We picked five artists from”Our Ashes Make Great Fertilizer”, Public Gallery, London and asked them five questions about their work on view.

 

“Our Ashes Make Great Fertilizer”, Public Gallery, London, a group show curated by Saelia Aparicio and Harminder Judge is a show that presents a range of works that deal with ideas of transformation from the bodily to the spiritual, a subject that pervades and prevails within both their practices.

Could you explain this work?

This is a sculpture masquerading as a painting. It is a solid object – it is its own surface, support and structure. The pigments you can see run right through it, so much so that if you shaved off the top most layer you would reveal a similar though ever so slightly different composition underneath.

What does this piece deal with?

It references a history of abstraction in India that’s linked to tantric ritual and philosophy, with the extended oval often representing the brahmanda, or sometimes the body within the cosmos. For me it also has a relationship to western abstraction, particularly painters like Trevor Bell or Ron Gorchov who worked at the intersection of painting and sculpture. I think of it as talismanic, occupying the physical and metaphysical world.

What medium and techniques did you use?

Blood, sweat and alchemy.

What were the struggles of making it?

I felt joy when making it. I had to problem solve of course – the human brain is at its most cognitively happy when solving problems that are just within its reach – will the piece be strong enough? Does the surface sing? Does it hold something within it that’s universal? Can I look through it to something else? Does it have any power? Will it stay on the wall?

What is the purpose behind this work?

To be seen in the flesh, it holds little power in the digital realm.

Could you explain this work?

This work was made in response to an Indian folkloric story about a woman who saves her husband’s lands and kingdom with her transformative powers. She’s half woman half snake, and has the ability to make ordinary objects morph into dancing animals. I really love reading Tamil folkloric stories and playing with the narrative, weaving in personal experiences and my own fictional narratives with the stories. The snake maiden’s position is also a reference to Bharatanatyam dance, I used to take classes when I was little and had to wear a clip-on plait as my hair wasn’t long enough. The ceramic plaits that are hooked on with hoops are a reference to this, and to adornment and south Asian jewellery as a cultural signifier.

What does this piece deal with?

I have been thinking a lot about spiritual objects and animism, trying to get closer to the idea that an object can have spiritual agency. I think these kind of hybrid objects, half human half animal allow us to get closer to this idea.

What medium and techniques did you use?

This is made with stoneware ceramic, kind of like tiles as they are quite flat. It’s glazed with a metallic glaze and mounted on wood. For the hair I used my grandmother’s muruku (a South Indian savoury snack) mould to press the clay before plaiting it.

What were the struggles of making it?

There are so many things that can go wrong with ceramics as it’s such a fragile material, and flat work often cracks. I don’t usually make flat work so wasn’t aware of this! There are also so many variables, like things drying slowly enough, the kiln over-firing, the glaze dripping and sticking the shelf, if it dries to fast and unevenly it starts to curl…I had to remake a few pieces.

What is the purpose behind this work?

The purpose of this work is to explore cultural identity through personal and historical narratives whilst also hopefully maintaining a sense of humour…to make something new and alien.

Could you explain this work?

This work was in a solo show I did in Milan called Underfoot, the title of the piece is ‘Direct Lines’. When I made it I was thinking about the therapy couch as a site for personal excavation and recollection of individual history through conversation.  The piece is incomplete, like a fragment of a memory or a broken sentence.  I like the idea that it’s been frozen in time, like the casts in Pompeii, mid-daily-life.

What does this piece deal with?

Ideas of memory, loss and time.

 

What medium and techniques did you use?

The chaise longue and the legs lying on it are resin casts and the base is welded steel bar.

What were the struggles of making it?

The process of casting is unpredictable and physically arduous, the works often come out in unexpected forms with some that don’t survive the process and others that are twisted beyond recognition. I like to work with processes that have surprising results, it keeps the work more fluid and risky.

What is the purpose behind this work?

It’s part of a continuing conversation in my work to do with physical and imagined space, how memory alters experience and how dream confuses reality.  I’m interested in how works operate on a psychological level but also that they represent a particular moment in time and have their specific point when they’re made. This is one of the reasons casting is important in my practice, it tethers objects to the time of making; like a photo they don’t age but those captured do.

Could you explain this work?

‘Rendezvous with Rama’ is from 2010 and relates to a number of things I was thinking and working on at the time, which included Tantric futurism and rethinking India’s effect on Corbusier’s design principles. So: if tantra was a virus, and infected Corbusier, how much can we say modernist architecture is influenced at a meta-design level by tantric proxies?

What does this piece deal with?

It also deals with Arthur C. Clarke’s book of the same title, which is about an ancient cylindrical spacecraft named ‘Rama’ that is discovered just beyond Jupiter. Interestingly Arthur C. Clarke is also thought to have predicted GPS systems so well that it was later impossible to patent them. So similar to Corbusier, another older white male infected by Tantric futurism, and a desire to articulate it on the plane of material consciousness. And an opportunity to reclaim and reopen that terrain.

What medium and techniques did you use?

It’s neon, so glass, light, gas and electricity – I like the fact that it embodies its subject matter through the medium or media it inhabits……

What were the struggles of making it?

I usually design 99 neons for each one I keep, so there’s a refinement in the design and drawing process. Meditative reduction you might call it.

What is the purpose behind this work?

Like all my work, it’s designed to make people look again, and open up a set of intersections that then at an intuitive (or neural) level make them see again. I like to think of the viewer or user completing the incomplete  circuit that the artwork presents.

Could you explain this work?

The works was one of the 5 kinetic works that I made back in 2017. I am interested in technological animism, mystical and the superstitious. The works stimulates the Martine life in future. It is called Lobster.

What does this piece deal with?

I become fascinated by bringing together objects in dissimilar form and in an absurd way. There is a playful environment that I wanted to create but also a melancholy expressed in the need to disparate things together, to make them work again. Somehow, I feel they conjunctively appear sublime and ridiculous.

What medium and techniques did you use?

For this particular works, It combines mechanism, Also Wood, MDF, Spring, Chain, Hook, Metallic Spray Paint, Steel, Magnet, Motor, Censor, Twin Cylinder Steam Engine, Rubber, Lobster Tail, Acrylic Stand

What were the struggles of making it?

The mechanism parts I guess. I have got to all parts test in a fully functioning order before assemble them together. All bits of components have their own life, It is like connect the dots by numbers game, you never know what the full image will look like if you don’t follow the number, which I found that is the beauty of the works.

What is the purpose behind this work?

I always thought there is something salvageable about forgotten and neglected objects that I should use it to bring them back to life. This ultimately produces a more intimate and altogether more vulnerable creation. Once I was thinking that many types of social relationships are now being replaced with machines and artificial intelligence. This interaction can render objects irrelevant to humans and has the ability to take on lives of their own.

20.09.2020

Words by Martin Mayorga

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