Words: Rose of Sharon Leake
Set to be Australia’s largest public gallery outside of a capital city, Gold Coast’s Home of The Arts (HOTA), opens in early May. The $60.5 million project designed by Melbourne-based architects ARM, will see the contemporary cultural precinct become home to the $32 million City Collection which consists of more than 4,400 artworks, including one of the largest collections of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art in regional Australia.
Ahead of its completion, HOTA have unveiled the first of its two public commissions by major Australia artists. Commissioned in partnership with Melbourne Art Foundation (MAF), HOTA unveils Sri-Lankan born, Sydney based artist Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran’s monumental six-metre high sculpture. Presented at the lower ground entrance to the gallery, Nithiyendran’s sculpture welcomes visitors inside the gallery with outstretched arms. Predominantly composed of bronze, Nithiyendran has combined a range of materials including concrete, neon and fibreglass to create a multi-coloured avatar reflecting the vibrancy of the HOTA Gallery building. Holding a smiling neon companion and standing on a geometric plinth, this is the artist’s largest sculpture to date and his first ambitious work in the public domain.
“It’s a privilege to frame the entrance of a building,” Nithiyendran tells me, “There’s a certain responsibility there. We are gaining more literacy with the nuances of race relations and power imbalances related to occupation of First Nations lands was well as this framework of contested or parallel histories. I think what people have understood is that a way of people claiming space is to erect sculptural works that sanction certain histories in particular environments. I think we are obliged to be more imaginative and ethical when we place work in public to be consumed and to become part of public imagination.
“Within this commission I was really thinking about this notion of large-scale bronze sculpture and the baggage that comes with it in a Western context. When I travel around the Asia Pacific region, the bronze sculptures are some of the most sensitive and imaginative, and they’re thousands of years old. They’re robust and have come to stand in a public space in a certain way. I’ve tried to engage with that language a bit. The sculpture is mixed media, so it’s made from cast concrete, it has a bronze body which was moulded in clay first…on the actual clay figure you can see handprints. I was trying to reflect the audience in all these sorts of ways and bring a sense that this work could change, that it wasn’t fixed.”
Nithiyendran’s immense sculpture sets an impressive tone for the HOTA precinct. We are waiting with baited breath for its opening, along with the reveal of its second commissioned work by artist Judy Watson.
HOTA, Gold Coast, opens to the public May 8 2021. Learn more here.
Featured image: Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran with his commissioned sculpture at HOTA Gallery, Gold Coast. Photo: Alex Chomciz.
Second image: Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran’s sculpture at HOTA Gallery, Gold Coast.