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Public Projects Ongoing

Idols of Mud and Water 

8 June to 27 July 2024

Launch Night Digbeth First Friday 7 June, 6–8pm
Everyone is welcome!

For Idols of Mud and Water, Australian based artist Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran dramatically populates Eastside Projects’ second gallery with a melange of exuberant multi-limbed, fertility, protector, joker and warrior figures. Evoking ancient deities or totemic idols, his ritualistic sculptures gesture to shared histories, multiplicity and plural cultural identities, inspired by iconography and mythological narratives from across South Asia.

Made over a year, the installation rallies a community of 100 terracotta sculptures nestled within an improvised, makeshift architectural ‘temple’ structure, made from repurposed scaffolding and recycled timber. Connected by a narrative of mud and water, the artist has crafted an installation as a ruin or a space of dreams and divinations, simultaneously apocalyptic and optimistic. 

The terracotta figures’ brightly coloured and metallic surfaces are the product of elaborate glazing techniques, whilst the forms channel the artist’s interest in the symbolic functions of physically moulding and modelling clay, mud or earth. Though they resemble ancient idols, his figures are often adorned in contemporary fashions or imbued with a queer sensibility. Lathered in colour and adopting playful poses, they are engaged in some form of heightened display.

Narratives expand further the polymorphism of Hindu gods, whose avatars manifest in colourful, hybrid, human-animal forms. In Idols of Mud and Water  Ramesh explores primordial, alchemic relationships to material, tracking back to clay as a medium and the true nature of unglazed terracotta, which is rudimentary, raw and earthy. Mud as a material responds to global debates on the impacts of climate change, yet the project is not apocalyptic or didactic – the plasticity of the core material echoes the growing fluidity across genders, races, belief systems and even species that underpins Ramesh’s vision. Inclusive, democratic, bold, electrifying, secular and ambiguous, the gallery is converted into a space for myth and ritual.

Idols of Mud and Water has been commissioned by TRAMWAY and is supported by Australia Council for the Arts, The Henry Moore Foundation and Creative Scotland.



(b.1988 Colombo Sri-Lanka, Australia from 1989) 

Nithiyendran received his BA/BFA from the University of New South Wales in 2011 and a MFA from the University of New South Wales in 2013. His work had been exhibited widely in solo and group shows internationally, including: Tramway, Glasgow (2023–2024), Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, Delhi (2023); Sharjah Art Foundation, Sharjah (2022); Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney (2022); Melbourne Art Foundation, Melbourne (2020); Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre, Casula (2019); Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne (2016); The National Gallery of Australia, Canberra (2016); Dhaka Art Summit, Dhaka (2016).


With thanks to Tramway