geetha thurairajah

Exophonic

Frieze Viewing Room

New York Edition 2021

7 - 14 May 2021

preview: 5 & 6 May

nonplussed+

thurairajah in conversation with Steffanie Ling:

Saturday 8 May 12pm PST / 3pm EST / 9pm CET

For the 2021 edition of Frieze Viewing Room, New York edition, Unit 17 is thrilled to present Exophonic, a never before seen body of paintings by geetha thurairajah, along with a purely digital artwork minted as a unique NFT (non-fungible token) and a single ceramic sculpture. This is a historic moment for NFTs, enabling artists to authenticate digital artworks for the first time in history by using blockchain technology. With materiality in mind, the Viewing Room context allows thurairajah to investigate the narrowing of boundaries between physical & digital artworks. 

"Exophony" - to write from a language that is not one’s mother-tongue - is a term that was coined within cultural study circles in the early 2000s. As it is still unrecognized by the Oxford English Dictionary, the term operates as a schism of sorts, existing outside of historic context. This idea of exploring language from a new perspective can be used as a metaphor to describe the process behind these new works by thurairajah.

Described by the artist as “alien representations mined from cave drawings,'' nondescript figures participate in cave-like temples that remain determined to dis-locate the gaze. Shapeshifting performers move through the paintings, perhaps miming milk maids or jesters from painting's past; they perform in a place that contends with its own history. This is where translating history becomes exophonic to the artist as she determinedly paints from an alien perspective. 

For the artist’s solo presentation with Frieze, thurairajah will present a collection of works spanning multiple mediums including digital work, painting & sculpture. As an artist who works across mediums, thurairajah’s practice can be best described as world building. Invested in understanding how we locate identity through the symbols we choose to live with, thurairajah’s process uncouples the components of self-identification in order to question the stories we take for granted about ourselves. 

thurairajah (b. 1986) lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. Her practice relies on allegory gleaned from art history, personal narrative and observations of modern culture to recreate spaces that defy hierarchies of genre. thurairajah studied at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, Rhode Island School of Design and Wilfrid Laurier University. Recent exhibitions include Soothsay, Unit 17, Vancouver (2020); Migration is more momentous than ancient invasions, Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery; No body to talk to, Invisible Exports, New York; Downward Flower, Fourteen30, Portland (all 2019); An Assembly of Shapes, Oakville Galleries (2018); Mingling with flowers panthers’ eyes, The New Gallery, Calgary; Here’s Looking at You, Loyal Gallery, Stockholm (both 2017) and Goodbye here no matter where, 8eleven, Toronto (2016). thurairajah will present her large scale work Migration is more momentous than ancient invasions at Arsenal Contemporary, Toronto, in June 2021.

Unit17-geethathurairajah-RitesofPassage.

geetha thurairajah, Rites of Passage, 2021, watercolour on linen, 122 x 89cm

1. Overturesedit.jpg

geetha thurairajah, Overtures, 2021, watercolour on linen, 127 x 102cm

Unit17-geethathurairajah-sundaybest.jpg

geetha thurairajah, Sunday Best, 2021, watercolour on linen, 102 x 82cm

Unit17-geethathurairajah-UnromanticJestu

geetha thurairajah, Unromantic Jestures, 2021, watercolour on linen, 107 x 82cm

geetha thurairajah, The Bona Fide Pilgrim, 2021, watercolour on linen, 102 x 82cm

geetha thurairajah, Trivial Pursuits, 2021, watercolour on linen, 121 x 101cm

geetha thurairajah, Sunday Best & Cipher (installation view), 2021

geetha thurairajah, Cipher (installation view), 2021, glazed ceramic and salt, dimensions variable

geetha thurairajah, Cipher, 2021 (detail)

geetha thurairajah, Cipher, 2021 (detail)