Mud, Water and Idols in Frosty Glasgow

Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran’s largest installation to date opens in UK.

Words: Rose of Sharon Leake

Scotland is currently home to Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran’s first institutional solo show in the United Kingdom, with the artist taking over the T2 gallery at Glasgow’s Tramway. Idols of Mud and Water is the artist’s largest installation to date, populated by his signature ceramic sculptures and lit by a warm, otherworldly light. The towering works explore themes of elemental transformation, based upon the artist’s expansive research into South Asian mythology, idolatry and pop culture.

“I was really thinking conceptually, globally and philosophically about water and earth moving and what that means in contemporary society but also mythologically,” says Nithiyendran. “Most cultures have some kind of flood myth or story that permeates through a lot of creation narratives and destruction narratives, but I think also we’re in a time where we’re really anxious about water moving.”

The exhibition considers a variety of topics that the artist often turns to in his practice, including debates concerning climate change and the increase of extreme weather events, as well as the fluidity of gender, race and belief. Nithiyendran has been particularly expansive in his use of materials for this installation to echo the breadth of its theoretical objectives, utilising everything from mud and bronze to repurposed metal sheeting and bare wiring.

Among the pieces that make up the sprawling instillation is Seated Bronze Figure with Masks, which echoes Buddhist and Hindu imagery of seated figures that appear calm and in an elevated state. “It’s actually a conglomeration of about seven bronzes that I’ve made in the last seven years,” explains the artist, “what I did was I looked at all the different moulds from a lot of past bronzes and chose different parts of them, and with this exquisite corpse mentality made this new one”. Nearby sits Fertility Figure with Drapery (Queen), which the artist considers the most important figure within the composition. Many more are scattered amongst bridges, fountains, teetering temples, and 98 smaller sculptures.

Idols of Mud and Water was commissioned by Tramway, and is supported by Creative Australia, Creative Scotland, and the Henry Moore Institute.

The exhibition runs until 21 April 2024. For deeper insights into the installation, make sure to grab a copy of our next issue, where we talk to the artist and experience his realm of the gods first-hand.

This article was posted 1 December 2023.

Image: Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran, Idols of Mud and Water, TRAMWAY, Glasgow, Scotland, 2023, Installation view. Photo: Keith Hunter. Courtesy: the artist, TRAMWAY, Glasgow, Jhaveri Contemporary, Mumbai, and Sullivan+Strumpf, Sydney, Melbourne and Singapore.

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