Born in Cape Town and raised in Nelspruit, Talia Ramkilawan examines, in her work, themes such as dislocation and displacement, experienced as part of her South Asian identity. She is one of 128 new artists participating at this year’s fair.
What sort of training have you received and how important do you think it is to seek training, in terms of learning first principles and refining techniques?
Talia Ramkilawan I studied at Michaelis School of Fine Art and majored in sculpture. I think that the type of training one needs to further their practice is subjective. Not everyone responds to this idea of ‘formal’ education and training. Some respond better to lived experience as training. I find at the end of the day, it’s about the community around you, the shared knowledge and how we can all contribute to one another and push each other. Community is a driving force and it really helped me refine my technique. That comes from playing and figuring things out.
What is your principal medium, and why did you choose it?
My principal medium is wool and fabric. Textile-based art has become very popular over the past few years and is being made with a wide range of materials, creating many types of textures. I use wool and fabric because they are soft and kind, in comparison to the hard and painful action of pulling it through hessian with a needle. I like the duality this creates. The idea of soft becoming hard and hard becoming soft is what you look at in the end product.
What technological tools do you use in your work?
A crochet needle, a wooden frame, nails, a hammer, chalk, permanent markers and paint.
Describe the techniques you use most? How complicated are your methods, and why is each step necessary?
I use a crochet needle to pull the wool and fabric through a piece of hessian that is stretched over a wooden frame. The process is very labour-intensive and quite painful on my fingers, wrists and back. Each piece of wool and fabric is pulled through by my hands. Who is the single other artist whose style you most admire, and why? Bonolo Kavula. She’s a printmaking artist based in Cape Town. Bonolo makes the most delicate, intricate and beautiful pieces. I really admire the way she assembles her pieces and the way her work focuses on craft as intellectual labour. Galleries and other traditional means are only one way of marketing art. What do you believe are the most important other routes, and what is the most important insight you have gained in that area in your career? Social media has become an incredible platform for getting yourself and your work out there. You can access many people across the world, and I would say it is a great way to draw attention to your work, to connect and to build your community. Posting my work online for thousands of people to see, engage and share has helped my career immensely.
Why do you create? What are your stated goals in producing art?
I create for pleasure. I create for my community. My practice is very labour-intensive and repetitive, which allows for moments of introspection. I get to spend time with myself. I am a believer in choosing pleasure. My work inspires me to actively pursue pleasure and how we are all deserving of it. Sharing this with other brown, queer people around me, and creating that community, is very special to me and it remains a driving force.