FNB Art Joburg
Sandton Convention
Centre, Johannesburg,
South Africa​

Process of Interest

The plea for hedonism in process

with Talia Ramkilawan


Hedonistic, Talia Ramkilawan’s practice is a nuanced study of pleasure seeking. Considering Pleasure Over Pain at WHATIFTHEWORLD, we look at the ways her process informs this research in this week’s Of Interest.

A trained sculptor with painterly sensibilities, Talia Ramkilawan’s tapestries address generational trauma, suppression, erasure, deprivation, censorship and shame and by dismissing their existence.

In her last exhibition, Heart 4 Sale, Ramkilawan offered a testimony of the often painful, sometimes awkward, but always strengthening effects of being vulnerable. Following up from the artist’s depiction of the underbelly of love, lust and loathing, Pleasure Over Pain is a settling into.

Seasoning reality with fabulation, Ramkilawan’s depictions imagine an uninterrupted, celebrated and rewarded existence. Even though Ramkilawan’s portraits and still lifes are autobiographical, the work is considered fictitious. Depicting the lives of brown, queer, femmes, the scenes make up a marginal part of her holistic experience.

So even though the scenes are relaxed, blistering as a result of the repetitive and sharp nature of tufting on a surface as tough as hessian, Ramkilawan’s labour intensive process speak to how arduous the act of seeking pleasure is when in certain bodies.

The artist’s process involves using a rug-hooking technique to thread yarn and various fabrics through an open-weave hessian cloth. A dense woven fabric usually used as a substructure for linoleum flooring, rugs and carpets, one of Hessian’s earliest documentations include a 19th century record of being exported from India. The basis of Ramkilawan’s tapestries, it subtly acknowledges the artist’s foundation.

In consistently repeating the motion, Ramkilawan creates a series of tight loops within close proximity to each other. Together the loops make a tufted image.

An exhaustive technique that requires her to focus her energy on repeating a particular motion, the work attempts to address its harmful edge by offering the artist a meditative break. Then, focused on the end result, the process also offers a moment of disassociation, of escapist hope.

Subtle in its messaging, the show speaks to and reflects something Ramkilawan once told said: “I have always believed that disruption does not always have to be loud. It can be soft, beautiful and meditative.”



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Ruth Ige. Don't hide your glory, 2022.
Acrylic on canvas. 122 x 122cm. (© Copyright 2022, STEVENSON. All rights reserved)