In conversation with with curators Annoushka Hempel & Tatiana De Stempel, Fantasy of Having a Trailer Wagon all to myself

The peculiar concept of a train journey identifying with the life of a human being is intriguing in a manner where we’re souls in constant movement, travelling across spaces and time, among people and ideas. The life of Manoj Nair was much the same; he is known to have championed the work and careers of many artists and the art community. The writer, poet, critic, musician and journalist will be celebrated for his aid and advocacy for the arts through ‘Fantasy of Having a Trailer Wagon All To Myself’; it is a curious notion to remember what is gone, the brilliance of its existence forever in memory but it is most curious to remember in art. The pictorial and visual elements embodying notions of the artist’s genius characterizations and applications throughout his career. A collection of both established and emerging artists band together to celebrate Manoj Nair in his excellence and his influence on facilitating and supporting their creative opinions. Focusing on the aspect and concept of excess and death while comprehending the curiosities of the afterlife and that which lies beyond.

Tatiana de Stempel works as an interdisciplinary artist, designer and visiting lecturer. Tatiana has worked as an artist for the past twenty years. She has exhibited in London, USA, India and China. She is a painter and printmaker producing work involved with mythologies and their interpretation from perspectives of personal experience and observation. These works are recordings of a dialogue between an artist and the viewer. Her work celebrates cultural identities as theatricalized forms using motifs such as loneliness and the contemplation of our environment and our relationship with others. Other key concepts within her work include past lives, displacement, and crises of identity. In both her painting and printmaking work she studies the figure as anatomy and expression as one in the same.The anatomical recedes as process and makes way for colour and mark making as a vehicle for dilemmas of looking, judging and interpretation. She also works as an associate lecturer at Central Saint Martin’s College of Arts and Design, London.

Annoushka Hempel is the founding Director of CAB, the Colombo Art Biennale (2009), Hempel Galleries (2003) in Sri Lanka and Hempel Arts in the UK. Annoushka studied Art History & Social Anthropology at London University’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) London and went on to become head research assistant for The History of North African Art by Werner Gillon before moving to Sri Lanka. In 2009 Annoushka co-found CAB with Jagath Weeresinghe. Annoushka has also curated and guest curated many exhibitions and festivals including ‘Serendipity Revealed’ 2014, Brunei Gallery, SOAS, London; ‘This is Tomorrow’ 2015 at the Saatchi Gallery in London; Galle Literary Festival in Sri Lanka 2016-17 and more. At the 70th Anniversary edition of Edinburgh Fringe Festival of which she was invited to curate, won the award for ‘Best Festival Moments’. With over 20 years of experience, Annoushka Hempel has worked with and mentored a large number of both international and local contemporary artists as well as galleries, curators, cultural institutions, academics and directors of museums and art biennales in collaborations, exchanges, workforce developments, co-commissions and in an advisory capacity. In conversation with curator Tatiana de Stempel and guest curator of the Sri Lankan and Pakistani online showcase, Annoushka Hempel we explore the integral thought processes behind the curation of the exhibition and the role of the South Asian identity and cross-cultural exchange through the lives of artists with a profound connection to Manoj Nair.

Q | What was the thought process behind the curation of the exhibition?

A | The intention is to create a cross-cultural platform of work which explores issues of diversity and core themes of excess, and death. The artists have been invited to imagine what lies beyond death, both for the individual and the ‘afterlife’ of their work. This exhibition explores the effect of excess as a probable death drive and how trauma and displacement increase one’s vulnerability towards fatal and destructive compulsions. 

Vimukthi Jayasundara, 'CHATRAK' (Mushrooms) 2011

Q | Can you explain the relationship between the artists you have curated and Manoj Nair in essence of their contribution to the celebration of him?

A | In life Manoj Nair, was highly regarded by the artistic community for championing the work of so many artists and helping to bring their work to a wider audience through his writings, as well as for his role as the Editorial Director of the Kochi Murziris Biennale 2018-19. Following his untimely death in 2019, this exhibition is an acknowledgement of Manoj’s importance by the featured artists, many of whom had a personal connection with him and who were keen to acknowledge his international legacy in their work which focuses on excess.

Q | Manoj Nair is of South Asian heritage - how did you bring this significance out through the curation of the artists?

A | Manoj Nair had a national and international platform through his work at the Kochi Murziris Biennale from its inception and as a visiting lecturer at Central Saint Martin's on the Cultural programme and we wanted to reflect this in the choice of artists especially focusing on South Asian artists.

Q | Can you talk about the collaboration between you and curator Annoushka Hempel, in creating the right balance of each culture?

A | Annoushka Hempel's curation of the Colombo Art Biennale made her a good choice to collaborate with me on this exhibition. Although I knew the work of artists from India including Anil Dayanand, Anju Acharya, Janine Shroff and Anna Sebastian. I was not familiar with the work of artists from other parts of South Asia. I thought that Annoushka would be able to bring in other artists from this region, which would create a more diverse cross-cultural dialogue between these artists on themes of excess and death, who share a colonial past. The choice of artists from South Asia and the balance of each culture grew organically. I was especially interested in the work of Maya Bastian (SL/CAN), Danushka Marasinghe (SL), Vimukthi Jayasundara (SL) and Opper Zaman (PAK) whose work reflects the concept of the exhibition. At this moment in time, we believe that it is extremely important to maintain dialogues between world communities and take full advantage of new media arising from our forced predicament to communicate digitally and on-line.

Celebrating the life of Indian writer, journalist, critic and curator, Manoj Nair and his contribution to arts and culture, ‘Fantasy of Having a Trailer Wagon All to Myself’ will take place from the 3rd of June 2021 at Gallery 46, London. The collaboration and exchange between the cultures of London, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, India, Bangladesh and Korea will create an exchange of Manoj Nair’s impact focusing on their relationship with each individual portrayed through each cultural distinction alongside their unique creative perspective.

Maya Batian, ‘Post – Memory’,  2016. Acetate, ink: 8.5 x 11
Images above in order: Tatiana de Stempel, 'Double Portrait of Manoj' Oil on Canvas; Bharat Thakur, ‘A Partial Disclosure’ 2017; Saad Qureshi,‘Something about Paradise’, at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, 2020; Sabrina Osborne ‘Gauge 5, quality control measuring instrument on self-portrait’, 2007 
11th February, 2021 Visual Art | Art Talks & Panels