"Nithiyendran’s new series of ceramics for his exhibition Guardians, pulls at our inherent impulse to locate faces in things. Inspired by Japanese Nio guardians and Hindu Dvarapala door or gate guardians, Nithiyendran deploys a series of abstracted ceramic forms as the exhibition’s namesake. These ceramics bear little resemblance to the human form. Instead, they move between rigid geometrical shapes and much looser, almost sprawling, structures. However, where other objects—our toast, bowling ball, and floorboards—relinquish their claim to human physiognomy upon a second glance and closer inspection, Nithiyendran’s works stake an indelible claim to this anthropomorphic territory. The artist takes abstract ceramics that bear little resemblance to the human form, and he enfranchises them with the ineffable qualities of life. His works stand between the inanimate and the sentient, allowing us to comfortably settle on neither. Like the guardians that sit outside a temple, many of the works seem to teeter on the edge of movement, as if to deny the very nature of their hardened clay bodies. Nithiyendran’s ceramics exist within the conventional setting of the art encounter—they sit and are inspected—yet they also threaten to rupture the assumed passivity of the art object and the unilateral nature of this relationship. In the simplest terms possible, we look at them, but they also look back at us." – WRITER
Produced in the artist’s signature neo-expressionist and polychromatic style, these figures extend the artist’s unconventional and irreverent approach to the medium. Ranging from larger-than-life sized to smaller scaled, they will embody elaborate building and glazing strategies the artist has experimented with over the past year.
The title of this exhibition gestures to broad histories related to sculptural and ritualistic icons designed to protect from evil. The artist is particularly interested in mythological narratives across the Asia Pacific. While he references imagery ofJapanese Nio guardians as well as Hindu Dvarapala door gate guardians, his influences are diverse. He reflects upon the guardian figure as a relevant archetype for our current times. He states “the [guardian] figures' allusions to ideas around regeneration, renewal and even collapse are particularly pertinent in our current global climate defined by social, environmental and public health shifts/upheaval”.
The works talk to a range of global sources that link to the artist’s cultural background, the language of religious iconography and contemporary culture at large. “I was born in Sri Lanka to a wider family that practised Hinduism and Catholicism to varying degrees and have grown up in Australia," says Nithiyendran. "Hindu, Christian and Buddhist cultures have coexisted and been intertwined in Sri Lanka since the introduction of Christianity in the 1st century and Buddhism in the 3rd century. The work will mine some of these reference points.”