a swift end to the transportation of the 25 works from his Sydney studio, the exhibition moving instead to a digital showroom. When we spoke, Nithiyendran was originally due to be in India, where he’s working on an installation for the new Sculpture Park in Jaipur, as part of a blockbuster year that would see him regularly on planes around Asia Pacific, such is his growing reputation as one of the leading artists of his generation.

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August 2020