The phallus at the centre of Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran’s work is based on two cultural phallocentric paradigms – the first in Hinduism where Shiva Lingham, a symbol of power and fertility, is widely believed to represent Lord Shiva’s penis and is worshipped as part Hindu creation mythology. The lack of shame concerning genitalia in traditional Hindu society provides a stark contrast for the second paradigm, Christianity, which Nithiyendran describes as a “ … misogynistic, patriarchal religion that inadvertently worships the penis.” It is from the Victorian/Christian view of sexuality, supressed and policed, that modern pornography has emerged; all the more exciting for its furtive character.
The rise and rise of Internet pornography has generated a fertile contemporary context in which the phallus has been able to reclaim its central place. For Nithiyendran, however, this is not simply a story about men and throughout his works he has searched for ways to subvert cultural mores and conventions in sexual fantasy. One Hung Bitch was first based on a film of the same name with transsexual star Suzanna Holmes in the lead role. In introducing a transgender figure into the overall story Nithiyendran is able to distance his work from straight white misogyny.
In the production of his work, be it 2 or 3D, painting, drawing, printmaking, ceramics, sculpture or installation, Nithiyendran appears to pay little attention to technique (as we understand it). His rejection of the rigidities of fine art making have generated a characteristic kind of anti aesthetic and a unique practice able to communicate ideas around sex and societies in ways that are both outrageous and amusing. The raw unfinished quality of his works paradoxically become their finish, their ultimate resolve.
Adapted from catalogue essays by David Broker
This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body.
The City of Sydney
UNSW Art and Design
Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran is represented by Gallery 9, Sydney
Ramesh Nithiyendran, Black and Gold Dickhead, 2014, earthenware, glaze and gold lustre, 45 x 16 x 16 cm; photograph by Brenton McGeachie.